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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Kiwi-English Dictionary 4: The Final Chapter of The Return of the Dream Master*

Now, I'm not in the habit of making excuses, but I do want to explain why I've not been posting much of late. You see, my very favourite of all of my electronic gadgets (and there are many, sadly) has been on the fritz lately. Yes, my beloved AlphaSmart has not been working properly for the past few weeks. It has a cold or something. It probably doesn't help that I lug it around with me everywhere as I tramp around Wellington. This also includes the countless times it has been tossed into the passenger seat of my car or onto the empty train seat next to me. At least I keep it in its case, but this doesn’t help much thanks to my common habit of stashing books, magazines, mail, loose change and my iPod in the case with the keyboard itself.

Hey, I never claimed to be the shiniest coin in the fountain!

So hindered thusly, I've been finding other ways to while away my free time, although the good part of that is I've been catching up on other parts of my life that I've been neglecting.

But I can never go too long without updating my blog, so I'm back again! This time, it's with another update in my ongoing, amateurish attempts to catalogue all expressions Kiwi. My vocabulary is always on the lookout for new words (and for every new word I learn, I forget an old one - such is the life of a scatterbrain), and I find that reading books is certainly one way to expand my vocab. Moving to another country also works, but that is a bit of an extreme strategy, to say the least.

Nevertheless, that is exactly what I have done, and so I mean to share with you some more of the funky and catchy words and phrases I've picked up whilst living amongst the Kiwis!

I should warn you, though, this is quite the long post ...

See also!

Kiwi-English Dictionary the First

Kiwi-English Dictionary, Collegiate Edition

Kiwi-English Dictionary 3: In 3-D!

blimmin' - First time I heard this one, I wasn’t sure if it was that person’s own personal creation or a term in wider use. Turns out it’s another bit of Kiwi slang! So I’ve added it here, and while a direct definition is hard to give, I’ll weakly offer you these American slang synonyms: friggin’ and freakin’. That got ya up to speed? Good! Now go use this new word and see what kind of reaction you get. (I am speaking, of course, to my non-Kiwi audience here.)

bludger - Not to be confused with the position player used in J. K. Rowling’s Quidditch game in her brilliant Harry Potter novels. The bludger I refer to is also known as a deadbeat or loafer, somebody who makes a living off of handouts. This is the person who is ‘on the dole’, or welfare as well call it in the States.

bogan - It is hard to believe I have now posted four dictionary ‘volumes’ and failed to include this term so far! Put mildly, it is someone who is unrefined and from a poor, lower-class upbringing. Tends to favour heavy metal, black clothing, souped-up cars and male bogans often have mullets. What a bogan is took me a while to figure out exactly, as we do not necessarily have the direct equivalent term back in the States. There are definitely American bogans, of this I have no doubt, only we don’t refer to them as such. If there is an equivalent Yank term for bogan, please enlighten me. Redneck and white trash don’t count, as they carry a more negative connotation and bogans are looked at less antagonistically here.

One of the funniest things I’ve seen lately was on television and the news announcer was pointing out the annual “Running of the Bogans” ritual, inspired by Spain’s Running of the Bulls. They had footage of the very first fans to enter the stadium for this massive outdoor concert held in Wellington over Easter called “Rock To Wellington”. We had KISS, Poison, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne and lots of other hair band and metal acts. The very first fans were all bogans, and you saw various mulleted dudes clad all in black (obligatory heavy metal T-shirt, black shorts, black socks, black shoes) sprinting in rather unathletic fashion for the very front row, where they would tenaciously and at times viciously hold sway for the entire duration (just ask my friend Holly, who survived more than a few tilts with the bogan crowd).

cooee - An odd term, and its origins are Aboriginal, from an extinct dialect as I found out from ‘researching’ Wiktionary. I’ve seen this term in print lately, haven’t heard it said, but it is used to describe an attention-getting call, and the context both times I’ve seen it involved trying to attract certain influential or important people to a cause.

different kettle of fish - The similar American phrase would be ‘different ballgame’ or ‘like comparing apples and oranges’. Another favourite phrase I’ve adopted, why don’t you go ahead and try it out? Spice up your lingo a bit! I’ll give you an example: Jack was never intrigued much by maths or sciences at school, but when it came to cars or girls, that was a whole different kettle of fish.

give it a bash/go/whack - Either bash, go, or whack, any of them work, and not to be confused with ‘giving someone the bash’, discussed below. Just as it sounds, really, and like many other Kiwi phrases it has slowly replaced the similar American ones I used to use. So now I’m often ‘giving it a go’ as opposed to ‘taking a shot’.

