boy, noun

1. offensive. [Transferred use of general English boy a male servant.]
a. An insulting term for a black African male, used irrespective of his age, occupation, or social position; also used as a term of address; boykie sense 2; Native boy, see Native noun sense 1 c. Cf. girl sense a, jong noun sense 2 a, umfaan sense 2.
1812 A. Plumptre tr. of H. Lichtenstein’s Trav. in Sn Afr. (1928) I. 118A Hottentot..expects to be called by his name if addressed by any one who knows it; and by those to whom it is not known he expects to be called Hottentot (which he pronounces Hotnot) or boy.
1839 W.C. Harris Wild Sports 15We..were the drunken merriment and boisterous singing of a lame Irish cobbler, who was ‘keeping it up’..with two Hottentot ‘boys,’ neither of whom was under fifty years of age.
1855 J.W. Colenso Ten Weeks in Natal 2Our Kafir ‘Boy’ sleeps in the stable, not in the kitchen; I could not get reconciled to that un-English custom; and now he has begged that his wife may come.
1863 Lady Duff-Gordon in F. Galton Vacation Tourists (1864) III. 215Yes, madam, it is shocking here how people treat the blacks. They call quite an old man ‘boy’, and speak so scornfully.
1880 E.F. Sandeman Eight Months in Ox-Waggon 20Every coloured man, irrespective of age, be he six or sixty, is called a boy throughout the colony.
1894 E. Glanville Fair Colonist 76‘What is your name, John?’ — all black men being Johns when they are not Boys.
1920 S.M. Molema Bantu Past & Present 266The average white man of South Africa..seems even unwilling to call the black man by his name, delighting rather in calling him ‘that Kaffir’, ‘this Kaffir’, ‘the big Kaffir’, or some other kind of Kaffir. His black servants, no matter what their age may be, he always calls ‘boys’.
a1931 S. Black in S. Gray Three Plays (1984) 159Rebecca: ’Ere, give me a chair too, Boy. Jeremiah: Madam, my godfathers and godmothers baptised me not Boy, but Jeremiah.
1943 F.H. Rose Kruger’s Wagon 29We in South Africa call all our manservants ‘boys’, even when they are grown up and quite old men.
1955 J.B. Shephard Land of Tikoloshe 76I don’t call him ‘Jim’ or ‘Boy’ but ‘Umteto’, his real name. That is polite.
1966 L.G. Berger Where’s Madam 78Never address your servant in any other way or by any other name but the one originally given to you as his name. ‘Boy’, ‘Jim’, (or ‘Mary’ to females) as a form of address gives much more offence than is generally realised.
1971 Post 2 May 1Chief Gatsha Buthelezi was called ‘boy’ by a provincial cop.
1980 A. Paton Towards Mountain 158At long last the use of the words ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ as forms of address is going out, though not so fast as it might be.
1989 Frontline Mar. 26I..brought Winston, my boy, a half-dozen beers which he distributed amongst his colleagues.
1990 Frontline Jan. 19I had introduced my own father to the son of a local (white) shopkeeper,..and he had scrutinised my father and then turned to me to say: ‘Your father looks like a nice boy.’
1992 Weekly Mail 24 Apr. 32Some of the correspondents who helped him with bursaries referred to him as a ‘boy’...‘That was a different era...Sometimes we had to live with the term in order to survive.’
b. With distinguishing epithet indicating the occupation of the person so designated:
bed-boy, bedding-boy, a bedding attendant on a train;
boss-boy, see as a main entry;
bucket-boy, one who removes night soil (see also bucket system);
dagha-boy, also daka-boy, a man employed to mix cement or concrete (see dagha noun sense a);
delivery-boy, a man delivering goods to customers on a bicycle or motor-cycle;
flat-boy, a male domestic servant usually employed to clean in an apartment block;
house-boy, a male domestic servant;
ice-cream boy, a man selling ice-creams from a small cart (usually mounted on a bicyle);
kitchen-boy, a kitchen labourer, usually in a hotel or other institution;
mine-boy, a labourer on a mine;
Also cook-boy, garden boy, office-boy, tea-boy, watchboy, yard-boy, etc. Cf. location boy (see location sense 3 c), medicine boy (see medicine sense 2).
