A Poem You Can Read in English and Afrikaans

A poem you can readin English and Afrikaans

Seen sometimes as barriers, languages are the tools we use to communicate and understand each other or the information at hand, such as this poem we can read in both English and Afrikaans.

MY STORIES BEGIN AS LETTERS 

My pen is my wonderland. 
Word water in my hand. 
In my pen is wonder ink. 
Stories sing. Stories sink. 

My stories loop. 
My Stories stop. 
My pen is my wonder mop. 
Drink letters. 
Drink my ink. 

My pen is blind. 
My stories blink. 

by Joe Public, South African-based ad agency – source

What the poem means to me as I read it in English

To me, My Stories Begin as Letters is a writer’s confession. Whatever he writes is nascent as an inner thought, as an intimate letter to oneself.

There are so many ideas swimming through a writer’s mind, yet not all of them will come to life in ink on paper and even fewer will reach a conclusion.

But when this happens a part of the writer’s life, of his energy, of his pen, will remain trapped inside that story forever. A bitter-sweet conclusion.

What the poem means when read in Afrikaans

Most of the poem has a similar meaning to what one would get when reading it in English, perhaps with these two minute exceptions:

  • The pen’s ink is fluid and so are the words it puts on paper, like a fluid that runs through the writer’s hand.
  • The pen and its ink can, in the hands of a writer, create a wonderful story.

Lost in translation or not?

Between the English and Afrikaans readings of the poem above all the words have the same meaning except for the following three:

  • The English meaning of the Afrikaans words:
  • word = become, transform
  • loop = flow, walk
  • blink = shiny, sparkly

As we switch between two languages and read through the prism of each one’s cultural background that we basked in when exposed to it, when assimilating it, is our ideology changing as well?

Let’s imagine the poem as a painting we regard in a museum. The culture is the room in which the painting is hanging and the ideology is the way we take the painting in as we first see it.

Change its location, its language in this instance, and we see the painting in a different light.

Are the Afrikaans and English languages related?

Yes, they are both Indo-European languages.
The Afrikaans language, also called Cape Dutch, is a West Germanic language developed from 17th-century Dutch by the descendants of European colonists (Dutch, German, and French), of indigenous Khoisan peoples, and of African and Asian slaves living in the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope (today Cape Town, South Africa).
Modern Afrikaans language, or informal Afrikaans, is the result of many other language influences, both foreign and indigenous, on the original Afrikaans dialect.
The English language is a West Germanic language of the Indo-European language family and is closely related to Frisian, German, and Dutch (in Belgium called Flemish) languages.

Since 1994 Afrikaans is one of eleven official languages of South Africa.

Afrikaanse Vergelykings – Afrikaans Simile – Your Comprehensive & Fun Guide

so moeg soos 'n hond

Welkom by Afrikaanse Vergelykings – Afrikaans simile.

We often use similes without realizing, when we desire to emphasize the meaning of an idea or an image. But similes allow us insight into a different culture, as you can notice from these Afrikaans similes and their English translations.

Ons gebruik gereeld vergelykings, somtyds sonder dat ons dit besef, om ‘n idee of beeld te versterk. Vergelykings gee ons ook insig in ander kulture, soos jy kan opmerk van herdie Afrikaanse vergelykings en hulle (direkte) Engelse vertalings.

so arm soos ‘n kerkmuis = as poor as a church mouse

Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile, so arm soos 'n kerkmuis = as poor as a church mouse

This simile is probably deriving from an older one, as hungry as a church mouse – illustrating how the Catholic and the Orthodox priests were careful not to mess the smallest crumb of the sacramental bread.

Die vergelyking het heelwaarskynlik sy oorsprong van ‘n ouer een, “so honger soos ‘n kerkmuis”, wat illustreer hoe versigtig die Katolieke en Ortodokse priesters was om nie die kleinste krummel van die heilige nagmaalbrood te mors nie.

so bitter soos gal = as bitter as bile

so bleek soos ‘n laken = as pale as a sheet

In English we would rather say as pale as death, as pale as a ghost, as white as a sheet)

so blind soos ‘n mol = as blind as a mole
so blou soos die hemel / die berge = as blue as the sky / as blue as a mountain
so dapper soos ‘n leeu = as brave as a lion

so dood soos ‘n mossie = as dead as a sparrow

This simile might derive from as dead as a dodo (referring to the dodo being an extinct species), although I think that as dead as a door nail is more used.

