Green’s Dictionary of Slang

kaffir adj.

also caffre, kaffer, kafir
[for ety. see kaffir n.]

1. (S.Afr.) in combs. meaning of or pertaining to black people. Like nigger, Jewish, Chinese, Mexican etc, the term is used in a wide variety of combs., all of which are de facto insulting.

[SA]Grahams Town Jrnl 19 June 2/5: Southey called to him in the Caffer language to stop .
[UK]Sheffield Indep. 31 Dec. 2/6: The pleadings of the Caffre chief for missionaries were very pathetic.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville General Bounce (1891) 168: And sit on the grass with a Kaffir lass.
[UK]G.A. Sala Gaslight and Daylight 151: A frank-spoken military man who had lost a leg in the Caffre war.
Manawatu Times (N.Z.) 24 July 4/2: The Caffre crops had been everywhere destroyed by the troops.
[SA]E. Hellmann Rooiyard 39: Beer is kaffir-tea.
[SA]O. Walker Kaffirs are Lively 27: The black people are ‘Natives’, the old label ‘Kaffir’ having been discarded. [...] It is, in fact an adjective of contempt in ordinary speech of the South African when he speaks of a ‘Kaffir’ trick or ‘Kaffir’ work.
[SA]A.M. Louw 20 Days that Autumn 86: The ‘Kaffer-man’ over there – he pointed to a short Native.
[SA]J. Cock Maids and Madams 226: By this time [1930s] it was largely defined as ‘Kaffir work’.
[SA]C. Hope Separate Development 152: It’s kaffir work that even the kaffirs don’t like doing.
[SA]A. Lovejoy Acid Alex 105: I sniffed it – yes sir, kaffir soap.

2. (S.Afr.) bad, unreliable.

[SA]‘N. Giles’ Ridge of White Waters ii. vii. 266: ‘Another kaffir bargain!’ said Sir Alfred wearily [OED].
[SA]C.R. Prance Tante Rebella and her Friends (1951) 40: He and the doctor drove a grim ‘Kaffir bargain’.

In compounds

kaffir beer (n.)

(S.Afr.) a drink made from fermented prickly pears and honey.

[SA]C.E. Finlason A Nobody in Mashonaland 9: When he is not sleeping he is drinking kaffir beer.
[UK]Blackburn & Caddell Secret Service in S. Afr. 147: A taste for something more potent than the harmless Kaffir beer.
[SA]C.R. Prance Tante Rebella and her Friends (1951) 28: Even the [...] English seem to prefer a girl as scraggy as a kaffir hen. [Ibid.] 108: The Police found ‘Mr. Mason’ under a bush, sleeping off a pound’s worth of Kaffir beer.
[US]K. Cowin Bushveld, Bananas and Bounty 76: We gave them the ingredients for a big brew of kaffir beer.
[SA]M. Dikobe Marabi Dance 105: The driver demanded a measure of kaffir-beer.
[SA]S. Sepamla ‘King Taylor’ in Mutloatse Forced Landing 83: In the backyards ‘ugologo’, the drinking of kaffir-beer . . . From the front door the excuse-me-people play music called jazz.
kaffir corn (n.)

(S.Afr.) a form of sorghum.

[UK]J.H.M. Abbott Tommy Cornstalk 192: In a barn was a great heap of unthreshed Kaffir corn.
[US]Randall Co. News (Canyon City, TX) 12 Feb. 5/5: He recently bought a carload of Kaffir corn.
kaffirmeid (n.)

(S.Afr.) an insulting form of address or reference to a black woman.

[SA]B. Modisane Blame Me on Hist. (1986) 36: Because my mother was black she was despised and humiliated, called ‘kafir meid’. [Ibid.] 58: This kaffir meid. my baas, was trying to trick me into sleeping in her room, but I know it is against the law.
[SA]B.L. Leshoai in Pereira Contemp. S. Afr. Plays 266: The other day in town a white thing — a woman as pale and dirty as dishwater — called me ‘Kaffir Meid’. I said, ‘No, I’m not a Kaffir Meid’ [DSAE].
N. Harrison Winnie Mandela 95: Not knowing who she was they asked her why a kaffirmeid (African girl) was taking food to a koelie (Indian).
[SA]IOL News (Western Cape) 27 Oct. [Internet] The list of prohibited words has been narrowed down to ‘kaffir’, ‘kaffirmeid’, ‘coolie’, ‘hotnot’ and their variations.
[UK]C. Miller Salt and Honey 39: They’d been drinking brandy and coke, and talking the usual nonsense, ‘Hey, you-ous. Heard what the kaffirmeid said to the bishop?’.
kaffir piano (n.)