1952 Rand Daily Mail 24 May 5From the Coloured ‘bedding boy’ to the ticket examiner they couldn’t be nicer.
1952 Drum Sept. 13The smuggler with a modest organization often depends upon bedding boys on the railways.
1956 N. Gordimer in Best of S. Afr. Short Stories (1991) 221The bed boy found her this morning, dead in her bed. She never answered when the steward came round with coffee, you see.
1964 J. Bennett Mr Fisherman (1967) 10He worked on the railways, too, as a bedding boy, although he was old for the job, and did a spell on the Blue Train and on the Orange Express.
1990 G. Slovo Ties of Blood 55She..dabbed at her nose with a handkerchief which she then replaced in her pocket. ‘I do hope those bucket boys realise how utterly selfish they are being,’ she said.
1907 J.P. Fitzpatrick Jock of Bushveld 219I sent Jim back to his place under the waggon, and told the cook-boy to give him the rest of my coffee.
1953 P. Lanham Blanket Boy’s Moon 271A friend of mine is cook-boy to a white man in Houghton.
1960 R. Byron in D. Wright S. Afr. Stories 30Cook-boy to a wealthy family in Parktown.
1989 J. Hobbs Thoughts in Makeshift Mortuary 17She had never allowed Sarah to talk about ‘the cookboy’ or ‘the washgirl’. ‘They’re fully-grown adults,’ she instructed. ‘Charlie is a cook, not a cookboy.’
1970 L. Mangewatywa Informant, DurbanDakaboy. A man who mixes cement and ground or concrete.
1983 N. Ndebele in Staffrider Vol.5 No.3, 42A typical South African scene...A white man is looking on, standing with his hands in his trousers pockets watching his African ‘daka boys’ pushing wheelbarrows and throwing bricks, one at a time.
1988 E. Makwela in Pace June 47Madambi was recruited by one of the Johannesburg’s building construction companies where he was a ‘daga boy’.
1951 Natal Mercury 5 Apr. 2 (advt)Native Delivery Boy seeks work.
1966 Cape Argus 26 May 24 (advt)Cycle delivery boy, respectable married Coloured male, wages R11 per week.
1970 The 1820 May 25A Zulu delivery boy labouring with about two dozen pints of beer in the carrier at the front of his bicycle, crashed into the kerb and came an awful perler.
1985 P. Slabolepszy Sat. Night at Palace 24I am sitting on my delivery bike at Europa. ‘Delivery Boy of the Month — August 1978’.
1963 L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 99The native ‘shebeen queens’ ply the flat-boys with home-brewed barberton.
1976 V. Rosenberg Sunflower 217A black, dressed in one of those short canvas suits that are the standard uniform for ‘flat boys’, cleaned from dark corners cigarette-ash and ‘stompies’.
1980 C. Hope A Separate Development (1983) 217Houseboys, garden boys, skinny legged flat-boys, knock-knees circled by green or red or blue piping of their baggy shorts.
1948 A. Paton Cry, Beloved Country 149He is sure that the one..was an old garden-boy of Mary’s. Mary had to get rid of him for some trouble or other.
1953 D. Rooke S. Afr. Twins 54Sophia and Kondulu and the garden-boy joined in the chase.
1966 A. Fugard Notebks (1983) 138During a game in the garden yesterday our neighbour’s small daughter pretended she was a white housewife and her brother that he was an African garden-boy.
1979 A.P. Brink Dry White Season 97I became a garden boy in Booysens. Not bad people, and I had my own room in the yard.
1988 Pace Dec. 74He died shortly after I arrived, which changed my plans and forced me to work as a garden boy to an Afrikaans couple.
1832 Graham’s Town Jrnl 13 Jan. 9Wanted, a Servant as House Boy, preference will be given to a Member of the Temperance Society.
