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Playing Football with the English Language: “Ladies’ Bar”, “Action Bar”

SA Loguers Ben and Trekker – respectively, an American in SA, and a South African in the US – are kicking the English language around.

A South African walks into a bar

…and says – Ow!

Ha ha, no, seriously, what he really says (assuming it’s a he) is – Where’s the big screen television, eh? To his horror, he discovers that the establishment doesn’t actually have one because, wait for it, it’s a ladies’ bar. Aaaaaarghh!

Yes, in South Africa, we use archaic language to discriminate between bars designated for slobbering sports-hungry Neanderthals and those that represent proper environs for dainty, parasol-shaded members of the fairer sex. Such is the outdatedness of our terminology, however, that, in this day and age, the terms “action bar” and “ladies’ bar” could set visitors keen to sample the nightlife on radically wrong paths.

So, to clear things up: an action bar is a sports bar, not a place where you can get some action, and which incidentally sells drinks. Sports bars were at one stage considered improper places for SA’s ladylike ladies; the term ladies bar was adopted to indicate a more genteel and therefore suitable environment – plus rock shandies, Shirley Temples, and other imitation drinks that the ladies just loved – and has evolved a bit to mean a classy, elegant, low-key joint where it’s possible to have a rendezvous with a paramour and not get interrupted by the footie. Or rugby. Or whatever.

Got it?

Over to you, Trekker!