The Rise of Afrikaans.

Another post swiped from Far Outliers, this time a quote from Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa, by Martin Meredith:

Meanwhile the wave of anger over Britain’s annexation of the Transvaal spread further afield to the Boer communities of the Orange Free State and the Cape Colony, stimulating old grievances. […]

In the Cape, it gave a huge boost to a nascent cultural and political movement led by Boer intellectuals calling themselves Afrikaners. In Paarl, a small market town thirty-five miles from Cape Town, a Dutch Reformed Church minister, Stephanus du Toit, joined several associates in 1875 to found a society named Die Genootskap Van Regte Afrikaners – the Fellowship of True Afrikaners – dedicated to promoting the use of Afrikaans, a colloquial language commonly used in Boer farming communities throughout southern Africa. It had diverged from Dutch over the years, changing vowel sounds, adopting simplified syntax and incorporating loan words from languages that were spoken by slaves in the Cape in the seventeenth century – Malay, Portuguese creole and Khoikhoi. It was the language used between masters and servants and amongst the poorer sections of the Boer community. Upper and middle-class Boers, particularly those living in the western Cape, spoke ‘High Dutch’, the language of the church and the Bible, and regarded the Zuid-Afrikaansche taal with disdain, dismissing it as Hotnotstaal, a ‘Hottentot’ language, or a kombuistaal – a kitchen language. They also used English to a considerable extent, the only official language of the Colony and thus the language of commerce, law, administration and – increasingly – culture.

What Du Toit and his colleagues feared and resented most was the growing cultural domination of the British colonial regime, aided and abetted by Boers themselves. In a lecture given in 1876, the chief justice, Sir Henry de Villiers, described Afrikaans as being ‘poor in the number of its words, weak in its inflections, wanting in accuracy of meaning and incapable of expressing ideas connected with the higher spheres of thought’. The energy of colonists, he said, would be far better spent in appropriating English, ‘that rich and glorious language’, that ultimately would become ‘the language of South Africa’. Du Toit argued that a mother tongue was a person’s most precious possession: ‘The language of a nation expresses the character of that nation. Deprive a nation of the vehicle of its thoughts and you deprive it of the wisdom of its ancestors.’ He wanted to develop Afrikaans as a landstaal – a national language.

To spell out this message, in 1876 Du Toit launched Di Afrikaanse Patriot, the first newspaper to use an early form of Afrikaans. The following year he was the main author of a history entitled Die Geskiedenis van Ons Land in die Taal van Ons Volk – The History of Our Land in the Language of Our People. It was the first book to treat all Afrikaners, dispersed as they were among British colonies and independent republics, as a distinct people, occupying a distinct fatherland; and it linked them to a common destiny endowed by God: to rule over southern Africa and civilise its heathen inhabitants.

The term kombuistaal ‘kitchen language’ led me to look up kombuis, which turns out to be closely related to the source of English caboose, which originally meant (OED) “‘The cook-room or kitchen of merchantmen on deck; a diminutive substitute for the galley of a man-of-war. It is generally furnished with cast-iron apparatus for cooking’ (Smyth Sailor’s Word-bk.).” It didn’t take on the sense “A van or car on a freight train used by workmen or the men in charge” until 1861 (H. Dawson Reminisc. Life Locomotive Engineer 90 Another midnight ride in the ‘Caboose’ of a freight train), and the OED qualifies that sense as “U.S.” The OED (entry from 1888) says “The original language was perhaps Low German; but the history and etymology are altogether obscure”; the much more up-to-date Etymologisch Woordenboek van het Nederlands (2003-2009) agrees: “De verdere herkomst is onbekend.” Thanks, Bathrobe!


  1. Caboose is still U.S. Wikipedia:

    Brake van and guard’s van are terms used mainly in the UK, Australia and India for a railway vehicle equipped with a hand brake which can be applied by the guard. The equivalent North American term is caboose, but a British brake van and a caboose are very different in appearance, because the former usually has only four wheels, while the latter usually has bogies.

