Tag Archives: South Africa

The debate of UK English vs American English

I am fascinated with the English language It’s a passion I learned, late in life, not everyone shares. People enjoy different things for sure! Me? I thrive on researching grammar, spelling and language issues in general.  

 There is one language related topic in particular that truly blows my hair back:  the variances between the use of American English, British English and South African English.

For the record, I do not confess to be an expert on the topic! I am merely an English language buff who has spent a substantial amount of personal time clarifying, in my own mind at least, the correct use of English in writing.

My vocation requires that I edit and write, and being a proud South African, I am continuously irritated at the inconsistencies in magazine and newspaper editorial, amongst others, in relation to the use of American and British English standards.  Often – and to my utter dismay – any particular editorial can contain both language styles:  the American English standard and the British or UK English standard – all in one writing sample!

faceWhat really gets my goat is the spelling of words with “s” or “z” (e.g. organisation or organization) and conflicting sentence punctuation, especially when using quotation marks e.g.:

  • “It’s a beautiful and sunny day”, Lisa said. She emphasised, “I wonder when it will rain?”.
  • ‘It’s a beautiful and sunny day,” Lisa said. She emphasized, ‘I wonder when it will rain?’

You see, my peers and I were educated to use the “s” and not the “z” – although both are correct in British English, while American English prefers using the “z” only.  Yet the “z” creeps persistently into our writing!  So which version is correct?

In my humble opinion, South Africans should stick with the following simple language guidelines:

  • Using British/UK English spelling e.g. programme, cheque, kilogramme, metre, dialogue, neighbour, honour, archaeology etc.
  • Using the “s” and not the “z” in spelling e.g. organise, analyse, capitalise, emphasise, standardise, urbanise etc.
  • Using double quotation marks for direct speech and single quotation marks for a quote within a quote.
  • Placing the comma or period outside the quotation marks unless the comma or period forms part of the quoted material, in which case the punctuation mark is placed inside the quotation marks.
  • In body text which already contains direct speech using double quotation marks, single quotation marks should be used to highlight or emphasise specific words or to enclose slang and jargon.
  • Use of hyphens to separate identical letters as in co-operate and re-introduce.
  • Hyphenating compound modifiers, if used in adjectives before the noun e.g. full-time job, well-known expert, large-scale project. However, if used after the noun, a hyphen is not used e.g. the job is full time, the expert is well known, the project was large scale. Also, modifiers ending in “ly” do not require hyphenation (thanks to www.copyblogger.com for this easy to remember tip)  
  • Hyphenating compound numbers and fractions.

So there you have it! Use it or don’t use it – I’ve put it out there!


Reinventing Christmas – the South African way

I can’t believe it – Christmas is one week away and I officially have only three working days left before my husband and I take a well-deserved break!

Santa Claus on holidayChristmas time in South Africa is a major holiday period.  Most companies shut down, the schools are closed, and construction grinds to a halt. It’s the peak of summer time – South Africa is in the southern hemisphere of course – which means a myriad of outdoor activities in the sun, swimming, eating and relaxing.  People pack their swimming costumes, sun screen, slip-slops and braais (barbeques for those that need clarification) and head down to the beautiful South African coasts.

It can hardly be called a traditional Christmas by international standards!  No snow, no cold weather and no hot drinks by a warm, crackling fire.  Well, at least that’s how I picture a “white Christmas”.  Strangely though, despite our hot climate, it seems that the whole Christmas experience is still portrayed as a European one.  Fake snow spray-painted adorn shop windows, plastic snowflakes hang as decorations, fake fir trees act as the traditional Christmas tree, and sometimes even cotton wool or silver tinsel is added to give a snow-like effect on the tree.  In the shopping malls, kiddies queue for a chance to be photographed with Santa Claus sitting in an authentic looking North Pole scene, and Christmas carols ring out telling a joyful tale of jingle bells, dreaming of a white Christmas or dashing through the snow. 

The Christmas Baobab Tree at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg.

The Christmas Baobab Tree at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg.

