Our Jozi sign lingo taken to another level

Johannesburg Night Skyline
When it comes to hitchhiking one would think of a thumped up hand waving in the air. For ordinary people in Jozi, sign language in the form of finger-pointing has always been something I found ingenious and out of this world. What can you expect in a cultural melting pot with eleven official languages spiced with other foreign minority languages. When it comes to using public transport one does not need to understand any of the languages but finger pointing becomes the answer as long you know your destination.

There is a lingo that the taxi drivers and their commuters use: pointing fingers. Tourists during the world cup can bear testimony to that. One who is not used to the signs may think the place is full of weird people with their fore fingers stuck up in the air probably consulting some other unknown inspirational force.. NOT AT ALL. A fore finger stuck up, pointing to the heavens indicates the place-to-be, the centre of activity, the magnet, the City of Johannesburg.

pointing finger
The drivers also stick their fingers if they want to pick up commuters and commuters also stick theirs in return. First time visitors always find this out-of-order or amusing. At the same time the drivers would be hooting to indicate that they have space for more commuters. The hooting can be a nuisance and irritating if you are not used to the place and you are driving. One may think something is wrong with his or her driving. I used to find it unnerving.

The middle finger-pointing down means the taxi is available locally.

Five fingers up means the taxi is going to a specific place probably the extension five of a suburb

five fingers

Areas can be identified with different signs:

Thump up and pointing forefinger at right  angles to or along the traffic flow

Thump up and index finger-pointing with other fingers curled back.

forefinger and thump

Thump, index finger and middle finger in an orthogonal setup. [Same setup for Flemings Left Hand Rule in electromagnetics]

Index finger with other fingers curled in the direction of traffic flow
pointing finger

The middle finger is never used by itself so there is no insinuation of flipping the bird or the highway saluting

The system is so efficient and it’s quite mind-boggling to see the sign language in action. Our Taxi drivers are great multitaskers who drive, hoot,collect and change money and negotiate the curves with outstanding abilities. Their spatial awareness seems to be out of this world. The drivers also have their coded language that they also use to take short cuts or roads with less traffic.They do not seem to worry about these gadgets called GPS but trust their instincts and experience.

Thumps up to this sign lingo.

It has been perfected and I cannot stop to amaze at its effectiveness


2 Comments (+add yours?)

    Feb 04, 2011 @ 19:28:39

    Quite intresting!! Life in Jozi is very fast and one has to keep with the pace in order to fit well .FINGER POINTING is crucial in JOZI otherwise you find yourself in the EAST while you intended to be in the NORTH. However you have to be careful how you use the MIDDLE-FINGER !!!


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