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32 original Afrikaans idioms sure to make you smile once translated into English via @PatFurstenberg, #SouthAfrica #languages #learning #fun #amreading

Afrikaans, a language rich in idioms and emotions, is the world’s youngest national language and one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. Born about 350 years ago through a blend of Dutch, German and French spoken by settlers in what is now South Africa, Afrikaans is part of the West Germanic languages and is currently spoken by approximately 13 million people found mostly in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Idioms are reputable for having a meaning not deductible from that of the individual words. Let’s see how some Afrikaans idioms translate into English.

1. Alle grappies op ‘n stokkie

English: All jokes on a stick

Meaning: On a more serious note

2. As die hemel val is ons almal dood

English: If heaven falls, we’re all dead

Meaning: To complain less; let’s not always think about what could go wrong

3. Die aap uit die mou laat

English: To let the monkey out of the sleeve

Meaning: To release the cat out of the bag; to spill the beans

Die aap uit die mou laat - To spill the beans
Die aap uit die mou laat – To spill the beans

4. Die berge het ‘n muis gebaar

English: The mountain gave birth to a mouse

Meaning: When you put in a lot of effort into a project but have very little to show for it

5. Die bobbejaan agter die bult gaan uithaal

English: To fetch a baboon from behind the hill

Meaning: To think or talk about problems that haven’t happened yet, thus possibly making them happen.

6. Dis die klein jakkalsies wat die wingerde verniel

English: It is the small jackals that ruined the vineyard

Meaning: Small mistakes can cause big troubles

Nou in Afrikaans - kinderboeke 4+ - Get them on Amazon
Nou in Afrikaans – kinderboeke 4+ – Get them on Amazon

7. Die doodskleed het geen sakke nie

English: A dead man’s suit does not have pockets

Meaning: When you die, your possessions mean nothing

8. Die geel baadjie aan hê

English: To wear a yellow jacket

Meaning: To be jealous

9. Die poppe gaan dans

English: The dolls will dance

Meaning: There’s going to be trouble

Die poppe gaan dans - There's going to be trouble
Die poppe gaan dans – There’s going to be trouble

10. Dis ‘n feit soos ‘n koei

English:  It’s a fact like a cow

Meaning: It is a fact you can’t argue with

11. Dit weet die aap se stert

English: What the monkey’s tail knows

Meaning: Something everyone knows

12. Hang aan ‘n tak

English: Hanging onto a branch

Meaning: Hold on for a second

Die Leeu en die Hond - Get it on Amazon
Die Leeu en die Hond – Get it on Amazon

13. Hoe kaler die jakkals, hoe groter die stert

English: The more naked the jackal, the bigger its tail is

Meaning: Those who have the least to show for themselves, brag the most

14. Hy het ‘n klap van die windmeul weg

English: He’s been hit by a windmill

Meaning: To not be sound of mind

15. Hy skil sy aartappels nie twee keer nie

English: You don’t peel your potatoes twice

Meaning: Get it right the first time.

Hy skil sy aartappels nie twee keer nie - Get it right the first time
Hy skil sy aartappels nie twee keer nie – Get it right the first time

16. Iemand heuning om die mond smeer

English: To rub honey on someone’s mouth

Meaning: To butter someone up with flattery

17. Iemand ‘n gat in die kop praat

English: To talk a hole in someone’s head

Meaning: To find a way to persuade someone (to do something bad)

18. Jakkals trou met wolf se vrou

English: The jackal is marrying the wolf’s wife

Meaning: Used when the weather is surprising: it rains on a sunny day

Die Jagluiperd en die Hond - Get it on Amazon
Die Jagluiperd en die Hond – Get it on Amazon

19. Jy krap met ‘n kort stokkie aan ‘n groot leeu se bal

English: You scratch a big lion’s bollocks with a shot stick

Meaning: To be arrogant; to push one’s luck

20. Katjie van die baan

English: A kitten from the track

Meaning: Used to describe someone with social skills, with humor. It can also be used when children stay up too late at night.

21. ‘n Aap in die mou hê

English: To have a monkey up your sleeve

Meaning: To have something up your sleeve; to hide a mischievous plan

‘n Aap in die mou hê - to have something up your sleeve
‘n Aap in die mou hê – to have something up your sleeve

22. ‘n Hond uit ‘n bos gesels

English: To talk a dog out of a bush

Meaning: To have a great conversation or to describe someone very chatty

23. ‘n Gat in die dag slaap

English: To sleep a hole in the day

Meaning: To sleep very late

24. ʼn Man van twaalf ambagte en dertien ongelukke

English: A man of twelve trades and thirteen accidents

Meaning: Used to describe a Jack of all trades, but a master of none

Die Olifant en die Skaap - Get it on Amazon
Die Olifant en die Skaap – Get it on Amazon

25. Moenie die hoender ruk nie

English: Don’t shake the chicken

Meaning: Don’t overdo it

26. Nes ‘n aap op ‘n stokkie

English: Like a monkey on a stick

Meaning: To look perplexed

27. Nou nou

English: Now now
Meaning: In a little while, in a bit

Nou nou - In a little while, in a bit
Nou nou – In a little while, in a bit

28. So ‘n bek moet jam kry

English: such a mouth should get jam

Meaning: Used when someone says something you agree with or when someone is witty and deserves a praise.

29. So skaars soos ‘n tweedehandse doodskis

English: As scarce as a second hand coffin

Meaning: Something extremely rare

30. Sy kerk is uit

English: His church is out

Meaning:It’s all over for him; he doesn’t stand another chance.

31. Twee rye spore loop

English: To walk two lines of tracks

Meaning: To be drunk

32. Wors in die hondehok soek

English: To search for a sausage in a dog’s kennel

Meaning: To look for the needle in the haystack, to look for something you cannot find

Did you know that the biggest South African communities outside of South Africa are found in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel, Chile, Portugal and Greece?


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