1893 Standard & Diggers’ News in Sunday Times 4 Sept. (Mag. Sect.) 23Beware of your houseboy..for under the innocent front may be lurking and lying the passions of the panther, and worse!
1908 M.C. Bruce New Tvl 22If he wants money for any special purpose, he goes for six months to town as houseboy, on a farm as labourer, or to a mine.
1919 M.M. Steyn Diary 119I was up at five, had a delicious cup of coffee brought to my bedside by the houseboy.
1926 M. Nathan S. Afr. from Within 233These Zulu men took with the greatest readiness to the work of ‘house-boys’, including such tasks as in European communities were ordinarily alloted to nursemaids, chambermaids and scullery-maids.
1937 C. Birkby Zulu Journey 33The Zulu wore the red-hemmed shorts and jumper of the ‘houseboy’.
1941 Bantu World 1 Feb. 8With Bon Ami, your houseboy is able to give an ‘extra shine’ to all this cleaning.
1951 D. Lessing in D. Wright S. Afr. Stories (1960) 99She..called for the houseboy, to whom she handed the groceries and meat for removal.
1976 J. Becker Virgins (1986) 20Sometimes a neighbouring houseboy, his white cotton jacket discarded, would sit with them in his shirtsleeves.
1986 P. Maylam Hist. of Afr. People 150Many entered domestic service, which tended to be dominated by African men, the so-called ‘houseboys’, in these early years of the century.
1972 Daily Dispatch 3 JuneA Chinese diplomat was called an honorary white and an Italian diplomat a ‘Mafia icecream boy.’
1941 R. Roamer in Bantu World 29 Mar. 4Our English is so simple that even kitchen boys can read it.
1946 P. Abrahams Mine Boy (1954) 108Rubbing shoulders with the often-blanketed giants, were the small, smooth houseboys and kitchen-boys.
1958 A. Fugard Dimetos & Two Early Plays (1977) 122You mean the hotel? That’s the nearest I got to a job. They didn’t need any musicians...‘But we’ve got an opening for a kitchen boy.’
1974 J. McClure Gooseberry Fool (1976) 164The public will always suspect the coon, but Swart’s friends would know that a liberal like him isn’t going to be carved up by his own kitchen boy.
1987 Learn & Teach No.5, 3Sisulu — who had worked as a miner, a factory worker and a ‘kitchen boy’ — was now an estate agent.
1990 J. Naidoo Coolie Location 19It was so easy to recall the frequent complaints my mother made about the various ‘kitchen boys’.
1907 J.P. Fitzpatrick Jock of Bushveld 215Presently a long string of about fifty time-expired mine-boys came in sight.
1941 Bantu World 1 Feb. (Suppl.) 2Virile young men, the Reef ‘mine boys’ on holiday at home.
1946 P. Abrahams Mine Boy (1954) 55‘The compound is in Langlaagte,’ Johannes said softly. ‘all the mine boys must live in compounds.’
1968 Farmer’s Weekly 3 Jan. 99Business near mine compounds in Welkom area, doing mainly Native trade with mine boys.
1956 A. La Guma in New Age 4 Oct. 6Some of the long-term prisoners are put to work as yard-boys, office-boys and cooks, positions of comparative ease and coveted by their less fortunate fellows.
1972 Cape Argus 10 Aug. 3Mr Cloete said that if Coloured people were to be sent to embassies abroad, they would be relegated to duties such as tea boys and cleaners.
1982 Fair Lady 1 Dec. 180This big, charismatic man, who once worked as a ‘tea-boy’, now has executives from the liquor industry falling all over themselves to court him. He’s a born entrepreneur with a style all his own.
1963 in L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 286I opened the window. I saw the accused...I told him I could call the watchboy if he did not go.
1956yard-boy: [see quot. at office-boy above].
c. combinations
boy’s meat, also boys’ meat, cheap cuts of meat bought for black servants or employees ;
maid’s meat, see maid sense 2 .
Cf. dog’s meat.
