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With the current eagerness for giving new names to South Africa’s towns, I asked Threnody Higginbottom, my secretary (I call her Miss Smith around the office) to find some columns from the 1990s when readers were invited to suggest probable meanings for South African town names.
Many of the suggestions received were too late for publication. But I kept them.
I recalled the list the other day after receiving an e-mail from David Shabangu asking if I knew that the proposed name for Joburg – Egoli – “obviously honours the Kaizer Chiefs’ (and Bafana Bafana) goalie Itumeleng Khune”.
I must say, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Those years ago a reader suggested that Bolokanang (Petrusburg) means a “severe ticking off” and that the Free State town of Clocolan is named after “the start of the small bowel”.
My problem is, who wrote these?
My confusion is entirely Threnody’s fault – she mixed up the files.
“Threnody, this was most reprehensible of you!”
“It was my pleasure, Sir.”
I managed to trace to R Greenberg of Bedford Park, Bedfordview, these three:
Port Elizabeth – an after-dinner wine with royal approval
Barberton – a real live doll
Robinson – stealing from your own family
I recognised the touch of Jean M Humphreys of Northcliff in some but checking back they might have been from Cecile Cilliers of Linden or Rae Lambert of Honeydew.
But they were very amusing.
Babanangu – hangover from skokiaan
Gompies – crumbs in the bed
Hluhluwe – indignant sound made by birders when American tourists walk into a Kruger Park bird hide loudly complaining that they have not seen any tigers.
Koppies – photostats
Memel – small desert animal
Mtubatuba – duet for euphoniums
Osizweni – an Australian’s small thingummy
Poupan – child’s toilet training pan
Rustenburg – heap of scrap cars
Ubombo – male bimbo
Villa Lisa – infection of the lower gut
Gordon Malcolm of Barbecue Downs (Edenvale way) sent in:
Slurry – incoherent sentence uttered by a drunk
Thaba Nchu – a word used to describe a combination of flatulence and sneezing
Dimbaza – a stupid executive
Atok – sneezing with closed mouth
Setlagole – deciding goal in a soccer match
Umtentweni – tiny temporary shelter
Umtata – “gunk” found at base of improperly cleaned toothbrush bristles
Other brilliant ones from authors unnamed:
Bisho – second-rate movie house
Blinkpan – Eyebath
Calvinia – maternity home for cows
Clarkson – Loud car horn
Conera – sexually transmitted disease
Dargle – blow bubbles into a cup of beverage through a straw
Lutzputs – discreet burps made in appreciation of a tot of fine mampoer.
Ealing – laying on of hands
Gauteng – sound made when spitting tobacco into a spittoon
Hohoza – whiplash from an unattended hosepipe
Ingwavuma – V8 turbocharged station wagon
Kabega – extended truck cab
Mamelodi – citrus preserve
Midros – the crease that divides a middle-aged man’s stomach from his thorax
Pudimore – second helping of dessert
Tsitsikamma – lounge
Tweedie – little fluffball on old sweater
Zeerust – result of parking your car at the coast
Zunkels – cold scraps of schnitzels