play, verb

Origin:
EnglishShow more Special senses of English play to imitate, pretend, act.
1. transitive and intransitive. to play for white, to play white, less frequently to play coloured. Especially under apartheid: to cross the colour bar by passing oneself off as a member of the white (or ‘coloured’) group.
Derivatives:
Hence playing white verbal noun phrase.
See also playwhite, venster kies. Cf. try.
1952 Manuel & Van de Haer in Drum Aug. 6It is the almost-white who, strangely enough, hates the Coloured and the Africans with a greater vehemence than the rabid racialists. It is these people who ‘play white’ who have added yet another problem to the already complicated colour problem of the country.
1952 Manuel & Van de Haer in Drum Aug. 7In the Platteland dorps playing white is the easiest thing in the world if you have the slightest suspicion of a fair complexion and your hair has most of the offensive kink missing.
1953 Amperbaas in Drum Apr. 6Coming to Johannesburg from the Cape thirty years ago, I tried to find a job. There was none..for a Coloured man. I didn’t think of playing white then.
1953 G. Magwaza in Drum Dec. 42His friends say Dale is playing Coloured — materially, it pays an African to play Coloured.
1963 K. Mackenzie Dragon to Kill 103It is a well known ploy: if you want to play white, you make your mother into your maid.
1974 A.P. Brink Looking on Darkness 109I’m not trying to play for white, Ma. I only want to be an actor. I don’t care about the rest.
1983 N. Mkele in Star 10 Sept. 27There are..any number of Africans who play coloured because of the benefits that flow from being coloured...To escape the..effects of these colour bars, coloureds have evolved the schizophrenic phenomenon called ‘playing white’ by those..who are fair-skinned and blue-eyed enough to merge with the white group.
1988 E. Mphahlele Renewal Time 96The white people who governed the country had long been worried about the large numbers of coloured Africans who were fair enough to want to play white, and of Africans who were fair enough to want to try for ‘coloured’.
2. transitive. In the phrase to play sport, to take part in any sport or sports.
Note:
Not exclusively South African English, but the standard usage in South Africa.
1970 Grocott’s Mail 24 Nov. 4 (advt)Play Sport? There is a Sportsman’s Insurance for you.
1973 Sunday Times 9 Dec. (Mag. Sect.) 10The horrible phrase, ‘playing sport’ of which I am sorry to say some of our best newspapers are guilty. One can play cricket, rugby, tiddly-winks, or the piano; but what of other sports like yachting, motor-racing.., mountaineering, even huntin’ and fishin’? How can one possibly play athletics, for example?
1976 Fair Lady 21 July 163I had polio when I was a child and..I couldn’t play sport.
1987 C. Cleary in Star 24 Oct. (Weekend) 8We played a lot of sport and attended church organised socials.
to cross the colour bar by passing oneself off as a member of the white (or ‘coloured’) group.
to take part in any sport or sports.

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19521988

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