shebeen, noun

Origin:
Anglo-Irish, modern IrishShow more Transferred use of Anglo-Irish shebeen, modern Irish sibín (of obscure origin), a low public-house; see also Coplan quotation 1980.
1. A drinking establishment (usually in a private home in a township) where liquor is sold or consumed; spot. Also attributive.
Note:
Formerly illegal, such establishments have, since 1980, been allowed to obtain licences and operate as ‘taverns’ (see tavern sense 2), but some are still unlicensed (see smokkelhuis).
[1873 Cape Argus 20 Mar. 2The unlicensed beer-shops after the model of the Irish shebeens would thrive.]
1900 One Who Was In It Kruger’s Secret Service 135In Fordsburg there was a shebeen kept by a certain Pulinski...Pulinski took me inside, where I found the place to be full of Kaffirs.
1910 J. Buchan Prester John 93In five minutes I had made the room stink like a shebeen.
1934 Sunday Times 7 Jan. (Swart)Native Shebeens in Parktown North, run by Coloured men in outbuildings of Europeans’ houses, call for some explanation.
1956 A. Sampson Drum 68Shebeens are illegal African drinking-places, where European liquor is sold at double prices.
1956 N. Gordimer in D. Wright S. Afr. Stories (1960) 71He had accompanied Jake to a shebeen in a coloured location, where it was illegal for a white man to be, as well as illegal for anyone at all to have a drink.
1966 Post 16 Jan. (Drum) 6The safest way to survive the turbulent South African night was to spend it in a shebeen, where you met amiable people and where you could drink and listen to the music in peace..until the cops came.
1968 J. Lelyveld in Cole & Flaherty House of Bondage 9Most Africans prefer the illegal speakeasies known as shebeens, which operate out of parlors and backyards...The talk at the shebeens is ironic and careful, habitually inexplicit. Politics is out.
1971 Weekend Argus 5 June (Mag.) 5Urban slum-dwellers enjoying a Friday night shebeen party which suddenly erupts into a faction fight.
1977 D. Muller Whitey 20He was..doomed..to bum a few coins, to find a smokkelhuis and buy a bottle of cloudy shebeen wine.
1977 J. Sikakane Window on Soweto 27Shebeens are the homes where the Sowetonians can go and buy liquor ‘on tick’ and drink after hours, rather than in the official municipal beerhalls.
1980 D.B. Coplan Urbanization of African Performing Arts. 202The institution later known as the shebeen dates back to the slaves of Dutch colonial times...The word..seems also to have originated in Cape Town in the early 20th century among immigrant Irish members of the city’s police force...These constables named the ubiquitous illegal non-White drinking houses shebeens (Gaelic: ‘little shop’). Coloured and Xhosa people brought the term to the Transvaal, where female entrepreneurs had developed the shebeen into a fundamental urban African social institution in Johannesburg and other towns...Women who made it a full-time occupation became ‘shebeen queens’.
1980 Times (U.K.) 31 May 1The South African Government, after years of battling to control illicit drinking dens, known as shebeens, in black townships, has conceded defeat and legalized them.
1982 Drum Nov. 56I am not going to run a shebeen in my house even if its going to have a fancy name, like a Tavern.
1986 P. Maylam Hist. of Afr. People 150Liquor formed a central part of a wider African working-class urban culture, often known as marabi. It was linked to prostitution..and to the shebeen parties.
1988 E. Prov. Herald 31 Mar. 5Only four shebeen owners from Port Elizabeth townships applied on Tuesday to trade legally.
1989 Reader’s Digest Illust. Hist. of S. Afr. 358Police empty cars of illicit liquor after a raid on a shebeen. The drinking of illegally brewed beer and isiqataviku (‘kill me quick’) helped thousands of urban slum-dwellers to forget their drab existence.
1989 C. Naidoo in Sunday Times 8 Oct. (Business Times) 3Shebeens take 80% of the beer sold in SA.
1990 New African 4 JuneThe illegal pubs, popularly known today as shebeens,..provided solace and serenity.
1991 Best of S. Afr. Short Stories (Reader’s Digest Assoc.) 395The shebeen has become such a feature of social life in the South African black townships that the Irish origin of the word (from Gaelic sibin, meaning poor-quality ale) is often forgotten. Although South African shebeens formerly sold illicit liquor (often home-brewed), these days they can be licensed.
