A while back I posted about Tsotsitaal, a South African township dialect; here‘s Andie Miller’s interview with Athol Fugard, who wrote the novel Tsotsi (along, of course, with the many plays that made him famous), and it has some interesting linguistic discussion:
On the subject of the term tsotsi, Stephen Gray reflects: “I’m interested in how the word has become so familiar since the Oscar. Now it’s known to the whole world.” A Google search yields 12 million results. “But in the late fifties it was a minor cult word that people had difficulty with… Drum [Magazine] saw the potential of the posed zoot suit. You know tsotsi‘s meant to be a corruption of zoot suit… fashionable clothes, Florsheim shoes, white hats that came from gangster movies … By April 1956 there was a character that Drum launched, called Willie Boy, and then Alex le Guma took it up as well, for the first of his beautiful books. So it became a media feature, this juvenile delinquent tsotsi-boy. And now of course we have musicals about Sophiatown, and university presses publish dictionaries of tsotsitaal for academic scrutiny.”…
Tsotsi, the winner of the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, introduced English-speaking audiences to an unfamiliar subculture and its language, Tsotsitaal, used on the streets of Soweto, a group of townships in Johannesburg, South Africa. The area was segregated (Black only) by the Apartheid government, and its population of some two million is still largely Black and poor. Tsotsitaal is a blend of Afrikaans, English, and African language stocks, and though the current version of it, “isiCamtho,” is now spoken in the townships, it originated in Sophiatown, a multiracial/multicultural Johannesburg suburb which was bulldozed in the early sixties.
She ends the piece with a substantial selection of terms from Louis Molamu’s Tsotsitaal: A dictionary of the language of Sophiatown (2003).