Talk:Kaffir (historical usage in southern Africa)

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The article currently says that kaffir in south Africa refers to 'aboriginals'. This would restrict it to the Hottentots surely? Does not the usage of kaffir among South African whites refer to all those of 'Black' (African) origin? Imc 15:33, 28 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Confusion between "Keffir" and "Kafir"[edit]

I would move the whole thing to "Kafir" (the Arabic/Muslim term for unbeliever/heathen) and have "Kaffir" or "Keffir" (the South African term) be a subheading or separate article.iFaqeer | Talk to me! 20:18, Oct 7, 2004 (UTC)

I agree. I have a dutch dictionary with two separate entries. One with double ff and one with one f. May be we should even have two different articles. Andries 20:30, 7 Oct 2004 (UTC)

And also, could the discussion of the beveridge be moved to "Kefir" ? I have never seen the word tranliterated as "Kaffir," and it does not sound that way at all in either Russian or Ossetian. Maybe it is closer in one of the other languages of the Causauses, I do not claim to speak them, but I think this would be a good way to avoid confusion. --VonWoland 05:05, 23 Oct 2004 (UTC)

from fics[edit]

1: Kaffir War of 1878; Caffre also spelled Caffer, or Kaffir, also called 
   African Wildcat, or Egyptian Wildcat; Kaffir Lime - Cat repellant?
2: Pyramid of Chefren "Khafre" -Unpopular Pharaoh - Herodotus
3: Kafiristan - descendants of Alexander the Great (Hindu Kush)
4: Kefir - Russian Yogurt (Goat Milk)
5: Latin caper, capr-, goat ;Kahf hebrew letter; Cape "goat hide", Capella     
  "small goat"
6: Kaffirs or Kafirs Arabic for Infidels; "And Pantagruel made himself merry 
   with all this; for I dare boldly say that he was the best little gaffer 
   that was to be seen between this and the end of a staff."
7: Kafir-Kalash "Goat sacrifice" to Sajigor (Dionysus?);"The Caucasus is 
   identified as Mount Kaf in Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights"
8: Khnum-Khufu - Cheops pyramid, Khnum - Goat God, Tutankhamen Symbols of 
   Power - Gold Shepherds crook and flail
9: Cape of Good Hope (Cape of Storms) (British Kaffraria) Jan van Riebeeck 
   1652 presented with the Boer Goat by the Khoi people
10: Gafr - Welsh "goat", Gafar German "to seize", Gaffer Hook - to drag the 
   speaker offstage, Egyptian Heiroglyphs only use consonants and do not 
   represent vowels - KFR - Chefren from greek translation, Khafre the modern

Researched the name for a chess alias. Originally thought kafir had a relation to killing goats. Goat's milk, cat's and pharoahs seem to be more plausible. The Sphinx is next to Chefren's pyramid End

someone else

This is anecdotal to be sure, but I went to high school in Australia with an ex-pat white South African during the early 1980s, and he used "kaffir" as an insult period, not merely as a word equivalent to the English "nigger". Sometimes he was in earnest, sometimes he was joking, but his use of the word "kaffir" was usually directed to *white* Australians. I can't imagine the same effect being obtained in my own cultural milieu by referring to a Caucasian using words such as "nigger" or some of the many derogatory terms used for Australian Aboriginals

why is the Hebrew etymology for village improbable?[edit]

This is mentioned as the etymology in the old Dutch dictionary that I have. There are several Hebrew words in Dutch language, such as "jatten" (=stealing, from jat = hand.) or "mazzel" , (which means good luck). Andries 17:11, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

well, I suppose it's possible. But why would a word for village end up as a derogarory word for native? The 'hebrew' words you quote are 'rotwelsch', I suppose, i.e. underworld slang. But why 'village'? But I suppose if it's in your dictionary, we may as well leave it in place. dab () 17:49, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)
It is very well possible that the word "kaffir"" ended as a pejorative word. The same happened to some extent with the Dutch word "boer" (meaning farmer) that now also means an uncivilized, rude person. Same could have happened for villager. Andries 18:17, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)
sure, but seeing that the kaffir were seen as subhuman, not just as 'boorish', I think this is not a compelling explanation. The 'beetle' seems to be more credible. But as I said, it's not impossible, and I'll not revert you, I really don't care, as long as you don't remove the alternative explanation. dab () 18:29, 8 Jan 2005 (UTC)

What is the Dutch word that's referred too? In my old Dutch dictionary, I find "kever", and I also know about German "Käfer", though I believe both these words are being pronounced with the first syllable having a long vowel.

Problems with the article[edit]

This article has many problems/errors of which I only corrected the most obvious one.I removed "by White Afrikaaner settlers".

  • It is not only used by whites
  • It is not only used by Afrikaners
  • Kaffir was an English and a Dutch word before long before Afrikaans as a language or the Afrikaners as a people existed. It later entered the Afrikaans language as "kaffer"
  • "Afrikaaner settlers" makes no sense. The Afrikaners did not settle in South Africa. Dutch, Germans, French and other Europeans settled in South Africa. A group of them started calling themselves Afrikaners much later. The term only came into common usage 200 years after the original settlement. I also think that it is strange to call a people who have lived in a country for more than 300 years, and have a large aboriginal genetic component "settlers". By the same token, it would be strange to call all non-native Americans "settlers".