  2. Interesting! The things I learn around here…

  3. Caboose < MDu kambuis, ‘ship’s galley’.

    Bogies are the equivalent of trucks on skateboards. OED:

    A northern dialect word, which has recently been generally diffused in connection with railways as applied to the plate-layer’s bogie, but especially in sense 2. Of unknown etymology: notwithstanding absurd stories in the newspapers (invented ad rem), it has (as the sense might show) nothing to do with bogy n.1, which is not a northern word.

    That bogy is

    Found in literature only recently; old people vouched (1887) for its use in the nursery as early as 1825, but only as proper name (sense 1). Possibly a southern nursery form of bogle, boggle, and boggard, or going back like them to a simpler form which, as mentioned under bog n.1 and bogle n., may be a variant of bugge, bug n.1 ‘terror, bugbear, scarecrow’. But in the absence of evidence, positive statements concerning its relation to these words cannot be made. (That they are connected with the Slavonic bog ‘god’, is a mere fancy from the similarity of form, without any evidence.)

    That, in turn, is the source for the golf term, ‘The number of strokes a good player may be reckoned to need for the course or for a hole’:

    One popular song at least has left its permanent effect on the game of golf. That song is ‘The Bogey Man’. In 1890 Dr. Thos. Browne, R.N., the hon. secretary of the Great Yarmouth Club, was playing against a Major Wellman, the match being against the ‘ground score’, which was the name given to the scratch value of each hole. The system of playing against the ‘ground score’ was new to Major Wellman, and he exclaimed, thinking of the song of the moment, that his mysterious and well-nigh invincible opponent was a regular ‘bogey-man’. The name ‘caught on’ at Great Yarmouth, and to-day ‘Bogey’ is one of the most feared opponents on all the courses that acknowledge him (1908 M.A.P. 25 July 78/1).

    The things I learn around here…

  4. German Kombüse “kitchen on a ship”; clearly a loan from Dutch like many naval words.

  5. Jen in Edinburgh says

    A bogey in golf is usually one *more* than ‘the number of strokes a good player may be reckoned to need for the course or for a hole’, which is par. Obviously the bogey-man has got you…

    (Not you specifically, of course. The player who took too many strokes.)

  6. Of course, the caboose—for so many decades a fixture of North American trains*—has nearly vanished. This is a product of two factors. Technological improvements have made it unnecessary to have a train crewman at the end of the line of cars to make sure that all the couples are in order. Long-distance, truly non-stop freight service has also largely ceased to be a thing, meaning that there is no need for cooking and bunking space on most trains.

    * Although I did enjoy watching for the caboose at railroad crossings, I was nor otherwise a great train enthusiast as a young boy.** In fact, when I was older my father complained that I had been surprisingly uninterested in large vehicles, compared with my younger brothers.

    ** I do really like the movie The Train, named (perhaps superfluously) as the best train movie of all time by Trains magazine. However, much of what makes the film great also makes in inappropriate for young train enthusiasts. The first part of The Train seems like a fun caper film, but at the halfway point, there is a bloody reminder that the antagonists in the movie are Nazis, who have absolutely no compunctions about killing anyone who steps in their way.

  7. Dmitry Pruss says

    камбуз (with the 1st syllable stressed) is Russian for a “kitchen on a boat”, clearly a Dutch borrowing too.

  8. A bogey in golf is usually one *more*…

    The OED, where I got this, says that that is the later, U.S. usage (from 1946 on). They quote Flexner’s 1982 Listening to America:

    After the rubber golf ball was invented in America in 1898.., the bogey that had been established for the old gutta-percha ball became too easy and the British lowered their bogies by about one stroke per hole and kept the term, but Americans began to use the word par instead, keeping the old British word bogey to mean the older, easier expected score of a good player, usually one stroke more than the new par.

    (I don’t know anything about golf. Outside of Scotland, I consider it a pestilence.)

  9. Yes, Russian kambuz and also the name of my favorite singer in Afrikaans, Koos Kombuis.

    An Arab lady once told me that she once considered learning it, but then changed her mind when she learned that it is language of oppressors and slave-owners.
    Indeed, for both Apartheid and post-Apartheid governments it is language of Apartheid. Of course, I hate this equation.