so doof soos ‘n kwartel = as deaf as a quail

so doof soos 'n kwartel = as deaf as a quail, Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile
Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile

Quails are widespread in South Africa and very easy to catch. The expression is based on a misunderstanding between Dutch and German. In German “doof” means “dumb”. Because quails are easy to catch or be lured with simple tricks, the Germans called them “doof” and the word entered Dutch and then Afrikaans.
In English we would say as deaf as a post.

so dom soos ‘n esel = as stupid as a donkey
so donker soos die nag = as dark as the night
so dronk soos ‘n matroos = as drunk as a sailor
so droog soos kurk / strooi = as dry as cork / as dry as straw (as dry as a bone is used in English)
so dun soos ‘n plank = as thin as a plank (rather as thin as a rail in English)

so fris soos ‘n perd = as healthy as a horse

so fris soos 'n perd = as healthy as a horse, Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile
Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile

This is an interesting Afrikaans idiom as the English equivalent originates in the NE of the USA and is best used in summer. In English we would rather say as healthy / as fit as a butcher’s dog. This makes sense as a butcher’s dog would have a diet based on meat and other scraps, thus keeping him healthier than the stray dogs.

so geduldig soos Job = as patient as Job
so geel soos goud = as yellow as gold
geld soos bossies = money like weeds (has a lot of money)
so gereeld soos klokslag = as regular as clockwork
so giftig soos ‘n slang = as poisonous as a snake

Also read: How the Snake Lost Its Legs

so goed soos goud = as good as gold (completely genuine)

so goed  soos goud = as good as gold (completely genuine) Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile

This simile most probably draws from the end of the 19th century when banknotes were first introduced in the USA. These were actually IOUs, written promises for a later payment, in gold and silver. Thus the expression, IOUs were “as genuine as gold”, as good as gold.

“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs. Cratchit…
“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843

so glad soos seep = as smooth as soap
so groen soos gras = as green as grass
so groot soos ‘n reus = as big as a giant
so hard soos klip = as hard as stone
so helder soos kristal = as clear as crystal
so honger soos ‘n wolf = as hungry as a wolf

so koel soos ‘n komkommer = as cool as cucumber

so koel  soos 'n komkommer = as cool as cucumber, Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile
Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile

As cool as a cucumber dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. Cool here does not refer to low temperature, but rather to someone unruffled. As cool as a cucumber was first recorded in 1732, in John Gay’s New Song on New Similes.

so koud soos ys = as cold as ice
so krom soos ‘n hoepel = as crooked as a hoop
so kwaai soos ‘n tierwyfie = as vicious as a tigress
so lelik soos die nag = as ugly as the night
so lig soos ‘n veer = as light as a feather
so lui soos ‘n donkie = as lazy as a donkey
so maer soos ‘n kraai = as thin / skinny as a crow
so mak soos ‘n lam = as tame as a lamb
so maklik soos pyp opsteek = as easy as lighting a pipe

so moeg soos ‘n hond = as tired as a dog

so moeg  soos 'n hond = as tired as a dog, Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile

As tired as a dog draws back to the 9th century, originating in the adjectival phrase dog-tired. It is said that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex and King of the Anglo-Saxons used to send his sons, Athelbrod and Edwin, out hunting accompanied by their dogs. Whichever son would catch more game would be seated at their father’s right hand side at the dinner table that evening. The hunt would leave both young princes as tired as a dog.

so nat soos ‘n kat = as wet as a cat
so nuuskierig soos ‘n aap = as curious as a monkey
so oud soos die berge = as old as the mountains
so plat soos ‘n pannekoek = as flat as a pancake
pronk soos ‘n pou = shows off like a peacock

Also read: Die Mahem – the Legend of the African Crowned Crane

so reg soos ‘n roer = as straight as a barrel (of a gun)
so rond soos ‘n koeël = as round as a bullet
so rooi soos bloed = as red as blood
so regop soos ‘n kers = as upright as a candle
rook soos ‘n skoorsteen = smokes like a chimney
so sag soos sy = as soft as silk
so seker soos twee maal twee vier is = as sure as knowing two times two is four
sing soos ‘n nagtegaal = sings like a nightingale
so skerp soos ‘n lemmetjie = as sharp as a razor blade
so skraal soos ‘n riet = as slim as a reed
so skurf soos ‘n padda = (skin) as scabby / dry as a toad

slaap soos ‘n klip = sleeps like a stone

slaap soos 'n klip = sleeps like a stone, Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile

The former version of sleep like a stone would be sleep like a log – metaphorically mentioned in English as early as the 17th century:

“foundering is when she will neither veere nor steare, the sea will so ouer rake her, except you free out the water, she will lie like a log, and so consequently sinke.”

