Local Blenglish is ‘lekker’

2008-12-01 00:00

I am writing this quietly, lest I stir up the hornet’s nest that kept the letters pages buzzing with fervent oratory some months ago. The topic that sparked so much emotion was the accents of local radio announcers.

I confess to being baffled by those who yowled about the passing of “English as she is spoken” and yapped about announcers who speak what I fondly call “Blenglish”. Me? I’d far rather listen to locals speaking than try to interpret the impenetrable accents of some of those who live on that small island where the sky is made of grey cotton wool and even the tube trains smell of boiled cabbage. Try watching a movie set in Glasgow or Manchester to understand what I mean. It’s a foreign language, I tell you.

I’m sometimes dazzled into delirium by English dialects and accents. I celebrate the fact that our language is robust and thriving, throwing up wondrous hybrids that are a joy to the ear. I “collect” language trivia that amuse me and if you care to read on, I’ll share some with you.

Even if history has revised its view of colonialism, the British Empire did leave us something for which we can be grateful. Apart from the fact that you can rely on being able to get a decent cup of tea with milk in unlikely places, there’s also sport.

While other British colonies play cricket, we rejoice in playing a game called “crigget”. I have yet to discover whether the rules are the same for these two varieties of a game in which many people, mostly men (need I say more?) stand around for long periods of time doing nothing and watching just a few people doing not very much more.

I am sure I will unravel the rules when my son grows older and I get to spend Saturdays among the other “crigget” mums keeping vigil beside a large expanse of grass. I look forward to finding out about the art of being a spectator. Thankfully Alaska is a long way away so I’m unlikely to find myself camped out beside that now-famous hockey mum.

Then there’s that game played by a strange crew of playmates, creatures like sharks, springbok, lions, cheetahs and bulls, along with flowers like proteas and waratahs. All very odd. However, I wonder if you’ve noticed that while other nations play rugby, we often play “rugHby”, especially in the western Cape. Maybe it’s because the letter “H” looks like one of that game’s goal posts? I believe kicking a ball between them is something local players often find difficult, so maybe people hope that pronouncing the word with an “H” in it will act like some kind of language magic and make the ball do what it’s supposed to? Whatever, as my daughter, seven going on 17, is fond of saying.

While many refuse to listen to news reports because of all the bad news, I am often delighted by hearing about the “wekkas” who have decided to “cocus” before taking their demands to “may-NIJ-ment”. Where else in the world do they have “beds” that roost in trees and “kaders deployed to COM-ittees”?

So I say “pooh” to the naysayers, and “viva Blenglish, viva!”

• Marigold Gilroy is a local writer.

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