1936 M. Higham Hsehold Cookery (1941) 56Leg, or Veiny Piece: Used for soups and stews. Frequently sold to Kaffirs as ‘Boys’ Meat’.
1968 Cole & Flaherty House of Bondage 72When the lady of the house phones in her weekly meat order she simply says ‘..throw in a few pounds of boysmeat.’ (The ‘boy’, of course, is the male African the meat is intended for. In the eyes of the whites, no African ever becomes a man. Until he reaches his teens he is a pickaninny; thereafter, until he dies of old age, he is merely ‘boy’.)
1969 M. Benson At Still Point 153Steak, fruit..a celebration for Dan..after more than a year of mealiepap and ‘boy’s meat’.
1974 Rand Daily Mail 28 Jan. 4It used to be offensively described as ‘boys meat’ or ‘servants meat’ — the current euphemism is often ‘staff meat’. Inside the packs it is still the same old thing: some lean meat, lots of fat and varying amounts of bone.
1976 J. Becker Virgins (1986) 19They dipped..into the two pots, of mealie-meal and stewed meat. It was called ‘boy’s meat’ by Susan when she ordered it from the butcher.
1982 M. Mutloatse in Best of S. Afr. Short Stories (1991) 437Servants’ meat (or ‘boys’ meat).
1987 N. Mkhonze in True Love Mar. 46A piece of chuck (‘boy’s meat’) and mielie-pap for supper.
1989 J. Hobbs Thoughts in Makeshift Mortuary 83She was overweight, of course; ate too much putu and the cheap fatty meat you people so picturesquely call ‘boy’s meat’.
2. Always in the plural, the boys:
a. rare. [Special sense of general English the boys a group of criminals.] A collective name for ‘tsotsis’ (see tsotsi sense 1).
1956 [see taal sense 1 b].
b. Soldiers collectively, especially guerillas fighting for a black resistance movement.
1978 Voice 16 Dec. 10People in the rural areas say that they have been instructed by the ‘boys’ (guerillas) to refrain from voting or risk certain death.
1979 Time 31 Dec. 23The Boys in the Bush. Employing classic hide-and-seek guerilla tactics, the ‘boys,’ as they are affectionately called by villagers who harbor them, have achieved control over much of the countryside.
1979 Sunday Times 29 July (Mag. Sect.) 1I’ve told the locals to tell the boys — the name the Africans use to describe the terrorists — not to come near me because if I see them I will be obliged to report them.
1982 J. Frederikse None but Ourselves 60In 1976 the boys came from the south...They said, ‘Do you know us?’ And I said ‘I just heard that there were boys around.’ Then they said, ‘We are the boys, we are the comrades, we have come to struggle together with you.’
c. In the n. phr. boys on the border: soldiers involved in conflict on South Africa’s borders. See also Border sense 3.
1982 Sunday Times 25 July 28When some blacks talk about ‘our boys on the border’, they are more than likely referring to the ANC’s Umkhonto We Sizwe or Swapo’s guerrillas.
1983 Sunday Times 9 Oct. (Lifestyle)I was called on a little while back to produce a cake for the boys on the border.
1985 Scope 23 Aug. 42The sort of war our Boys on the Border may face in the rest of 1985.
1987 H. Prendini in Style Feb. 35Live audiences have included boys on the border, the disabled, the Vroue Landbou Vereeniging and the cattle farmers at Senekal’s Dairy Festival.
An insulting term for a black African male, used irrespective of his age, occupation, or social position; also used as a term of address; boykie2; Native boy, see Nativenoun1 c.
, cheap cuts of meat bought for black servants or employees
maid’s meat, see maid2
A collective name for ‘tsotsis’ (see tsotsi1).
Soldiers collectively, especially guerillas fighting for a black resistance movement.
soldiers involved in conflict on South Africa’s borders.
Hence (sense 1) boy transitive verb nonce, usually passive : to be addressed as boy.
1965 E. Mphahlele Down Second Ave 152I was ‘Jimmed’ and ‘boy-ed’ and ‘John-ed’ by whites.
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