    Most of native speakes of this langauge are not “poorer sections of Boer community” in the sense of “Boers, just the poorer of them”, it is Coloureds in the Western Cape.
    And the first books in it were published in Arabic script.

  10. wanting in accuracy of meaning and incapable of expressing ideas connected with the higher spheres of thought’.
    Sit jou kop in die koei se kont en wag tot die bul jou kom holnaai“, eh?

  11. In reply to drasvi’s though:

    Very, very expressive language.

  12. PlasticPaddy says

    Re kombuis, does anyone who has been on a yacht or passenger ship know how the galley is typically ventilated? It seems to me to be possible (if a little fanciful) that cu(m) bucello (“with pipe/conduit”) > cabuse > kombuis, caboose

  13. language of oppressors and slave-owners.

    One could easily say the same about Arabic (or English, Spanish, French, etc.)

  14. David Eddyshaw says

    And as drasvi has rightly pointed out, Afrikaans has a pretty good title to being above all the language of the “Cape Coloureds”, i.e. the language of the oppressed, appropriated by the oppressor.

  15. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I don’t know anything about golf.

    Nor do I, but one thing I wonder is why it is so popular with POTI? — Eisenhower, Bush the lesser, Obama, the orange loser, and doubtless others that I didn’t notice.

  16. Lars Mathiesen says

    ODS sv kabys lists MLG kabuse as the origin, and seems to imply that Du kabuis (whence caboose) and kombuis came from there. (The Danish word formerly had a long second syllable and a side form kambys — but that evanescent m almost has to be original, appearing in French, Danish and Dutch forms).

    Hellquist cites Schröder Streckformen p. 28 f for an extended form of MLG kûtze/kûsse but appends “uncertain.” (Schröder seems to like inserting random syllables in words). First citation in Swedish is kabyssa 1644.

  17. Lars Mathiesen says

    Walking around outdoors with somebody you need to talk to for a few hours, with no stenographers or journalists in earshot — what’s not to like? Inviting the chairman of the board of Northrop Grumman to the oval office might be seen as an undesirable political signal, but 18 holes can’t possibly be important.

  18. Christopher Culver says

    Anyone know of some sociolinguistic studies speculating on Afrikaans’ long-term survival? When I cycled across South Africa a few years ago and frequently stayed with white farmers, several of them complained that once their children left for the big city, they started to lose their Afrikaans in favor of English. I know that Afrikaans remains the language of the Cape Coloureds and a badge of identity for them, but globalization being what it is, isn’t there grounds for pessimism that they too will shift to English over the coming decades?

    Interestingly, Routledge hasn’t updated its Colloquial Afrikaans for twenty years now. So much media coverage of Afrikaans, like the educational protests in Stellenbosch, depict Afrikaans as a “white language” and never even mention the Cape Coloureds, and I wonder if this is making international educational publishers wary of producing new materials to learn the language.

  19. @Lars: It’s also a remnant of the times when golf used to be sufficiently exclusive, so that one could be sure to meet the kind of people one needed for doing business and further one’s political career – I am pretty sure that the POTI didn’t start playing golf on entering the White House, but that it’s a networking habit they carried over into their office.
    Nowadays, golf is much more of a mass sport; I read somewhere that it is the sport with the most active members in Germany, ahead of football or tennis. If you want exclusivity, you need to join certain clubs.
    (Full disclosure: I play it myself; it involves a leisurely pace walking in fresh air, socialising, and is a sport that can be continued easily into old age without one becoming ebarrassingly uncompetitive (or more embarrassingly uncompetitive than one is anyway.))

  20. Dan Milton says

    Which presidents actually walked the course? Certainly not the incumbent.

  21. David Marjanović says

    Nowadays, golf is much more of a mass sport; I read somewhere that it is the sport with the most active members in Germany

    That blows my mind.

  22. David Eddyshaw says

    Golf always has been a mass sport in Scotland, the land of its birth. The exclusivity is the invention of the heathen English.