The etymology section is a mess. The Oxford English Dictionary only lists the arabic "kaffir" as source. Online Etymology Dictionary also has this as the origin and adds :Early Eng. missionaries used it as an equivalent of "heathen" to refer to Bantus in South Africa (1792), from which use it came generally to mean "South African black" regardless of ethnicity, and to be a term of abuse since at least 1934.

The sentence "The derogatory Afrikaans usage would have taken over this meaning with the extra offensive connotation that Africans were black pests" is also problematic.

  • It is not only used as a derogotary term in Afrikaans, but in English as well. Who used it as a derogotary first? Your guess is as good as mine, but chances are that it gradually developed simultaneously in Afrikaans and English in the early part of the 20th century.
  • When "kaffir" took on it's derogotary meaning (early 20th century), the Afrikaans language was already developed, and the connection with the dutch word for beetle (kever) would not make sense.

I will do more research on the etymology and then edit the article. --Siener 14:41, 11 Jan 2005 (UTC)


I have tried to put the article into logical sections and removed the unsubstantiated etymologies (beetle, village etc). None of these suggestions is given credence in the Oxford Dictionary of South African English, which is the undisputed master work in reference to S.A. English origins - ODSAE gives only kafir (Arabic) - infidel, with alternative transliteration kaffer in Dutch and Afrikaans. Also corrected some POV/wrong statements - e.g. kaffir not used to refer to native Africans, it refers specifically to black Africans. It's important to remember that:

  • The word kaffir was in use 60 years before the Dutch first settled in South Africa
  • Kaffir did not always have its modern, derogatory meaning in South Africa - ODSAE does not show pejorative use until 1851, by which time the word had been used in English for at least 260 years. Humansdorpie 14:59, 11 November 2005 (UTC)

Derogatory word[edit]

I've reinstated the key opening statement informing the reader that the word is derogatory. Also removed the reference to Muslim and white African use - infers that no other religious or ethnic groups use the word in a derogatory sense. Also qualified blacks to black people, and stressed that during the colonial period the word was sometimes used in a neutral sense. Humansdorpie 20:45, 30 November 2005 (UTC)

It originally had no negative connotations. And I would stress that it still is often used neutrally in South Africa by many people. Altough I need to say that it adds to the flavour. It was the "liberal" (mostly English) Whites that gave it the negative meaning. -- (talk) 19:11, 28 July 2008 (UTC)

Relation to Kafirs[edit]

Could the relationship to Kafirs be made explicit somewhere? --Janto 12:04, 2 December 2005 (UTC)

  • Kafirs seems to have some basic flaws - mainly the fact that it appears to have been written in about 1900 and is neither neutral nor accurate. I've made a suggestion at Talk:Kafirs to turn it into a disambiguation page Humansdorpie 13:05, 3 December 2005 (UTC)

Black people[edit]

For someone coming to this article with no knowledge of this word or its context, it's not helpful or informative to be told that the word refers to certain African people - one might as well say that the word dago refers to certain European people. I have restored the original wording. Humansdorpie 18:09, 3 January 2006 (UTC)

Recent move[edit]

I'm sorry, but moving this page to "South Africa Kaffir people" is simply wrong. They are not a "people", signifying a single, unified ethnicity, but the word was a general term, applied to anyone with a dark skin. dewet| 13:08, 21 January 2006 (UTC)

Indeed, South Africa Kaffir people may not be a good name. At the very least, it should be in the plural, "South Africa Kaffir peoples"; and since "South Africa" is more likely to be read as the country than as "southern Africa", perhaps it should be "Southern Africa Kaffir peoples", or just "African Kaffir peoples". We can still rename it something else.
But as for the move itself, it was necessary because the olf "Kaffir" article was a sink for too many senses of the word, some of them just meaningless sound coincidences, several of them very charged because of racial or religious connections. Also there were other similarly named articles, with very confusing redirects and many wrong links. I could not see how to clean up that mess without breaking the historic "neutral" sense away from the ethnic slur and the other senses.
By the way, I got to that page because I needed to create another article for the Sri Lanka Kaffirs. That seems to be a fairly well-defined and still extant ethnic group; while related historically and etymologically to the "Kaffir=African Black" sense, they are neither "people with dark skin", not just any "African Blacks".
Clearly, even the generic "Kaffir=African Black" sense is not really as generic as you imply.
All the best, Jorge Stolfi 17:35, 21 January 2006 (UTC)
PS. Moreover, I gather that in Jamaica the people of Indian descent use "kaffir" to refer to those of African descent, while in South Africa they themselves would be called "kaffir" by people of European descent. So even the ethnic slur sense is a bit more complicated than just "dark skin"... Jorge Stolfi 17:45, 21 January 2006 (UTC)
I've moved the article to Kaffir (Historical usage in southern Africa), and have been working to expand the article a little. I think the use of the term "kaffir people", even in the historical context, was a horrifying generalisation, lumping a very diverse, and probably unrelated in many cases, group of people together. Having a page by that name encourages people to use the term in articles on history, when a moreb specific reference to an actual ethnic group (eg: Xhosa people) would be more informative, and non-derogatory. -Kieran 17:55, 16 May 2006 (UTC)
Well done; I think the move and expansion are both sensible and good. dewet| 18:35, 16 May 2006 (UTC)