The South African comedian first mentioned how people shout out “Wakanda Forever” to him—the name of the fictional African nation in the film—before segueing into a story about his supposed childhood.
“Growing up as a young boy in Wakanda I would see King T’Challa flying over our village, and he would remind me of a great Xhosa phrase,” he said, referencing the language spoken by millions in South Africa as well as other African nations,”‘Abelungu abazi ubu ndiyaxoka,’ which means, ‘In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.”
Noah went on to say “This is best picture nominee ‘Black Panther'” as a clip from the film began to play.
The phrase actually means: “White people don’t know I’m lying.”
Speakers of Xhosa were delighted with Noah’s sly joke.
trevor noah pulled off the biggest inside joke ever told ?????? #oscars— claire mawisa (@clairemawisa) February 25, 2019
— Makho Ndlovu (@makhondlovu) February 25, 2019
TREVOR NOAH SPEAKING IN XHOSA JUST GOT ME PREGNANT— Jenna Wortham (@jennydeluxe) February 25, 2019
And Trevor Noah’s epic troll of the awards was perfection. https://t.co/VjfSv5x5ev
— Lauren Beukes (@laurenbeukes) February 25, 2019
According to 24-year-old student Lihle Ninie Sasa, South Africans loved the joke. “We love Trevor. South Africans call him the ‘national treasure,’ ” she told NPR. “Using IsiXhosa [another way to spell the language] at the Oscars was really cool.”
People loved Noah’s prank so much that the incident sparked a trending hashtag and meme on social media in South Africa; #KodwaAbayaziNdiyaXoka, which means “but they don’t know that I’m lying,” was tweeted hundreds of times.