  23. Ben Tolley says

    I don’t think anyone’s mentioned so far that kombuis is the ordinary word for ‘kitchen’ in Afrikaans, whether on a ship or not; not that surprising in view of the languages history, but interesting.

    Teach Yourself Afrikaans has its vocabulary kombuistee, translated as ‘kitchen tea’ with no explanation, which has probably bewildered a fair proportion of people using it (for those of us from above the equator:

  24. Afrikaans was first written using the Arabic alphabet. My recollection is that this is because of the Javanese or Malay immigrants who adopted Afrikaans after moving to S Africa.

    Did this practice continue, or did the latin alphabet totally take over?

  25. Arabic WIkipedia has this.

  26. LH in 2009:

    PanAfriL10n (“African localisation wiki”) has a page on [Ajami], from which I gleaned the most surprising thing I’ve learned today: Afrikaans was written in Ajami! “‘From about 1815 Afrikaans started to replace Malay as the language of instruction in Muslim schools in South Africa. At that time it was written with the Arabic alphabet.’ (Omniglot).”

  27. Yep. Arabic and Belarusian. :-E Sister langauges.

  28. LH in 2018:

    And who will be the first to unlock the world of Balkan aljamiado literature, that is, literature composed in Bosnian and Albanian (and less frequently in Polish and Belarusian) but written in Arabic letters? Also known as Arebica, this is a type of writing that serves as a perfect metaphor for the region: hybrid in form, plural in content, permeable to influence from east and west.

  29. Yet, Belarus-Poland-Lithuania is a different story.

    It is ethnic Tatars: “The first settlers tried to preserve their shamanistic religion and sought asylum amongst the non-Christian Lithuanians.[5] Towards the end of the 14th century, another wave of Tatars – this time, Muslims, were invited into the Grand Duchy by Vytautas the Great.

  30. J.W. Brewer says

    @Vanya, a more striking example might be Swahili, which for some sort of weird contingent historical reasons became by the 1960’s in the U.S. the stock paradigm example of an African language (even unto the naming of Star Trek characters), even though a) it arose historically as a lingua franca that facilitated the slave trade on the Indian Ocean side of the continent (with the only L1 speakers clustered in and around Zanzibar, whose economy was based on slave exportation); b) the overwhelming majority of the ancestors of the U.S. black population came from parts of the continent nowhere near the Swahili zone.

  31. drasvi,
    wanting in accuracy of meaning and incapable of expressing ideas connected with the higher spheres of thought.
    “Sit jou kop in die koei se kont en wag tot die bul jou kom holnaai“, eh?

    my Afrikaans teacher in high school could (and did) go on for an entire lesson, on all the Afrikaans words and expressions for which there was no English equivalent. Amusingly the Afrikaans word for a borrowing from English was itself a borrowing, ‘Anglisisme’.

    I didn’t encounter the type of accurate language drasvi quotes, until the Army. Officially there were two official languages, practically it was all Afrikaans. Except for when I had to march a squad around, out of sheer perversity I’d use only English commands.

    The Cape Coloureds tended to speak a patois of Afrikaans and English mixed, vigorous and vivid.

    Koos Kombuis and other singers in the Voelvry movement were explicitly concerned to rescue Afrikaans from being only the language of the oppressor. They did I think. David Kramer is another Afrikaans singer who has worked to bring the Cape Coloured folk music to stages and recording, Karoo Kitaar Blues is the one I remember.

  32. Christopher Culver says

    “Afrikaans has a pretty good title to being above all the language of the “Cape Coloureds”, i.e. the language of the oppressed, appropriated by the oppressor.”

    But isn’t the notion of the Cape Coloureds being “the oppressed” now challenged by the resentment that some of South Africa’s Black population hold against the Coloureds, since the Coloureds enjoy a higher standard of living and are seen to ally with the white population in certain respects?

  33. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Golf always has been a mass sport in Scotland, the land of its birth. The exclusivity is the invention of the heathen English.

    My sister (who is an English as I am) was a student at St Andrews around 1960. She said that one of the perks of being a student was free access to all four golf courses. I think she only played once at the Royal and Ancient, as she found it a bit grand, but she played at the other three.

