New Zealand Phrasery

Even when traveling abroad in a primarily English-speaking area, I have the pleasure of encountering new and different dialects, jargon, slang, methods of communication, and phrases. I particularly love how New Zealand “trash” is called “rubbish.” I’ve started saying “rubbish” and now I feel tremendously classy/European. I’m never going back to “trash.” For those of you considering studying in New Zealand, it would behoove you to note that classes/courses are “papers,” and papers and projects are collectively referred to as “assignments.” Papers tend to just have one or two large assignments, possibly a midterm “test,” and a final “exam.” Also, shopping carts are trolleys.

Rubbish photo of a rubbish-man posing with rubbish. Hawt stuff.

Some pronunciation differences: “glacier” is pronounced GLASSY-eh, and “caramel” is KERRA-mel (which is actually how we should be pronouncing CAR-mull based on the spelling, but since when have Washingtonians ever adhered to normal standards of word usage – think: Puyallup, Spokane, Tullalip, Snoqualmie, Skookumchuck… our state is an entire cesspool of names that are ridiculously easy to butcher). You can tell a Washingtonian from other normal language-users based on how they say “Snohomish.” There’s a reason why Twilight is set in Forks. Steph probably picked the only obscure town in all of Washington that’s friggin’ linguistically accessible to rest of the world. Don’t get me wrong – I love all of our little names; I fell very superior when I get to condescendingly correct out-of-state visitors.

The numbers on the right indicate population size

95% of the time, Kiwis end a conversation with “see you later.” I love this. There’s no terse “bye” or abrupt rush to depart, just a friendly farewell and hopeful expression of future interaction. Before I settled in Dunedin, people would say “see you later” and I’d be thinking, “Uh, no, you probably won’t. I’m passing through. Never to come again. I’ve known you for like 3 minutes and it’s not like we’re exchanging numbers or anything. Do you go to Otago? Are you moving to Western Washington? No? Then, nope. Definitely not seeing you again.” Still, it’s nice to hear.

Apparently, a common compliment is “nice cunt.” I fortunately have yet to receive such a, um, compliment. I have yet to decide what my reaction will be if I ever do hear this phrase. Shall I pretend American ignorance and use this opportunity as an excuse to finally experience the thrill of punching someone in the face? Should I look pitifully confused and ask the perpetrator how on earth they know that? Will I nonchalantly respond, “Thanks. Nice ballsac”? I really can’t say. Reclaiming sexual, indecent, or inappropriate words for new meanings in popular culture seems to be an oft-occurring happenstance. I mean, the first time I ever heard someone use the word “gay” was in an attempt to describe someone as stupid, not homosexual. Introverted book reader that I was, in 6th grade I could insult someone by calling him a teratosis (my wonderful father had bought me The Superior Person’s Book of Words – a useful and delightful read), but I was wholly unaware of the origin of “pimp.” In my elementary school, kids described something cool or trendy as “pimped.” Curse my ignorance. In one embarrassing instance, I remember happily telling my teacher that her skirt was pimped. Years later, my mom told me that my teacher had mentioned this little tale of woe to her and had wondered whether my words had expressed a positive or negative view of her attire. Fool. Then there was that time when I thought “douche” (or as I pictured it, “doosh”) was some made-up, childish insult that probably originated on that show about Boobahs (or however you spell it…. I believe the premise involves colorful, round creatures who fart as a means of powering their flight-bounce travel). When my hypothetical children start watching TV, they will be forbidden shows like Booooba. I will force them to watch Doctor Who and Avatar the Last Airbender. That’s all they’re gonna get. I will also dress them with panache. They will be very precocious children. Probably geniuses. Genii? And named something like Freya or Artemis or Optimus Prime or something extra-exotic-sounding because obviously their father will be foreign. And suave. Maybe famous. Possibly a superhero.).

My future children:


Aioli. You’ve probably heard of it, but you probably don’t see it dancing across a page every time you glance at a menu. A tremendous amount of food here has aioli on it. And for some reason I’m incredibly attracted to that word. It’s so euphonious. And it looks cool. I see “aioli” on a menu description and I want to order that meal without even knowing what’s actually in the meal or perusing the rest of the menu. This can be dangerous. I ordered a random burger because I saw the word “aioli,” then I realized I had ended up with a pineapple-bedecked, sweet-saucy burger. Pineapple + meat combo = the devil’s food. That was also the day that I learned of New Zealand’s aioli variations. You can’t assume that aioli is a single-faceted, mayo-like, beautifully creamy and subtle sauce… it has many faces and flavors.

New Zealand’s film rating system is different than America’s. For instance, at the theatre I noticed that The Room (worst movie ever) is rated “M.” I’m assuming that means it’s for mature audiences. Funny story: the poster advertising The Room marketed it as a sort of indie, deep, metaphorical movie. Viewers are going to be sorely disappointed. The theatre would do better to draw in an audience with promises of experiencing the most sensationally terrible film in history; then paying customers wouldn’t leave feeling as if they had been lied to. (I apologize to all grammar Nazis for ending that sentence with a preposition. This writing is all intentionally informal. Sometimes, though, I do feel a bit bad – as if I’ve brought shame and dishonor upon myself and my family. I imagine my Whitman prof beating me with the anti-passive-voice stick).

And now for some useful Maori phrases!

Welcome: Haere mai

Hello: Kia ora

What’s your name? / My name is… : Ko wai tōu ingoa? / Ko … ahau

Goodbye: E noho rā

I don’t understand: Kaore au e mārama / Aroha mai (this is the only one I plan on memorizing)

Where’s the toilet?: Kei hea te wharepaku?

I love you (because it’d be wonderful to know how to say “I love you” in every language): Kei te aroha au ki a koe (that is a lot of love expressed right there. I wonder how touching death scenes in Maori romances work – Kei te sldkfslkdfsldf seems like an awful mouthful for a person on the verge of dying)

Fire!: Ahi! (easy. Possibly useful)

Call the police! (reminds me of John Legend’s Who did that to you?, part of the brilliant soundtrack of Django Unchained): Waea atu ki te Pirihimana!

My hovercraft is full of eels (seriously, this was on a list of useful Maori phrases. I did not just make this up. The Maori are a complicated people. And apparently technologically advanced and frequently beset upon by aquatic creatures): Kī tōnu taku waka topaki i te tuna

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3 Responses to New Zealand Phrasery

  1. Jason says:

    Funny and fun. While you’re waiting around for someone to call you a “nice cunt,” you might wanna find out what they mean by “map of Tas” (short for Tasmania). You might never look at a globe the same way again 🙂

  2. No stick beating from me, I promise!

  3. Kiwi says:

    Aioli is wonderful! And I miss meat pies, there is definitely a lack of them here in North America.

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