Colloquial Kiwi-isms

Written by  Verge Staff August 13, 2009

"Kia ora!" "Errr – sorry, no.  You must be mistaking me for someone else.  My name is Alison."

Laughter, but gentle laughter.  "Kia ora, Alison.  Welcome to New Zealand."

Not-so-fresh off a 14-hour flight from Los Angeles (preceded by a journey from Ottawa) it's slightly disorienting to arrive at this Auckland hostel.

The staff must be used to receiving guests in a similarly stunned state, and invite me to remove my "beckpeck", rest my "heed" for a couple of hours, and come down later to enjoy some "fush and chups".

After a little sleep, I find the soft accent somewhat less daunting.  Getting a grasp on 'Kiwi English', however, becomes a challenge for the remainder of my year-long working holiday.  For example, what would you say to this?:

We took that old gorse-pockets to a bun fight and lolly scramble in the wop-wops.  It was good-as, until the chilly bin was empty and it was his shout. When we told him to grab a trundler and rattle his dags, he threw a wobbly.

New Zealand vocabulary is a unique and entertaining mix of British, Australian, Maori and creative home-grown expressions, that can make for an interesting linguistic experience.   North American English-to-Kiwi dictionaries do exist, but here's a few introductory expressions to impress your mates at the boozer.

a into g: get going (arse into gear)
'Attending to matters of urgent public business': not doing not much, especially something that you don't want to explain to people
bach (pronounced batch): cottage
bludge: to live off the generosity of others,  to sponge
Bob's your uncle: there you have it; you're all set
boozer: pub / bar
dairy: corner store
dog tucker: unpleasant person / lowlife
dusted (done & dusted): finished
Godzone (God's own country): New Zealand
having 'gorse pockets': being stingy
good as / sweet as: very good
haka: war dance
hard yakka: hard work
kia ora: hello / good health
kiwi: a flightless brown bird; someone from New Zealand; an adjective meaning anything to do with New Zealand
tired and emotional: drunk
tramp: hike
turned to custard: went badly
waka: the Maori word for canoe (pronounced wokka); Maori iwi (tribal) allegiances were originally built around the canoes in which they came to NZ
'waka jumping': a turncoat; came about to describe politicians that change party allegiance, but now in general use for anyone that changes or switches sides.

Add this article to your reading list
Published in Beyond the Guidebook
Tagged under

About

Verge believes in travel for change. International experience creates global citizens, who can change our planet for the better. This belief is at the core of everything we do.

For more than a decade, Verge has produced quality resources and events to help people experience the world in a meaningful way, through opportunities to study, work and volunteer abroad.

Contact Us

info@vergemagazine.org
(+1) 705 742 6869

Subscriber care
Advertise
Write for us
Subscribe
Privacy policy