  34. J.W. Brewer says

    The one time I visited the city of St. Andrews, over a quarter-century ago, we were checking into our hotel and whoever was behind the desk offered to have someone go out and carry in the golf clubs from our rental car and when we said we didn’t have any golf clubs in our rental car they looked a little puzzled and suspicious, because apparently no one with an American accent ever checked into that hotel w/o having golfing as their motivation for being there.

  35. The Lipkas are genetically of mixed Slavic ancestry, especially by mtDNA, indicating that early on, they frequently took local brides (before switching to endogamy). It could have affected the language use from the very early days of their migration.

    Actually the same genetic dynamics is true for the Afrikaners, too. But I think we’ve discussed it on the LH before…

  36. Die Antwoord, despite their name and their obvious Afrikaner identities, sing mostly in English, I believe. Afrikaner cartoonist Joe Dog (né Anton Kannemeyer) portrays Afrikaners as backward and racist. It feels to me somewhat akin to children of white American southerners living in the north, who try to balance pride in their ancestry while being appalled at its associated wrongs.

  37. “’Now I want you to tell me just one thing more: Why do you hate the South?’

    ‘I don’t hate it,’ Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately. ‘I don’t hate it,’ he said. I don’t hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!”

  38. J.W. Brewer says

    We’re now I believe at the point where an overwhelming majority of L1 Dutch-speakers in the Netherlands and Flanders who are over 18 and under idk maybe 50 speak English with close to native fluency, but I don’t think Dutch is particularly endangered or even as endangered as Welsh (where that same phenomenon is now total). Obviously the social dynamics in South Africa could be different in a way that would push the next generation of Afrikaaners more toward being not only fluent in English but monolingually so.

  39. David Eddyshaw: The fact that golf in England is not a mass sport, unlike in Scotland, seems to me easy to explain if one compares the population density of both lands (I was about to write “countries”: admittedly that word may be appropriate in a few years, if certain present-day trends continue).

    On the future of the Afrikaans language: We should not forget that outside of South Africa Afrikaans is in some ways the most important language of Namibia (its widespread use there being due to migration of Afrikaans-speaking ‘coloureds’. Some scholarship exists comparing Afrikaans-speaking mixed-race groups and the French-speaking Métis of the Canadian prairies, and I suspect more such comparative scholarship could be written, especially from a linguistic angle), despite English being the sole official language there, a situation which is being denounced by some:

  40. David Marjanović says

    AFAIK, the UK is officially composed of 4 “countries”, like Austria is of 9 and Germany of 16.

    backward and racist

    Obligatory: the nice South African. (The full version has apparently been deleted, or maybe it’s hidden in one of the full episodes.)

  41. John Emerson says

    The tough-guy actor Charles Bronson was of Lipka Tatar descent, and a genuine tough guy too (a steelworker and combat veteran).

    The Lipka Tatars have cute little groom wooden mosques, some in bucolic woodsy areas.

    More could be written about bogie-boogie-bogart, all presumably of Dutch origin.

  42. Bogart (as in joints) goes back to the actor’s name, which is of Dutch origins. Australian slang bogey ‘bath’ is a loan from an aboriginal Australian language. Boogie-woogie is probably iconic. Bogie, booger, and bogus may or may not be all unrelated.

  43. John Emerson says

    ^”green”^. DAMN I hate autofill. I’m not on my normal computer. Cute little green wooden mosques in bucolic settings.

  44. @Doug K.

    I remember Karoo Kitaar Blues too. I mean, even lyrics of some (silly) song, which I would sing when in the mood. The lady who sang it was murdered later, in the age of 85.:/ But it is bad*, that you and I remember the very same recording. I assume, there are not many others.

    For me it was the only chance to hear anything from Karoo, and anything that folks sing.

    As for the line I quoted it is “accuracy of meaning” and “higher spheres of thought”.

    *Bad for me, at least, maybe people in Karoo are all right:)

  45. John, yes, wooden mosques impressed me as well. I was not sure if they look as cute for someone who does not see these bucolic settings with wooden houses, just without wooden mosques. Apparently they do.

