N****r balls. Really? What were we thinking?

N****r balls. Really? What were we thinking?
Edit: I wrote this post about 7 years ago. Recently I've learned that seeing the n-word typed out in full is triggering for many people, regardless of the context in which it appears. For that reason this edit redacts the word.

I guess it's no surprise that we no longer call these black sweets N****r Balls.

As a kid I was oblivious to the fact that the name given to these could be derogatory - I'd never linked the name to the obvious connotation, and I suspect that the same was true for most people (or kids at least) back then. Today they're simply called Black Balls, which I guess is a less objectionable name.

The word "n****r" has never been a commonly-used term in South Africa. We have our own set of offensive terms that have for many years now been considered unacceptable.

28 thoughts on “N****r balls. Really? What were we thinking?

  1. Ali Schwarzer

    Intersting to learn that you have a similar concept for black sweets, Paul. In Germany, ignorant people continue to say Negerkuss, frankly translated nigger kiss, to name a chocolate marshmallow. In spite of the criticism of people of colours living in Germany, whites often resist to use another, a political correct name, i.e. Schokoladenkuss or Schaumkuss. Their argument: I’ve used the word during my childhood and I still want to use it.

  2. Paul

    Post author

    Wasn’t aware of that Ali. Perhaps it’s less about them being ignorant, and more about them not caring about other people’s feelings? I find it’s never worth the argument – if folk don’t get it by now it’s unlikely that they ever will.

  3. r

    When was the change of name noticed?

    Would be interesting if there was a sweet named a derogatory word for Jews, whether these same people who would defend continued usage with the same excuse (“I remember from my childhood therefore I am justified to continue”).

    What are these sweets made of?

  4. Paul

    Post author

    @r, not sure, probably in the early 90s.

    And yes, in they probably would – people can be strange that way.

    I’m not quite sure what they’re made of, as far as I remember they’re hard all the way through, although the black licorice-tasting coating lasts for only a few minutes before you break though to the pink inside.

  5. Jack Jordan

    As a child (I am 69 years old) these sweets were commonplace and we pronounced it “Nicker” balls. We were ignorant of the connotation to the word “Nigger” which was not a term common to South Africa.

    These hard “Jawbreakers” lasted for a very long time and the art was to suck through the black external layer to the pink layer and then different coloured layers down to a very small ball at the centre which was again a dark colour, if memory serves me correctly.

    It took a lot of patience and self control to do it correctly. Jack.

  6. Paul

    Post author

    Thanks for the comment Jack. You’re right, the think to do was to suck though the various layers. I can’t recall the tiny black center – hopefully someone else will comment and confirm… or perhaps I should just go and buy a handfull and give it a test. :)

  7. Jack Jordan

    Hi Paul,
    Buying a handful of the “NAGEMAAKTE” sweets they make today won’t help as they are softer than the originals and do not have the layers. I know because I tried some for the sake of nostalgia, only to be disappointed. Looks like you will have to take my word for it.
    Have a great day, Jack.

  8. Paul

    Post author

    Oh dear, I see. I’ll tell you what Jack – I’ll give them a try when I’m next in Sea Point and if they’re like the originals I’ll let you know – we may be pleasantly surprised! :)

  9. Jack Jordan

    Hi Paul,
    Another update. My daughter corrected me and informed me that the centre was in fact white.

    Have a great day,

  10. barry

    all the kids at school called them kaffir ball, till i asked my mom for some money to buy some and she flipped out at me, i did too. Thank god for progress!

  11. Sandi

    I think someone had an amazing sense of humour having all these little white kids sucking Nigger balls. Hysterical. Thats one in the eye for racism.

  12. Jack Jordan

    Hey, I’ve got news for you guys in the pre-apartheid days when we all played together, had clay fights together and swam kaalgat together, our little black friends enjoyed those jawbreakers like any other kid because they were so cheap and lasted so long. Those were golden days. Such a pity that post 1948 into the 1950’s screwed everything up. Jack.

  13. Paul

    Post author

    For sure Jack. I wasn’t around at that time, but I’ve heard that it was the case – it must have been freegin’ confusing as a kid to suddenly not be allowed to play with your buddies.

  14. Jack Jordan

    Barry, I can’t begin to imagine the heartache you must have gone through but I feel for you and all those who experienced such terrible injustices. I was around at the time of the Sophiatown removals but did not have a full understanding of what was transpiring,at such a young age. We were somewhat remote and pumped so full of propaganda that we did not know the whole ugly truth. Jack.

  15. Sandi

    I enjoyed playing with my little black friends too. There was never apartheid in my house. I grew up with a little black girl, who I am still very close to but still think someone had a wicked sense of humour.

  16. Jack Jordan

    Hi Paul,
    I’m not sure if this is the the correct forum – apologies if it is not as I do not wish to abuse it. I have written a book titled “Remembering when the world was young” and it is presently with the printers and should be ready for sale by the end of November. In summary, “Jack Jordan grew up in Johannesburg in the 1940s and ’50s. This book remembers when Jack was young, in a world that was in many ways quite different to the way it is now. With wit and charm he introduces us to those who peopled his world – Ma, Dad, Eddie, Ramona, Blinkoog, Chummy and the rest – and regales us with their strange habits, foibles and behaviour. This is the story of an ordinary family living in extraordinary times, reminding us of when the world was young.
    I thought you may just be interested.

  17. Hank

    In my young days (in the 1950’s) we used to buy Niggerballs and got 4 for a penny. The later red ones were never called niggerballs, and we did not find the name derogatory.

  18. Jerá

    Hi guys. In Zim we had those sweets too. We also knew them as ‘nigger balls’. The other name was maCent-three (Zulu equivalent would be amaCent-three) because 1 cent bought you 3 sweets.
    As a black kid I knew both names and at the time I was clueless about the racial connotations.

    And Sandi, I feel as though my thoughts have been hacked into. I am working on a story and one character in the story says almost the same thing you said.

    Jerá (Zim)

  19. Phil

    If we had similar lollies, but in white and black inside, would they not be called by some racist name, being the pendulum swing?
    I’m sick and tired of all this hand wringing apologists. We never gave it a thought, besides, the black people also bought them, not even noticing anything.

    Makes me think back when we were still in Northern Rhodesia when it became Zambia. Then we had a Polish Butcher who sold boys-meat as it was known. He always called men who visited his shop, ‘Hello my boy.’ It was the way he greeted, and no one took exception. But come independence, he could no longer greet like that no more, for he was told it was racist. But his black customers always insisted in buying their favorite cut, ‘Boys-Meat.’ They would not hear about it being called by another name. To this day, in some butcher shops, its still called ‘Boys-Meat.’

  20. Hank

    In my young days they were known as “nicker” balls, and the thought that it had anything to do with “nigger” never crossed our minds. And yes, they were four for a penny, and were white inside. “Nigger babies” were black jelly babies, but also in this case it was never thought to be a derogatory or racist term. Incidentally, the infamous k word was well known in the Cape during the 17th and 18th century, but always referred to a non-Christian or non-believer, irrespective of the colour of the individual concerned.

  21. Mathys J Thom

    Never ussed the “K” word nor saw nigga ball as racist. Nothing was “racist” (on the farm) though the “K” word was out. We also had to respect our elders. Kak was out “poefies”

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