John Smith, A Sea Grammar, 1627

so soet soos suiker / stroop = as sweet as sugar / syrup
so stadig soos ‘n trapsuutjies = as slow as a chameleon
so steeks soos ‘n donkie = as stubborn as a donkey
so sterk soos ‘n os = as strong as an ox
so stil soos ‘n muis = as quiet as a mouse
stink soos ‘n muishond = stinks like a skunk
so slim soos ‘n jakkals = as clever, crafty as a jackal

Read: Die Fennek of Woestynjakkals – the Fennec or Desert Jackal and a Story

so suur soos asyn = as sour as vinegar
so swaar soos lood = as heavy as lead
so swak soos ‘n lammetjie = as weak as a lamb
so swart soos die nag = as black as the night
swem soos ‘n vis = swims like a fish
sweet soos ‘n perd = sweats like a horse
so taai soos ‘n ratel = as tough as a honey badger
so trots soos ‘n pou = as proud as a peacock
so vas soos ‘n rots = as steady as a rock
so vinnig soos ‘n windhond = as fast as a greyhound

so wit soos sneeu = as white as snow

Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile, so wit soos sneeu = as white as snow
Afrikaanse vergelykings Afrikaans simile

Imagine the pure, pristine snow of a sunny winter’s morning. Shakespeare was one of the first to use this powerful simile:

… What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? …

Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1602

‘n Metafoor, nie ‘n Vergelyking nie:

Die dromedaris is die skip van die woestyn = the dromedary is the ship of the desert

die dromedaris is die skip van die woestyn

Lees: Die Woestyn Dromedaris – the Desert Dromedary

Nou in Afrikaans - geliefde kinderboeke deur Patricia Furstenberg
Nou in Afrikaans – geliefde kinderboeke deur Patricia Furstenberg – Amazon

Amazon UK, Amazon US

Thank you for reading Afrikaanse Vergelykings, Afrikaans simile, a comprehensive and fun guide.

Did you know that South Africans can now order my books through LOOT?

You can order my latest novel, Silent Heroes, a #1 New Release in Amazon US in History of Afghanistan for kindle category for a couple of months, a #2 Best Sellers in Arms Control as well as #4 Best Seller in Middle Eastern Literature from Loot.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia Furstenberg

You can order my latest novel, Silent Heroes, a #1 New Release in Amazon US in History of Afghanistan for kindle category for a couple of months, a #2 Best Sellers in Arms Control as well as #4 Best Seller in Middle Eastern Literature from Loot.

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woestyn dromedaris, desert dromedary
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South Africa thumbs up - Afrikaans Idioms translated into English

Your final stop if in search of original Afrikaans idioms translated into English, and sure to make you smile.

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

Read: Die Fennek of Woestynjakkals – the Fennec or Desert Jackal and a Story

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 - Afrikaans idioms translated English
Hy skil sy aartappels nie twee keer nie – Get it right the first time – Afrikaans idioms translated in English

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

Read: The Jackal and the Lion, a Story from the Khoisan Folklore

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 - Afrikaans idioms translated English
‘n Aap in die mou hê – to have something up your sleeve – Afrikaans idioms translated English

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 - Afrikaans idioms translated English
Nou nou – In a little while, in a bit. Afrikaans idioms translated in English

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

Lees: Babadiertjies van Afrika

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?

Did you know that South Africans can now order my books through LOOT?

You can order my latest novel, Silent Heroes, a #1 New Release in Amazon US in History of Afghanistan for kindle category for a couple of months, a #2 Best Sellers in Arms Control as well as #4 Best Seller in Middle Eastern Literature from Loot.

Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia Furstenberg
Loot

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