    In Minsk they built a stone mosque some 100 years ago, but then it was demolished in 60s.

    There is a church in the central part of Moscow, on a tiny green hill and next to a what counted as a skyscraper back in Soviet times. I saw it often as a child, and my vision or memory systematically transformed it into a toy church, one you can take and hold on your palm. The church is large and complex enough, so even if there is a photograph from the right perspective, I’m afraid it is going to emphasize the opposite:/

  46. David Eddyshaw says
  47. Of course.

    I am not sure if Netherlands is a good analogy. British TV alongside with Dutch TV, and some of tertiary education is in English.
    But people around are L1 Dutch speakers. A well educated Dutch speaker living in a big city is surrounded by Dutch speakers at any level, I think. In bar and in most cases at the workplace.

    And do they code-switch? I do not hear Dutch often, but what I heard didn’t contain code-switching.

    The two langauges are similar, and I would expect strong Englsih influence on Dutch rather than shift.

  48. There is a church in the central part of Moscow, on a tiny green hill and next to a what counted as a skyscraper back in Soviet times.

    Which church is that?

  49. Simeon Stylites (I’ll add the name in Cyrillic as an edit)

    This photograph (early 90s) at least does not make it look large.

    P.S. Церковь Симеона Столпника.

  50. Thanks, and what a nice little church!

  51. Церковь Симеона Столпника на Поварской; luckily, it was restored in the late ’60s (it could easily have been demolished during Khrushchev’s crazed church-wrecking campaign), and apparently the restorers went so far as to add crosses, which were immediately taken down “по распоряжению высшего начальства”!

  52. David Marjanović says

    In Minsk they built a stone mosque some 100 years ago, but then it was demolished in 60s.

    At the link there are what looks like much more recent photos; it’s evidently been rebuilt.

    Thanks, and what a nice little church!

    Really unexpectedly cute!

  53. John Cowan says

    Golf always has been a mass sport in Scotland, the land of its birth.

    This article suggests that the age of municipally funded courses is rapidly coming to an end, pulled by decreasing local budgets and pushed by new private courses with greens fees north of £200. Or in the case of one on the Isle of Jura, £20,000 per diem, admittedly including room and board.

    Amusingly the Afrikaans word for a borrowing from English was itself a borrowing, ‘Anglisisme’.

    From French, surely.

    Afrikaans profanity and insults, including the one quoted above. Note that it does not mean what you might think it means: kont in Dutch (and consequently Afrikaans) kont has shifted to ‘butt’, which is blunt but not vulgar, although both kont and kut (the word for ‘cunt’) have also picked up the BrE sense of cunt ‘strongly disliked person’ in certain mesolects. The other Germanic languages retain the original sense.

    apparently the restorers went so far as to add crosses, which were immediately taken down [“on the highest authority”]


  54. David Eddyshaw says

    Trump wants the poor to be denied golf. He is right: golf for the poor is Socialism, which always leads to the Gulag and not being allowed to say “Merry Christmas.”

  55. Who?

  56. From French, surely.” On the other hand, if Afrikaans is understood as a (Dutch-based) language created by contact, rather than an independent continuation of Dutch, then nothign there is a borrowing. Especially from French. There were many French Huguenots among the original settlers. I do not think that “anglicism” comes from them specifically though, but French is certainly not alien to Afriakaans.

    including the one quoted above.” I heard it from a Russian from Stellenbosch years ago. It does sound like a quotation, but back then I could not find it on the Internet. I saw this list when I tried to check the spelling, and eventually changed it to what is in the list for it makes more sense.

  57. …surnames like du Toit, le Roux, du Plessis are very widespread. The singer I mentioned above is le Roux du Toit. Yolandi, a singer form die Antword, is du Toit. Sarie Marais is likely the most famous folk song.

  58. “i.e. the language of the oppressed, appropriated by the oppressor.”

    The words are divisive and the country is already divided.
    I am serious. Apartheid was crap, for artists like Koos Kombuis too (even mixing languages in songs was banned) but there is no Apartheid around, and there is no Rhodesia too and the regime that came next in Zimbabwe is even worse.

