South African English
Posted: 08 November 2011 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A current article over at the OED which might interest Eliza., although I’m sure she’s cognizant with much of it. 

Some specifically SAE words are examples of words once current in British English, but now out of use there: geyser (a water-heater or boiler), robot (a traffic light), and, until the 1960s, bioscope (a cinema), are examples. Some English words mean something different in SAE: a bond is a mortgage, a dam refers to the stretch of water rather than to the wall, just now means ‘in a little while’, a packet is a plastic shopping bag, a café is a convenience store or corner shop, and (in the context of traffic) a circle is a roundabout. Non-lexical features of other South African languages have also made their way into SAE, as in two ways of indicating emphasis—by reduplication (from Afrikaans), as in now-now, soon-soon, and (from the African languages) by the use of falling pitch, from high to low, as in ‘fa-a--a-ar away’.

I do recall cinemas called the Bioscope in the UK of the 50s/60s but assumed it was simply a commercial name such as the Essoldo, Odeon, etc. But did we really call traffic-lights robots in British English? If so it was certainly before my time.

As for pronunciation the article says, “the SAE of English-speakers is often confused with Australian or New Zealand English.” I find that surprising, they’re all very distinct. Some might have trouble distinguishing Kiwis and Aussies, I suppose, but characteristics like that short e for a (epple for apple) really stand out in NZ speech. And South African English sounds totally different from either.

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Posted: 08 November 2011 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I was familiar with geyser (pron. geezer) for ‘water heater"—in US English, usually “hot water heater” with seeming redundancy—via, IIRC, the television adaptations of John Mortimer’s Rumpole stories (or possibly audio book versions of same).  I didn’t realize it was obsolete in Britain.  What do they call them now, just “boilers” or “water heaters”?

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Posted: 08 November 2011 12:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, geyser was common when I was younger, I have a feeling it was starting to fade in the late 60s/early 70s. I suspect boiler is the most common term now (it’s the one we use chez nous) but heater or water heater is often heard too. I haven’t heard geyser in a long, long while.

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Posted: 08 November 2011 12:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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My reaction was the same as Doc T’s.

Is “cognizant with” a UK thing?  For me, it’s “cognizant of.”

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Posted: 08 November 2011 01:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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languagehat - 08 November 2011 12:30 PM

My reaction was the same as Doc T’s.

Is “cognizant with” a UK thing?  For me, it’s “cognizant of.”

As it is here, lh. A howler, pure and simple. It’s also the wrong word in the wrong place, familiar would have been a far better choice in hindsight.

[ Edited: 08 November 2011 01:46 PM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 08 November 2011 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Some Australians also use “dam” to mean the reservoir, e.g. they might say they went swimming in the dam.

Other Australians will tut-tut.

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Posted: 08 November 2011 03:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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If this isn’t getting too personal, aldi, does your “boiler” heat the house (via hot water or steam radiators) in addition to providing hot tap water, or is it only for the latter purpose?  I gather that in Britain it’s not unusual to have one system for both purposes.

“Boiler” is common in the US for the part of a home heating system that boils (or even merely heats) water, but in the US this is usually separate from the appliance that produces hot tap water. (In most of the US, as I expect you know, there are long periods of the year where houses don’t require heating, but rather the opposite.)

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Posted: 09 November 2011 02:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks for that, aldi.  Penny Silva at the OED is South African, so speaks with authority.  Interestingly, I occasionally find it hard to distinguish some Australian accents from South African, and I often confuse New Zealand and Australian.  I remember this particularly from many years ago in London when I was speaking to someone who turned out to be from Sydney yet sounded South African, even though at the time I had a friend from Sydney who sounded typically Australian.  Eventually, and usually though, a slight intonation or pronunciation of particular words will be the giveaway.

Does “dam” really refer only to the wall anywhere?  If so, I’ve been stuck with the South African meaning for decades.

I’d say that the falling pitch in phrases like “fa-a-a-a-r away” is most likely from the Sotho languages, eg Zulu (South Sotho), but other language groups could well have this - I don’t know for sure, and maybe someone here could help.  It mimics the voice fading into the distance. Again, I still speak like that, even though my South African accent is almost indistinguishable now.

Dr Techie, our boiler heats both water and heating.

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Posted: 09 November 2011 03:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Yes, Doc, as with Eliza our boiler provides both central heating and hot water.

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Posted: 09 November 2011 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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ElizaD - 09 November 2011 02:04 AM


Does “dam” really refer only to the wall anywhere?  If so, I’ve been stuck with the South African meaning for decades.

I’d say that in the US the wall is the only thing that ‘dam’ refers to.

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Posted: 09 November 2011 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Faldage - 09 November 2011 04:43 AM

I’d say that in the US the wall is the only thing that ‘dam’ refers to.

As in my 10-year-old grandson’s favorite joke. “What did the fish say when he ran into a cement wall?”

“Dam!”

Anyone who knows 10 year-old boys would know why he likes this joke.

At his age I liked the song “There were three jolly fishermen” for the same reason. They all went down to Amsterdam, “Amster-, Amster-, dam, dam dam.”

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Posted: 09 November 2011 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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In Aust, a boiler used for heating the water for a household would be a hot water system.

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