For example, fedderschei is the reluctance to write letters, dachdrops is water dripping from a roof, and aagehaar is an eyelash that grows inwardly and irritates the eyeball.
Being of frontier stock and digging in for Day Zero, the word that most got our attention here at the Mahogany Ridge was aarschgnoddle, the matted and clinging dried dung found just at its source of origin. Writing in his Made in America: An Informal History of American English (1994), Bryson noted: “And, no, I cannot think why they might need such a word.” Perhaps he has never farmed with sheep. Our Afrikaans friends know what a stubborn beast the gnoddle can be and have their own, perhaps more romantic-sounding term for such a thing: katesbessie.
Quite why we should be concerned with such trivia at a time of momentous political upheaval is anybody’s guess. But on to the wholly unrelated drama at hand and that is the prising of Accused Number One from office. It’s been an embarrassing business, but this should not have come as a surprise. The party’s determination that Jacob Zuma’s early exit should not be a humiliating experience was ill considered.
For starters, there’s the conundrum of trying to spare a sociopath’s feelings. How? They have none.
Here was how ANC deputy secretary-general and foremost uBaba groupie Jessie Duarte put it, speaking without invitation on our behalf: "We don’t believe South Africa should wish for us to embarrass the president of the country That has been and is the intention of the opposition.”
Oh, the manic laughter that followed. Even in the ANC they were falling about in hysterics. But it’s what Cyril Ramaphosa has been telling whoever will listen. He’s done so from the get-go.
“What we don’t want to see is the humiliation of a person who’s a head of state,” Squirrel told the Bloomberg news agency at the World Economic Forum. “What we don’t want to see is him being treated with disrespect, but in the course of all this we’re winning his co-operation in as far as managing this transition.”
Winning co-operation? Managing transition? But seriously, how has that worked out, Mr Deputy President? Zuma was going nowhere in a hurry - he’s very good at that, isn’t he? - and you have egg on your face.
We can imagine how it all went down.
Will you resign, Comrade President? “No.” Please? “I have done nothing wrong.” Pretty please? “No. I am the big cheese. The people still love me.” Um, pretty, pretty please? “There are small nyana skeletons and big ones, too.” What do you want? “Well, where do I start?”
Immunity for the 783 charges of fraud, corruption and racketeering would likely be high on that list. But alas, such immunity is not possible in South African law. There is nowt that Ramaphosa and the ANC can do to change that. A presidential pardon is possible - but only following a conviction. (And an enormously withering, if entertaining criminal trial.)
Which is possibly why Ramaphosa was able to tell the party’s parliamentary caucus that immunity from prosecution was not part of his “transition” discussions with Zuma.
True, the constitution could be altered to henceforth provide immunity for contemptuous presidents who behave like robber barons and then tear up the constitution for use when getting to grips with their bessies. But this would require a two-thirds parliamentary majority - something the ANC can’t hope to achieve so long as it protects Zuma.
It is a fact of political life that when the tables turn and unfettered power draws to an end, the knives come out and the hyenas run amok. Admittedly, it needn’t end the way it did for Mussolini, the Ceausescus, Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi. Remember PW Botha’s last television appearance? It was a particularly lurid horror show. He’d had a stroke and was drooling away in a delusional state, railing against the world, a most unloved and pathetic individual. And, yes, there was humiliation. It will always be there. It’s the gnoddle at the heart of the matter.
* Andrew Donaldson’s A Famous Grouse column appears in the Independent Media print titles every Saturday.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.