    Boers are a white African tribe.

  59. Drasvi says: ‘the country is already divided’

    It’s always curious to hear people saying they want to unite a country or a country should be united.
    To me, who was born in a one party state, it sounds eerily reminiscent of the official rhetoric in dictatorships.

    I’d think that the rule of law, equality before the law, and freedom of speech & thought are more important than suppressing ‘divisions’ (whatever they may be).

  60. The whole debate stinks.

    In what moral universe Afrikaans is the language of oppressors and English is not?

  61. zyxt, divided as in “lack of basic respect to each other”.

    I am telling that if they choose to be united within one country (and they do, and “Apartheid” means “apartness”), conversation should begin with respecting each other and each other’s heritage.

  62. David Marjanović says

    “From French, surely.”

    As much or as little as Anglizismus is in German.

    How about “Generic Latinate”?

  63. Sheer gut instinct wants to see the “-oose” in caboose and all those Dutch words as having been “house” in some Germanic seaman’s dialect… any guesses that could make sense? Camp-house? That sort of thing?

  64. per incuriam says

    Note that it does not mean what you might think it means: kont in Dutch (and consequently Afrikaans) kont has shifted to ‘butt’, which is blunt but not vulgar

    Indeed. In the Netherlands such words are commonly heard even on the main evening news and out of the mouths of senior ministers and officials. Not only cunt but also arse, fuck and, most of all these days, prick.

    Those who follow soccer, particularly in Uruguay and Romania, will be aware that these days it is apparently no defence to show that a word you use in your own language is entirely inoffensive in that language if a related English word is taboo.

  65. Wow, that’s messed up.

  66. David Eddyshaw says

    C’est con.

  67. PlasticPaddy says

    Mind you, there are languages in which P—ck and N—er are inoffensive. Not to mention the Hungarian football fan’s beloved right arm gesture (illegal in Slovakia, indicative of that country’s insensitive treatment of its ethnic Hungarian minority).

  68. As I said, Russian “negr” is neutral. Russian “black” is offensive.

    And there is a country and river of Niger, from an unrelated root.

  69. @AG: If moose could be tied in there, you might have a Algonquo-Dutch alternative to the Scandi-Congo hypothesis.

  70. John Emerson says

    There once was a Micmac (Algonquin) – Basque jargon (Basque fishermen probably reached N America before Columbus.) I believe that it was in use for many decades; alas,only a handful of words survive.

  71. John Cowan says

    if Afrikaans is understood as a (Dutch-based) language created by contact, rather than an independent continuation of Dutch

    I think rather that Afrikaans is a semi-creole, like Réunionnais, Cappadocian Greek, and even perhaps Hiberno-English: a product of imperfect L2 learning that has become an L1. As such it is rather more than “Dutch-based”, but not quite a continuation of Dutch in the sense that, say, Malagasy is an offshoot (an archaic one) of the Southern Barito languages of Borneo, specifically Ma’anyan. It’s “Dutch As We Mangle It In Capehopeistan”.

  72. A bit of history might be in order.

    Majority of white Afrikaans-speakers are actually descendants of the French Huguenots.

    Their ancestors spoke French and learned Dutch after emigrating to the Cape in late 17th century.

    So not only the Coloureds are descended from people who learned Dutch imperfectly, but Afrikaners themselves as well.

  73. January First-of-May says

    that, say, Malagasy is an offshoot (an archaic one) of the Southern Barito languages of Borneo, specifically Ma’anyan

    …TIL. I knew that Malagasy was Austronesian, but I thought it was a very distinct branch, as opposed to a very placeable twig somewhere in the middle of the tree with close affinity to a particular small region outside Madagascar.

  74. In a similar vein, Romani languages are strictly speaking part of Western Hindi languages.

  75. Slavic languages an offshoot of a south Baltic dialect that became lingua franca in the Avar khaganate ????

  76. David L. Gold says

    @ drasvi. Regarding the Afrikaans word “anglisisme,” I agree with you that it did not enter the language from the French of French Huguenots. It’s too recent and too technical a term to go back to 1688 – first quarter of the eighteenth century (the period of Huguenot migration to southern Africa).