I love the whole Christmas splendour and consider it my favourite time of year.  However, a cold snowy Christmas is just never going to happen for us!  I can just imagine how fun it would be to reinvent Christmas – the South African way!  So here are my top five suggestions for bona fide South African festive cheer:

  • Instead of a Father Christmas clad in his red winter woollies and sitting in a winter wonderland, how about the image of Santa Clause taking a holiday in South Africa? How cute would he look bare bellied in long red baggy shorts, wearing slip-slops and sunglasses?  Now that’s South African!
  • Let’s ditch the fake white and green fir trees, and opt for a metal baobab tree (for example) that can be decorated with true African flair.  That means Frosty the snow man figurines and sparkly snowflakes are out, and carved wooden and beaded decorations are in.
  • In fact, no more fake snow – ever!  I don’t even have an alternate suggestion … just no more fake snow under any circumstance (just ignore the falling snow on my blog site) :-P
  • For Christmas lunch, swop out the piping hot glazed gammon, stuffed turkey and lamb roast served with roasted potatoes and vegetables for cold turkey, and other cold meats of choice, with a creamy potato salad and a crisp green salad.  A good wholesome braai would also be a great South Africa option.  The same can be said for the hot pud:  a boozy trifle, syrupy koeksisters and a fridge milk tart are excellent dessert alternatives. There is only one exception here:  Malva Pudding splashed with cream or cold custard.
  • Why do we drink egg nog, sherry or gluhwein? Doesn’t it defeat the objective to warm yourself up when you’re standing under an air conditioner trying to escape the summer heat?  I’m voting for cooler substitutes such as chilled sparkling wine, refreshing cocktails and icy cold juices.

And here’s my last word for 2012:  have a ball, be safe, and most importantly, appreciate what you have and with whom you share your life. 

In all eleven of our official languages: “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year”; “Geseënde Kersfees en voorspoedige Nuwejaar” (Afrikaans); “Ukresimusi omnandi nonyaka omutjha omuhle” (IsiNdebele); “Keresemese e monate le mahlohonolo a selemo se setjha” (Sesotho); “Mahlogonolo a Keresemose le ngwaga wo moswa wo monate” (Northern Sotho); “Masego a Keresemose le Boitumelo mo Ngwageng o Mošwa” (Setswana); “Khisimusi lomuhle kanye neMnyaka lomusha lonenjabulo” (SiSwati); “A ku vi Khisimusi lerinene naswona a ku vi lembe lerintshwa lerinene” (Xitsonga); “D.uvha l.a mabebo a Murena na N.waha muswa zwavhud.i” (Tshivenda); “Krisimesi emnandi nonyaka omtsha onamathamsanqa” (IsiXhosa); and “Ukhisimusi omuhle nonyaka omusha onenjabulo” (IsiZulu).

The end of a scintillating affair

I’ve been having an affair for years. I never really felt guilty about it – until now that is. Call it a change of heart if you will, but I chalk it down to increased awareness.

It’s time I make a change and end this cycle of emotional addiction. My love connection with food must be re-evaluated and the terms of our relationship re-drafted.

Food has always been my crutch, I just never realised it!  I sometimes wish I could be like those people who lose their appetite when experiencing stress or emotional upset; my scale would be eternally grateful.  Alas, food is my comfort … and often my best friend.

Cheesecake and cappuccino photographed by Sherrie Dyer-Bracher

Cheesecake and a cappuccino – my favourite teatime delights!

When sad, I reach for the chocolate, cake, crisps and biscuits.  When I’m angry, a mouthful of cheesecake or a tasty pastry does wonders for my mood.  Bored? The repetitive motion of my jaw opening and closing around a slice of pizza or a hamburger is comforting to say the least. In fact, almost every emotion I experience has food associated with it. Even eating out at restaurants or ordering take-outs is considered a recreational activity.

But now, the full realisation of “you are what you eat” has finally hit home. I eat way too much junk food! Besides the fact that I went off the contraceptive pill earlier this year, which has thrown my hormones into a state of disarray and changed my skin into the spotty canvas of a seventeen year old, all the fatty and processed foods I cram into my body on a daily basis is manifesting itself in the form of a fatty midriff, lethargic metabolism, even oiler and blemished skin, and weight gain.

Tea with pancakes with bananas and chocolate syrup as photographed by Sherrie Dyer-Bracher

The article “Why is SA so fat?” outlines three apparent reasons for this phenomenon, two of which are increased physical inactivity and rapid westernisation and urbanisation.  I can see for myself the rapid rise of mega food chains such as Wimpy, MacDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken, as well as local fast food franchises such as Steers, Pizza Perfect, Romans Pizza and Nando’s, amongst others.  All these places offer the same thing:  convenient and easily available food that is not necessarily the healthiest food choice around.

Now factoring in my love of food and the ease of eating scrumptious tasty yet calorie laden and high fat saturated food, the problem is very unambiguous.  The next steps will not be easy, but I know what I have to do:  I have to eat-out less, eat-in more and of course start loving my vegetables and fruit more.  My husband and I are working on a healthy eating and exercise plan, so consider this part 1.  Part 2 will be a progress report for those wanting to indulge in my pain and discomfort of cutting down on all the food stuffs that I love the most.  Wish me luck!

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