South African slang guide

JOHANNESBURG, June 9 (Reuters) - Even though English is South Africa's official first language, many World Cup visitors may find it hard navigating the local lingo, a bewildering mixture of Afrikaans, Zulu and nine other native tongues.

The following A-Z offers a rough guide for football fans worried about getting lost in South Africa's linguistic jungle.

A - Ayoba. A made-up word meaning "cool", and given continent-wide currency after its appropriation as a World Cup slogan by MTN, Africa's biggest mobile phone company.

B - Braai. Cooking meat on a fire is one of the few things that appeals equally to all South Africans, no matter their colour. Expect to go hungry if you refer to it as a barbecue.

C - China. No, not the country, which failed to qualify for the World Cup despite having 1.3 billion people to choose from. China, as in "Howzit, my old China?", means "friend", much as it does in London's East End, its probable port of origin.

"Chommie" takes "China" to the next level.

D - Dagga. Marijuana. Even though weed grows like a, er, weed in many parts of temperate South Africa, it is still illegal.

That said, expect more than the odd whiff at soccer fan parks, where you will also meet the "diski dance", a series of township soccer-inspired moves, and the "dumpie", a squat bottle of beer.

E - Eish! A catch-all expression of surprise or mild annoyance. Not allowed to appear in print without an exclamation mark.

F - Fundi. Every language has to have a word for the armchair soccer know-it-all. In South Africa, the Zulu word for "teacher" fills the void.

G - Gatvol. "Fed up" in Afrikaans. With the 'v' pronounced like an 'f', it's very similar to the English "gutful". As in "Eish! man. I'm gatvol of this fundi. He has no idea what he's talking about."

H - Howzit. Guttural shortening of "How is it going?" and the standard South African greeting. Spoken by true exponents with minimal movement of the lips.

Response should simply be another "Howzit" - unless you are an excessively polite and verbose Englishman, in which case you can stick to "I'm fine, thanks. How are you?".

"Hola" and "Heita" are popular alternatives, especially if you want to be ayoba on the streets of Soweto.

I - Izzit. Another product of the same linguistic mangle as "Howzit", the abbreviation of "Is it?" signifies vague disbelief or surprise as in: "My girlfriend is something of a soccer fundi." Reply: "Izzit?"

J - Jol. Afrikaans for "party", a surprisingly widespread term given the former Dutch settlers' puritan reputation.

K - "Ke Nako". Sesotho for "It's time", and the expression that helped convince FIFA bosses in 2004 to award Africa its first World Cup.

L - Lekker. Pronounced "lacquer" but has nothing to do with furniture polish and everything to do with "good". Likely to be heard in conjunction with another L, "Laduma" - Zulu for "He scores" - if the prayers of 50 million South Africans are answered.

M - Moegoe. Idiot. Nothing more to say.

N - Now. A hard one to grasp for English-speakers used to their "nows" in the present or recent past.