give someone the bash - To beat a person up, often just figuratively but certainly can describe the physical act. First heard this phrase used jokingly in the excellent New Zealand film, Sione’s Wedding, known to you Yanks as Samoan Wedding.

gone bush - Retreating to the hills or forest or just nature in general in order to live and function outside of modern urban society. Actually probably not to that extreme but is used to describe when someone is on a fishing, hunting, mountaineering or extended tramping trip. Could also refer to someone who has recently undertaken an outdoorsy-type lifestyle.

gormless - Unintelligent and clueless about it, often as applied to a certain situation like someone being taken advantage of but not really smart enough to pick up on it, let alone act upon it. I love this one. It's just one of those great words that sounds so very much like what it's describing.

goss - Short for ‘gossip’. This one’s a no-brainer, but I’d never heard it said before. As in: So what’s all the good goss since I’ve been away?

have a go - Like running someone down, or taking a shot at them. Personal attacks, or maybe putting someone in their place. Usually done face to face, as opposed to sniping behind their back.

hen’s night/stag do - The former and latter both describe what we Americans know as bachelorette and bachelor parties, respectively. Don’t you like the Kiwi versions much better? I know I do, and I’m not just talking about the terms! OK, so I have yet to attend a ‘stag do’ but hopefully one day I’ll be a part of one. I’ve seen quite a few hen’s nights in progress when I’ve been out and about in downtown Wellington, though, and they sure know how to have a good time! In that, the Kiwis and Americans are both on a par, I’d have to say.

home time - As we Americans would (and love to) say it, “It’s quittin’ time!” Or perhaps, if you’re a child of the 70's as I am, “It’s Miller time!” Time to go home after a long day at work, in case you haven’t discerned the obvious already.

I'm rapt - Great word, never once heard it uttered in the States and I would love to see the reaction of my friends when I use this word next time I’m there. To be rapt means literally you are filled with delight and anticipation, and it probably came about as being short for ‘enraptured’. Heard said when someone is eager at the prospect of a new job, a visit from a friend, or looking forward to a date.

love to bits - Just another way of saying how much you love someone or something (in this case a lot), however sometimes it can be in the context of ‘I love him/her/it to bits, BUT...’ So it could be like saying that, at the heart of it, you do love what you are describing but there is something about it or them that drives you crazy or upsets you.

mate - As with the term ‘bogan’, I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without including this very important Kiwi term! Mate is a term of familiarity, used to either describe one’s friends or when talking to another person. Sam’s mates are planning his stag do and they’re really going overboard. That is one example of the usage of ‘mate’, and here is another: Mate, you don’t have to tell me twice! Or even the eminently simple: Cheers, mate. The American equivalent of that last one would undoubtedly be: Thanks, dude.

plonker - I actually first heard this word in an episode of the original UK version of The Office (when David Brent was saying that he wasn’t one), but to be called a plonker is definitely not a nice thing. A plonker is a bumbling idiot, a fool. Very similar to being a wanker, probably interchangeable terms.

rogering - Well, we’re all adults here, right? So this term, while not exactly X-rated, is a bit dirty. Refers to having sex, and usually rough sex at that, often preceded by the words ‘right good’. Ahem. Time for a cold shower, ay?

smoko - Man I just love Kiwi terminology, and this word is one of the many reasons why. I don’t even smoke, either, but something about their words and phraseology really appeals to me. Anyways, someone is having a smoko or on one when they are taking a smoke break. Invariably this is outdoors, as New Zealand is much like California in that you can’t smoke anywhere indoors unless it’s your own home. And even then, if you’ve got flatmates who aren’t keen on cigarette smoke, well ... It’s a smoko out on the porch for you!

sort - Ah, the wonderful world of sorting, as in, Right, I’ll sort you out, mate!, meaning you’re either jokingly telling your buddy you’ve had enough and are about to beat him down (not really), or you are about to start a brawl and are going to punch some guy (really).

Also, ‘sorted’ is often uttered when a task has been completed, or used to refer to said completed task. Or you and your friends, when discussing vacation plans to Rarotonga, plan to ‘sort it out’ over dinner later that night. Sort may not seem like such a terribly Kiwi thing to say, but my mum and my friend Kathy both picked up on my frequent usage of this word right away.

turn to custard - ‘When the sh*t hits the fan,’ as we might say in the States. Or, my own favourite, saying when things ‘go south’ in a hurry, things can be said to be turning to custard. Well I had dug the holes for the fence posts and had everything out and ready for finishing the job when it just started pissing down and it all turned to custard.

