Wednesday 26 September 2012


As I fly back to Blighty from South Africa tonight, the word that will be going round my head is soutpiel. It's a very rude, boorish and boerish, Afrikaans word for people who divide their time between South Africa and Britain.

Sout means salt and piel means penis, because such people are said to have one foot in South Africa, one foot in Britain, and their penis dangling in the Atlantic Ocean.

I shall be using that a lot in London.

The Inky Fool at the airport


  1. That's great. My next book features South Africa, I'll be using that one.

  2. You got off lightly: in some places in South Africa, the Boer War is not yet over.

    Once, in the small, up-country wine-town of Robertson, I was wandering out of the pub, cultural brandy-'n-Coke in hand, heading back to The Rugby on the big screen, when a medium-sized Afrikaner (6'5", built like a tank) bent down and hissed in my ear, "Engelse poes!"

    It was something to do with the concentration camps, I think. Anyway, somehow, he knew.

    I have spent five weeks in England in my life; nevertheless, this remains korrekt usage in South African English (where “poes” appears regularly, so to speak, and also frequently).

    There are more groups trying to throw off the colonial yoke than you'd think.

  3. That’s “soutie” for short (rhymes with “oatie”).

    Usage has now blurred to the point where it is just another pejorative way of saying “Englishman”. The gendered form persists in the face of political correctness. “Hey! You! English!” (in British English: “I say! You! Chappie!”) occurs, but is invariably addressed to a man because Afrikaners are still old-fashioned courteous and would never speak so rudely to a woman (who, after all, might at any moment cook them something or bear a child).

    And, in South African English, “Englishman” does not mean “someone from England”; it means “someone who speaks English”

  4. This is the iconic "flying to Cape Town" photograph.

    "The landing went well but, in the dark, they hit a pile of boulders in the desert near Wadi Halfa."

  5. Wouldn't it depend on which way you are facing? The image (penis dangling in the Atlantic Ocean implies you are facing west. If you are facing east, wouldn't your penis (well, mine, anyway) be planted firmly in the hot sand of the Sahara Desert?

  6. Wouldn't it depend on which way you are facing? The image (penis dangling in the Atlantic Ocean implies you are facing west. If you are facing east, wouldn't your penis (well, mine, anyway) be planted firmly in the hot sand of the Sahara Desert?

  7. Nope. Either way, it's in the Atlantic somewhere between Ascension and Principe.

    Worry about the implied pronation, rather.

  8. Before the catch phrase "Never forget" was adopted by the Holocaust Foundation, many Afrikaaners had already coined its extended motto 'Never forgive, never forget' as a legacy to remind their descendants of the Anglo-Boer War.
    During WWII, many Afrikaaners supported Hitler, & because the South African government fought on the side of the Allies, organizations such as the Ossewabrandwag (ox wagon sentinel) would harass soldiers (even Afrikaans-speaking servicemen) & committed acts of sabotage such as blowing up electric power lines & railroads & cutting telegraph & telephone lines in this country.
    More than 100 years later this battle is still being fought both mentally & sometimes physically. After downing the inveterate brandy & coke (at least one fight in every bottle), it is as though they are encumbered to fulfil their filial expectation of 'donnering' or 'blikseming' an 'Engelsman'. (Beating up an English speaking South African just because of their mother tongue.) There is still a pervasive distrust/unforgiving attitude among many Afrikaaners towards the 'rooinekke' (red necks - derogatory term stemming from that war - the British wore pith helmets {the Boere wide brimmed hats}, & on encountering the African sun got badly sunburnt on their necks) & any conciliation towards their erstwhile enemy is somewhat perceived as treason amongst their ranks.
    Back in the 1970's, the father of a current rising rugby star in Cape Town, & his brothers & their cronies would venture forth from behind the boerewors (South African sausage) curtain to the southern suburbs -a predominantly English enclave, where this Afrikaans gang of MEN (including some boere - slang term for policemen, in this sense) would invade dance halls & beat up school-going English-speaking teenagers. As one of the brothers was a police captain, no one was ever able to prosecute them. Their notoriety lingers on.
    Some Afrikaaners have become more enlightened and have moved on. However, to the unevolved who think they are manifesting a real macho attitude by expressing the insult 'soutpiel', the best riposte is still "Well, at least it is long enough to dangle in the ocean".


    “Sout-piel, luister jy?”

    He cupped his hand,
    Short fingers,
    Thick palmed
    Across the flame.

    “This here, boy,
    This here’s
    The fucking front”
    We crouched low
    Back on our heels
    As that syrupy night
    Flowed around us.

    And that was when
    The bullet kissed him,
    High on one cheek
    A lipstick-stain
    Red-slicked his skin.

    He didn’t cry out.
    All I heard was
    A surprised grunt,
    Then the mutter
    Stutter of the lights
    And the sound:
    That bewildering

    The dizzy
    All around
    Of the flutter,
    Soft breezes
    Tiny and wee
    Teasing pleasing
    Snickering sounds
    Seeking me out,
    So I hugged
    The loving ground.

    I was afraid ,
    I hugged
    The ground,
    And next to me
    He shuddered
    And cried out;
    Reached down
    That heavy hand
    Fumbled about,
    Found me
    My head
    So I took it:
    I took his hand
    And he sighed.

    So I sat up
    And held him.
    He breathed:
    In and out.
    In and out.

    After a while
    He was
    My only sound.

    He smelled
    Of piss
    And shit
    And blood.
    So I held him
    Until he died.

    I can’t remember
    His name,
    But I loved him
    All the same.

    Manuela Cardiga