    Rather, the word is probably a recentish borrowing of South African English anglicism.

  77. David L. Gold says

    @SFReader. I would appreciate your evidence for this statement: “Majority of white Afrikaans-speakers are actually descendants of the French Huguenots.”

    Is it not contradicted by the fact that just 132 family names are listed on the Huguenot Memorial ( in the The Johannesburg Botanical Garden?

    Since the memorial is called Vanne van Hugenote / Surnames of Huguenots, it is reasonable to assume that a special effort was made, before the memorial went up, to identify all such names.

    It seems to me that most of the family names of speakers of Afrikaans of European origin come from Dutch.

  78. John Cowan says

    The fact that most Afrikaner surnames are of Dutch origin is pretty weaksauce evidence that only a few Afrikaners are of Huguenot origin. It takes two to tango, and in a society isolated in fact or by social pressure the number of surnames will tend to shrink.

    Pitcairn Island was settled by nine Bounty mutineers surnamed Christian, Young, Quintal, Brown, Martin, Williams, McCoy, Mills, and Adams (the Tahitian men had no inheritable surnames), of which only Christian, Young, and Brown survive on Pitcairn today. However, the surnames McCoy and Quintal (as well as Adams, Christian, and Young) do survive on Norfolk Island, where all Pitcairners were relocated for a few years and from which only some returned.

  79. J.W. Brewer says

    It is is easy to get muddled between the different propositions that: (a) the majority of Afrikaners have some identifiable quantum of Huguenot ancestry; (b) the majority of Afrikaners have a >50% quantum of Huguenot ancestry. I wonder if SFReader saw a perhaps poorly-worded version of (a) and mistook it to be asserting (b)? Wikipedia asserts that Dutch settlers were about four times as numerous as Huguenots in the Cape of Good Hope as of 1691, and when the Brits took over in 1806 about 17% of the white population was of French ancestry (although who knows how descendants of the numerous Dutch/French unions that had already occurred got treated, other than perhaps a loose preference of patrilineality?). Without spending time to dig into more substantive references those numbers seem roughly consistent with my impression from previous reading. The point is that especially once the Huguenot descendants stopped being linguistically distinct, there were no significant factors favoring endogamy within either the “Dutch” or “Huguenot” groups, so after the passage of another few centuries virtually all Afrikaners had ancestors from both.

    In terms of the impact on Afrikaans, there were also smaller groups of white settlers whose L1 was neither Dutch nor French (e.g. German or something Scandinavian), although how much the ancestral linguistic diversity among the white population versus that among the non-white population contributed to the creolized genesis of Afrikaans is not clear to me.

    The naturalized Afrikaner-American actress Charlize Theron has a Huguenot-origin surname although she had plenty of Dutchly-named ancestors as well. I think at various points in her career her publicists played up her “French” ancestry, both because of the Hollywood cliche that French = sophisticated and as a way of distancing her (in the eyes of the 99% of filmgoers who didn’t actually knew that much about South African demographic history) from negative stereotypes about Afrikaners.

    FWIW see also this recent piece about genetic analysis of Afrikaner ancestry, which is perhaps most interesting for the claim that almost 99% of Afrikaners have detectable (but low-single-digit percentage) non-white ancestry. It also says “The strongest European genetic contribution is from northwestern Europe, with the most similar population being the Swiss German population. This signal could also be interpreted as a mixture between German, Dutch and French populations – as genealogical records indicate.”

  80. Opgaaf (tax roll) of Cape colony lists only 89 adult white men (and total of nearly 300 Europeans) in 1682.

    A few years later about 200 French speakers arrived nearly doubling the white population.

    Since the white settler population before the Huguenot arrival wasn’t universally Dutch (many were German), it does seem reasonable to conclude that by 1700, the French speakers constituted at least a plurality of white settlers if not a majority.

  81. The last four comments in this thread remind me of this sad story:

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