Speaking the Lingo

Fish and Chips

Fish and Chips

It is important to know that certain words have a different meaning over here in the UK. Below is a list of some of them. Please feel free to email me any that you think should be added here.


SA Word or Phrase SA definition English definition/Meaning Use
Pants Ouerwear Underwear Trousers
Now now In a while Right now Presently or Shortly
Chips Fried potatoes, packet Fried potatoes as in ‘fish & chips’ Crisps
Ag shame! Oh dear! Sympathetic exclamation Oh dear!
Fire Wood or coal burning Electric/fan heater Light the fire
Heater Electric heater Electric/fan heater Turn on the fire
Jersey Open knitted top Closed knitted top Cardigan
Jersey Open knitted top Closed knitted top Pullover


I heard a story about the origin of the word cardigan but can find nothing to substantiate the story. It goes something like this: Lord Cardigan was leading his men in some desert area. They of course were wearing pullovers and overheating as you can imagine! So he took is knife and cut the front of his pullover from hem to neck creating what we now call a cardigan!

What we call spinach is actually swiss chard. Spinach is a small soft leaf without white hard veins.

Some other phrases do not mean the same as in SA. An example would be ‘organic’ as pertains to a particular method and philosophy of growing food or farming animals. So in SA organically farmed eggs would by definition be free range eggs. Not so in the UK. Organically farmed eggs refers more to the feed they get and more often than not they are not free range. Free range chickens and eggs would not be organically farmed unless specifically stated.