I’m not even talking about apartheid or AIDS. I’m talking about language. Quite apart from the fact that they incomprehensibly keep pretending their dialect is a language in its own right, they keep applying the wrong words to things, and then passing them on to other languages.
Exhibit A: Meerkat
This is probably the most famous example, and also an odd one, because mainstream Dutch is in the wrong here too. Examine the pictures above.
The one on the left is Suricata suricatta, a member of the mongoose family. In Afrikaans this has been called a meerkat, and this has been adopted into English. In regular Dutch it’s a stokstaartje (“little stick tail”).
The one on the right is a vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus), one of thirty-five species of Old World monkey in the tribe Cercopithecini, which in Dutch are collectively called meerkatten.
This is, of course, an absurd name for either of those, as meerkat means “lake cat”. If anything should be called this, it should be Prionailurus viverrinus, which currently labors under the descriptive but utterly boring name fishing cat.
This medium-sized cat is semi-aquatic, and while it prefers streams and swamps to actual lakes, at least the name would be sort of appropriate. Being medium-sized, it’s also meer kat than the housecat.
Let’s just agree to call Suricata suricatta suricates, okay?
Exhibit B: Steenbok
The one on the left is Raphicerus campestris, a small antelope native to southern and eastern Africa. For some reason, it was named “steenbok” after the one on the right, Capra ibex, the ibex, one of a few goat species called steenbok in Dutch. I have no idea what Afrikaners call the actual steenbok (the one on the right, that is; I know Germans call it Steinbock, and the other one Steinböckchen—that is to say, the diminutive), but the Dutch have taken to calling R. campestris “steenbokantilope”, which at least is fair enough.
Steenbok, of course, translates to stone buck (as in a male goat), which makes sense for the ibex because it lives in the Alps. It very much does not make sense for an antelope that spends its days in grassland.
Since it’s closely related to the two species of grysbok (which by rights should be spelled grijsbok), call it the fancy grysbok and stop confusing people.
Even though it’s not grey.
Exhibit C: Eland
The last one is particularly ridiculous. Yes, that’s a moose. In Dutch, meese (elk, in European, though the North-American elk is something else; that’s a different discussion) are called eland. Afrikaners named two species of antelope eland because apparently they’re blind. Even the giant eland (Taurotragus derbianus, pictured) doesn’t even come close to Alces alces in size. The common eland, Taurotragus oryx, is even smaller.
The common eland (just eland in Afrikaans) is called the elandantilope in Dutch. The giant eland is reuzenelandantilope (the prefix reuzen- meaning “giant”). If you’re going to keep the dumb name, “eland antilope” and “giant eland antilope” seem like a good compromise.
I hate Afrikaans.
Having said that, there are some words that made it into English that they get right (boomslang, for example, means tree snake, and it’s exactly that), and a lot that, while dumb, aren’t confusing (aardvark (“earth pig”), aardwolf (“earth wolf”), wildebeest (“wild beast”), hartebeest (more correctly hertebeest, “deer-type animal”); all of these are at least vaguely misspelled by modern standards). Many non-animal words that made it into English are even fully accurate: spoor, veld, trek, and, of course, apartheid.
The three listed examples, though, are bunk. The animals are awesome enough to deserve decent names of their own.
And I still say Afrikaans is just a dialect of Dutch. It’s closer to standard Dutch than, say, Limburgs or West-Vlaams, and while there’s a movement to have those recognised as separate languages, that’s a tiny, tiny minority. The only real difference is that Afrikaans has a standardised spelling and good reasons to hate the Dutch.
(But then, so do we.)