Howzit? Sharp, sharp.

Michelle Obama says "Howzit?" to Archbishop Desmond Tutu

How many of you, when you pass a stranger on the street or step up to a retail counter, say something like, “Hi. How are you?” or “Hey. “How ya doin’?” without really caring about the answer? We all do, right? And we all give the same response, “Good.” or “Alright.” It doesn’t matter whether we’ve just won a promotion or lost an international wire transfer, we almost always answer in the positive.

Well, it’s not just an American thing.

Here, it’s the same. But different. It goes a little something like this:

“Howzit?”

“Sharp, sharp.”

And that’s it. All the kids are doing it. In fact, it’s mostly the younger set and non-whites who throw the “sharp, sharp” at you. I quite like it.

Sharp is used as a greeting in this case, but can also be used like cool or OK.

“The shuttle will come and fetch you at half past five. Sharp?”

When it’s 5:50 and the shuttle hasn’t yet arrived, you might hear:

Eish! We’re going to be late for the braai, man.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve just phoned the driver, eh? He is coming now-now.”

Now-now is a misleading word. It seems to indicate “right away” or “anon” or “real bloody soon” but in reality it could mean “in an hour.”

Let’s say the shuttle does arrive now-now and you’re on your way to the braai. Out the window you might see an old VW bus.

“Whoa. Look at that lekker kombi!”

“Yeah, we had one like that, but it was stolen.”

“Shame!”

At the braai, as you make a tomato sauce (aka to-MAH-to, aka ketchup) sandwich for your wife, you might hear:

“No braaivleis or boerewors for you?”

“Oh, this is for my wife. She’s a vegetarian.”

“Is it? How long has she been a vegetarian?”

“She stopped eating red meat in 1988.”

“Is it?”

The phrase “Is it?” is used like we would use “Really?”

“Actually, Jenny would fancy a biltong and beefy Bovril sandwich.”

“Is it?”

If someone gave Jenny a biltong and beefy Bovril sandwich, it would be quite a train smash.

And now you know a few more bits of South African lingo, and that’s Mzanzi fo sho.