(S.Afr.) any of a number of multi-stringed wooden percussion instruments.

R. Monteiro Delagoo Bay 253: This song had a rapidly played accompaniment on the ‘Kafir piano’.
A.B. Balfour 1200 Miles in Waggon 64: Kaffir pianos [...] consist of two logs of wood wrapped in rags, laid parallel to each other on the ground in front of-the player. Side by side across these are placed a number of slats of wood about fifteen inches long, which are actively hammered upon with a couple of drumsticks.
Cassells Mag. 200/2: ' I was taken to see a Kaffir piano. [...] The keys were made of iron, and struck with an enormous hand hammer.
[SA]C. Pettman Africanderisms 242: Kaffir piano [...] Made of flat bars of hard wood fastened across a frame, beneath which a number of calabash shells are fixed. The bars of wood when struck emit sounds that are not at all unmusical.
Musical News & Herald 62-3 472: Often in South Africa I have heard the grave-faced Kaffir [...] stolidly thump out a variant of ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay’ on what is known locally as the Kaffir ‘piano’.
W. Saint-Mandé Halcyon Days in Africa 298: The timbala or xylophone, also known as a Kaffir piano, composed of ten keys made of hard wood, attached to a strong wooden frame by strips of leather.
H.V. Morton In Search of S. Afr. 311: A native band was thrumming on ‘Kaffir pianos’, instruments like large xylophones.
Mthly Music Record 84-5 96: Galpin himself [played] a solo on the marimba or Kaffir piano (a super-xylophone with wooden bars and gourd resonators).
E. Rosenthal Encyc. of Southern Afr. 278: Made of strips of wood varying in length, but strung along a series of calabashes which serve as a sounding board [...] Kaffir pianos are used for native dances.
G.B. Peters Drummer Man 138: The marimba is so common to Africa that it is often called the African piano or Kaffir piano.
kaffir sheeting (n.)

(S.Afr.) a coarsely woven, thick cotton fabric used for clothes or cheap curtains.

Agric. Jrnl Cape of Good Hope 29 395: Many again line the boxes inside with wet kaffir sheeting. This too is bad and should not be continued. Put the sheeting outside the .
US Investor 33:2 1813/1: Market for Kaffir sheeting and blankets is fairly well supplied, both lines sell freely owing to winter demand.
[UK]Economist 115 19: The piece goods concerned are cotton goods (not blanketing or Kaffir sheeting) .
Brit. Commonwealth Objectives 228: Thus far the textile industry has produced mainly Kaffir sheeting and blankets.
[UK]J.M. Meiring Candle in the Wind 161: She had to wrap them both in an old piece of kaffir-sheeting.
kaffir taxi (n.) (S.Afr.)

1. a large (American model) but run-down car.

[SA]C. Hope Separate Development 13: The Yannovitchs drove an old green, hump-back Dodge to Sunday mass. Parked in among the Vauxhalls and Morrises it looked like a kaffir taxi.
[SA]P. Slabolepszy Sat. Night at the Palace (1985) 17: We had this old ’48 Dodge. Real kaffir-taxi. Took the old toppie a whole bladdy day to crack Durbs in that thing.

2. brandy plus Coca-Cola or some other sweet fizzy drink [? it ‘picks you up’].

[SA]Frontline 5:9-10 83: Edward [...] took a suck from the dumpie bottle filled with what we now openly referred to as kaffir taxi, and went to sleep.
[SA]J. & W. Branford Dict. S. Afr. Eng. (3rd edn).
kaffir tobacco (n.)

(S.Afr. drugs) marijuana [play on colonial era kaffir tobacco, second-rate and thus only good for blacks].

[SA]Sun. Times (Jo’burg) 13 Feb. (Mag. Sect.) n.p.: When I was a lad dagga was known as ‘kaffir’ tobacco and had a vast sale at 1s. a lb [DSAE].