But seriously: Trust the ‘kool kidz’ to add fuel to English language flames

Johannesburg- When a member of your household whose ID number starts with a zero whispers sheepishly on the phone about “rent”, “blood”, “gang”, “birth” and “ice out” – it is bound to send chills down your spine.

Is he being bullied at school? Outside school? Is he being coerced to join a gang? Oh my, with all the challenges that teens are exposed to in the age of social media, a gazillion TV channels, information at the palm of their hands, what is he dealing with now?

And how do you get him to talk about it without scaring him off, or worse – leaving him feeling judged?

So, you wait for the most appropriate time to probe further.

What a relief it was to learn that “rent” is short for parent.

“Birth gang” is another word for parents.

“Blood” is a good friend and “ice out” means chill.

As if English is not showing one flames as it is, now there’s new vocab to contend with that ama2000’s are updating as quickly as they change their hairstyles.

At work one must know the difference between “advice” and “advise” because advice is welcome, but only advise when asked.

And there is no place for verbs ending with “ize” in South African English, and you can’t blame your default settings for that. In SA, we realise not “realize” and we accessorise not “accessorize”.

As a former British colony and now leading the UK’s red list, South Africa talks of “organisations”, instead of organizations, except if you are referring to the World Health Organization. My head is spinning too. See, the exception here, some would say it is because the “z” is part of the name of the organisation. Clear as mud, right!

Oh, and to make life even more interesting there are some words, which have been Anglicised even in US  English such as exercise and advertise. And we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the idiosyncrasies of the English language.

As some English linguists have noted: “jail and prison are synonyms, but jailor and prisoner are antonyms”.

My favourite is “queue” (and wait for the kicker) – is just  “Q” followed by four silent letters! Don’t get me started on the silent words – lamb, bomb, comb, climb … the “b” is silent, right?

So, it is safe to assume that most words that end with “b” are silent, yes? No! There’s debt and subtle. Just when you think there’s logic to this madness …

Then we have the nouns that are plural, but take singular verb forms, such as “news is important, “politics is life”, or “gymnastics is fun”. And did you know that “your fingers have tips, but your toes don’t have toetips.

Yet, you can tiptoe but not tipfinger”. Imagine having to learn the subtleties of English and still keep up with the “kool kidz” lingo – which refers to wine as “Bible juice”, the R350 social relief grant as “young money”.

Help! English is my fifth language!

To read more political news and views from this week’s newspaper, click here. 

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