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Afrikaans stars join row over 'ugly language'

Published Dec 10, 2005


A String of Afrikaans celebrities have leapt to the defence of the Afrikaans language after a British writer described it as "one of the ugliest languages in the world".

The September edition of the UK design magazine, Wallpaper*, prompted billionaire businessman Anton Rupert to withdraw millions of pounds of advertising.

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In the magazine, one of its writers wrote that Jan van Wijk erected the Taal Monument in Paarl in 1975 "in honour of one of the world's ugliest languages".

The design magazine touts itself as a "design-inspired lifestyle magazine that searches high and low to present its readers with the best the world has to offer".

Last week, Rupert, who is chairperson of luxury products company Richemont and his adverts include brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpels, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill, was quoted in Rapport as saying that he could not believe his eyes when he saw the Wallpaper* reference to Afrikaans.

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Rupert stated that he had had enough of his language "being belittled" and "would not sit still and look on while my language and culture were being drawn through the mud".

Wallpaper* refused to comment.

Local celebrities, academics and movements like the Afrikaans Taal en Kultuurvereniging (ATKV) have saluted Rupert for "sticking up for his language, culture and heritage".

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"That man (the author of the article) is obviously deaf," says Pieter-Dirk Uys.

"Afrikaans is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. He's talking rubbish and we should just ignore him."

Model Mienkie van der Westhuizen says South Africa needs more Ruperts to stand up for what they believe in. "He is my idol. No one has the right to say that any language is ugly," she says.

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Comedian Leon Schuster called the UK writer a "soutpiel" and said he deserved "a klap".

"Afrikaans is helluva nice language," he says.

"It is so expressive and flows so beautifully. You can't say lekker my bru in any other way. The lyrics of Laurika Rauch flow so beautifully, it is like an angel weeping in my ear.

"Madiba has written beautiful poems in Afrikaans ... I can't imagine how on a foreign ear Afrikaans would sound bad.

"Maybe this writer heard two drunk okies in a pub in Cape Town using some choice Afrikaans words.

"Many people who read the magazine will think: 'Hell, Afrikaans is a real kak language.' Maar moenie laat hulle met my taal mors nie - ek sal hulle moer. (But they must not mess with my language - I will hit them)."

Olga Sema, a Motswana who traverses the country for the ATKV to promote Afrikaans among non-mother tongue communities, says the "perception around the world is that Afrikaans is the language of the apartheid oppressors".

"But you can't blame a language for apartheid.

"Afrikaans is one of our indigenous languages in South Africa and is beautiful. I, like many South Africans, will never stop loving it," she said.

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