Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Age Of Tannies And Ooms.

A sobering state of affairs.

South Africa has many official languages including Afrikaans. Yes, it is one of its official languages, mostly unknown in the rest of the world except perhaps in London. Quite a few South Africans try and do a gap year in London, sandwiched between the end of school and beginning of university.

Afrikaans has many aspects of respect in it and the main one being:

If you talk to somebody who ( appears ) is at least 10 years your senior, you address them as either Tannie ( aunt ) or Oom ( uncle )

A friend of mine, who was in his early 30's at the time met a pretty student and tried to chat her up. Suffice it to say that while he was expecting her phone number, he merely got a one liner with the word Oom at the end of it...

Even the acclimatized German spoken in South Africa has adopted this custom. Oh yes, there is a big German community in South Africa ( many German settlers arrived in the 19th century ) and when you have to juggle at least three languages ( English, Afrikaans & German ) in your daily life, you are forgiven the odd adapted phrase or custom.

It was rather fun to see the reaction of Germany tourists being addressed as Tante or Onkel during conversation or just while being helped with directions. Germans are sticklers for social etiquette and at times it takes years before one is allowed to use the first name of a person. Yes, silly, isn't it? Much easier with the English language and its universal you.

The German version of Oom & Tannie is the polite Sie, which is used in conversation with people who appear much older than you.

Yesterday I was having a long chat with a girl in her early twenties and honestly, in my mind I didn't feel that much older, yet I did almost stumble when she addressed me with Sie. It's the small things which make a big difference and when Tannie, Oom or Sie is used on you for the first time, you realize just how much!