2. Special Combination shebeen queen, the female owner of a shebeen, a woman who sells illicit liquor; auntie sense 2; queen noun2; skokiaan queen, see skokiaan sense 2. See also shebeener.
Derivatives:
By analogy, shebeen king.
1941 R. Roamer in Bantu World 29 Mar. 4When the Police raided her mother’s home and rudely called her mother ‘Shebeen Queen’ she thought they were honouring her [for] her great beauty.
1950 Report of Commission to Inquire into Acts of Violence Committed by Natives at Krugersdorp in L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. (1963) 130Shebeens have now established themselves in strong competition with the municipal beerhalls. The shebeen queens resort to devious means to evade police detection, such as..calling upon the tsotsi gangs for protection.
1952 Skappie in Drum Nov. 6There is big money in illicit liquor. The shebeen queens are very wealthy.
1961 T. Matshikiza Choc. for my Wife 93The coloured shebeen queen at the counter is Jessica Davids, notorious for beating up cops, bail bonds and bootleggers.
1971 Post 4 Apr. 1‘Everything is just up man,’ said one shebeen king — commenting on booze prices and not fines for a change.
1976 E. Prov. Herald 14 Oct. 3The shebeen kings and queens in the Black townships..are angry because of the raids on their shebeens.
1977 P.C. Venter Soweto 120Before the liquor laws were relaxed to allow blacks to buy alcohol, the shebeen queens brewed concoctions in their backyards; dangerous liquids like methylated spirits were mixed with the fermenting juices of dead animals and rotting plants to create potential killers.
1981 Daily Dispatch 15 Sept. 12Although there are shebeen kings, they were out-numbered by shebeen queens...Most men prefer to go and work rather than sit down and sell liquor.
1982 New Dawn Aug. 16The National Taverners Association is blazing a trail on behalf of shebeen kings and queens leading them along a route that will establish them as solid business people.
1984 Cape Times 6 Mar. 7A shebeen queen was a mysterious, corrupt underworld figure who had considerable power.
1984 Drum July 44While shebeen kings and queens are celebrating their licences, we regulars have retreated into quiet nooks to mourn the passing of an institution.
1990 A. Maimane in Weekly Mail 22 June (Suppl.) 2Thousands of gallons of ‘European liquor’ were poured down African thoats every day to the delight of shebeen queens who charged double the legal prices they paid.
1990 R. Stengel January Sun 103Oukasie’s most famous shebeen king is presently lying fast asleep across the hood of his bruised red Mercedes, which is parked in front of his house.
1994 Weekly Mail & Guardian 13 May 8Even the miser of Orlando East, shebeen queen ‘Ma Stompie’, sold her beers at half-price.
A drinking establishment (usually in a private home in a township) where liquor is sold or consumed; spot. Also attributive.
the female owner of a shebeen, a woman who sells illicit liquor; auntie2; queennoun; skokiaan queen, see skokiaan2.
Derivatives:
Hence shebeen intransitive verb, to run a shebeen; to patronize a shebeen; shebeening verbal noun, the running of a shebeen; shebeeny adjective, of shebeens.
1897 E. Prov. Herald 17 Feb.Tom..was brought before the magistrate on Monday morning charged with shebeening.
1900 One Who Was In It Kruger’s Secret Service 129The methods employed by magistrates who wished to get off their accomplices accused of shebeening were somewhat as follows [etc.].
1953 A. Mogale in Drum Sept. 25I’m going high-class shebeening tonight — in Doornfontein.
1955 D.C. Temba in J. Crwys-Williams S. Afr. Despatches (1989) 321The swarming, cacophonous, strutting, brawling, vibrating life of Sophiatown that was..was not all just shebeeny, smutty, illegal stuff.
1964 G. Gordon Four People 120They’re up to no good, some of those people — shebeening.
1975 Friend 10 May 3He had started using his hands to repair radios and had done ‘a little shebeening’ as a sideline.
1989 Weekend Argus 11 Nov. 19The day-to-day battles residents fight against inadequate recreational facilities, sandy pavements, shebeening, gangsterism and other problems.
1990 Fair Lady 28 Mar. 139She smoked and drank into shebeeny nights, waiting.

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18731994