Te reo Maori

And I’d like to finish this edition with something new! In hindsight I wish I had started the other editions by including some Maori terms as well, for they are very much a part of the everyday New Zealand printed and spoken word. Te reo translates literally from Maori to mean ‘the language’, and this shorthand phrase is often used to describe the resurgence of this language in New Zealand culture. In 1987 Maori was made a second official language of New Zealand alongside English.

Since moving here I’ve absorbed many Maori words and phrases as well as pronunciations but by no means do I speak Maori. Every year it seems to me that more people are signing up to learn to speak and read Maori and this gladdens me as so much of their history and culture is tied up in oral tradition, especially when it comes to learning one’s whakapapa, defined below.

Aotearoa - Maori term for New Zealand. A condensed form of the phrase (“Ao tea roa!“) said to be uttered by the wife of the legendary explorer Kupe as they approached the shores of these islands for the first time. Literally translated, it means “Land of the Long White Cloud”. Beautiful, and fittingly so for such a glorious place. I learn a lot from my frequent strolls through the Te Papa museum! There is a serious movement afoot to have the country’s name changed to this officially, although how far that gets I am not sure.

iwi - Term for larger collection of Maori as a whole race or nation, broken down into smaller groups or sub-tribes such as hapu, on down to the smallest unit within a tribe, the whanau.

kia ora - Perhaps the most widely-known Maori phrase as it’s used heavily by New Zealand’s tourism councils. It is the Maori phrase for greeting meaning “Hello!”

ka kite - I like this one, it means “I’ll see you,” and I learned this one from my friend Karen. Also said as ka kite ano, the third term meaning “again”.

pounamu - Jade, or greenstone. Considered one of many taonga granted to the Maori by the gods when the land was created. My mum gifted me with a handsome pounamu necklace during her visit to New Zealand, an unexpected and overwhelmingly kind thing to do! It is considered bad luck (tapu, perhaps? See below), to buy such a necklace for yourself, so it is always best to receive it as a gift.

taonga - Treasure. Not just glittering gold and large hunks of pounamu, it also can and often does refer to artifacts and relics of cultural significance, such as a cloak made entirely of kiwi feathers worn by a powerful chief. I’ve seen just such a taonga on display at Te Papa, by the way.

tapu - Taboo, forbidden, sacred. Refers to a person, place, or thing, used to protect someone or something from harm in its many forms.

whakapapa - Important cultural and specifically family generational history recited orally by an individual Maori. A powerful and important rite of passage is to be able to recite one’s whakapapa as far back as 25 generations or more. It is more than simply reciting ancestry, as Maori believe this traces them all the way back to the gods who gave rise to all living things, so even trees and rocks and water have their very own whakapapa. Obviously I don’t have this concept mastered, but that’s basically what it is in crude fashion.

whanau - The family, meaning both one’s immediate and extended family. I should mention here that the wh combination of letters is pronounced as an f, so whanau would sound like ‘fa-now’. Also, while I’m at it, te is pronounced ‘tay’, and it means “the”. Today I'm free, but tomorrow I'll be spending all day with the whanau.

These are obviously just a few of many Maori terms and phrases, more of which I hope to learn as I go along. If you’d like to learn a bit more on your own, check out these two helpful links, the last of which is a very good Maori-English dictionary:

Maori Language Commission

Maori-English Dictionary

Right. “That’s it! That’s the list!” to once again quote one of my idols, Tony Kornheiser.

New also to this fourth instalment of my Kiwi-to-English dictionary is the dreaded Homework Assignment! Yes, you’ve been sponging free vocab lessons off of me long enough, so it’s time to go out and put that new knowledge to use!

I challenge you to use any one word from any of the four editions of this so-called dictionary in your every-day usage sometime in the next week. You’ve only got to use one word - of your choosing! - and only do it once. And you have a whole week, so there is no pressure! Being the kindly teacher that I am, I’ve provided links to the other dictionaries near the beginning of this post.

N.B. - Using the words when talking to your pets does not count. Partial credit may be given, and extra credit certainly will be for startlingly creative uses of said words or especially for multiple and repeated usage!


*A little something for all you slasher-flick fans.


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Thank you, Brooksie, for again enlightening me and adding to my very small Kiwi vocabulary.

ka kite

6:50 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

No worries, mate, and thanks for reading.

Ka kite!

6:43 PM  

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