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Monday, January 26, 2009

Kiwi-English Dictionary 5: TOP SECRET II: THE SEQUEL

See also!

Kiwi-English Dictionary the First

Kiwi-English Dictionary, Collegiate Edition

Kiwi-English Dictionary 3: In 3-D!

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

SATELLITE FEED RESUMED

18. “Hey, thanks again for cooking dinner. You bought a lot of food, you sure I can’t help you pay for any of this?”

“Nah, you get mates rates.”

“Oh, okay, well thanks again then.”

Said conversation took place with a Kiwi counterpart in the New Zealand linguistic underground effort. Had not encountered the phrase prior to this conversation, however given this was the final in a series of rebuffed efforts to help pay for dinner it became clear through established context that ‘mates rates’ must equal ‘free’.

If not, then yours truly is a deadbeat who missed the boat. But at least he did the dishes afterwards ...

19. “Might be an idea to get the washing in before it rains.”

“I reckon you’re right.”

In typical understated Kiwi fashion, something that ‘might be an idea’ would on the surface seem to be a feeble suggestion. It is, however, nothing other than a politely worded command or, if referencing a concept instead of action, an idea that the speaker feels really ought to be taken on board.

As in, “It might be an idea to wear something besides your Wallabies shirt if you're coming with me to the pub tonight.”

20. “Just bring lots of bug spray. The mossies will eat you alive down there.”

Sage advice given to me by a Kiwi when discussing a pending trip to the south island’s west coast, which although stunningly beautiful is a haven for the pest known as the mossie - what yanks refer to in full as a ‘mosquito’, or as a ‘skeeter’ if they are rednecks. Given the choice, I’ll use mossie, thank you very much.

The fact that the nickname for this annoying, blood-sucking little pest sounds an awful lot like ‘Aussie’ has not escaped my notice.

21. “We thought things were going well, everything was set up. But then we talked to the advisors last week and they had moved the goalposts on us again.”

At risk of insubordination, this is something I’ve experienced within my own secret agent profession although I had never heard the phenomenon expressed in this way before. Obviously it derives from sport and can refer to goals in really anything, from health care to finance to personal sales targets.

I could’ve used this phrase when discussing my future with another agent, for example.

“So, Brooksie, have they given you the Kiwis yet? You must’ve put in for that assignment, what, five years ago?”

“Nah, NAME REDACTED, they moved the goalposts on me again. Now I need another hundred new definitions before they’ll reconsider my transfer.”

At the time, I was reduced to using the term ‘screwed’ along with other more colourful, less-printable words to describe my predicament.

Happily, the coveted assignment obviously came to pass.

22. “I told the cops my speedometer was out of tune so I had no real concept of how fast I was going, but they weren’t having a bar of it.”

To not have a bar of something obviously means to either not believe the speaker or to not care about their plight. Unsure as to the origins, however it sounds musical given the mention of ‘bar’ and to not even have a bar of music would indeed mean having little interest in the song or, in this case, the perceived fib being told.

23. “So I’ll just rock in to the Ticketek office, grab our tickets, and then meet you guys at the gate.”

“Choice.”

To ‘rock in’ somewhere is often heard when describing either something that is done in the midst of a long list of things to do, or to elevate the status of the person doing the ‘rocking in’.

It’s describing you as if you are surrounded by such an aura of coolness or importance that, like a rock star, you crash a scene and cause a stir simply by your presence. Even if it’s just something as innocuous and unglamorous as, you know, hitting the laundrette.

24. Oh, that's another one! Laundrette. It's easy, though, as we/you* Americans call this a 'laundromat', although my first go round with the yellow pages here was making me panic. Not able to find any 'laundromats' listed, I was beginning to think I'd have no choice but to keep buying new clothes.

25. "Had Christmas with the rellies, then spent Boxing Day with my daughter at the beach."

As is probably obvious to all readers, 'relly' is short for 'relative'. Much like 'telly', short for 'television', relly is not known to be part of the present American lexicon.

26. “So there we were, in three metre swells, unable to fish for anything and still in sight of the coast!”

Shivers!”

“Yeah but things got better when wiser heads prevailed and we sailed back into the harbour.”

At first the only person heard to utter the word ‘shivers’ was the, um, girl who cuts my hair. It’s obviously in the spirit of other such exclamations, like ‘Gosh!’ or ‘Whoa!’ but to illustrate all similar such words is way beyond the scope of this entry.

Given that the girl was British in origin, it was initially thought that it was only fashionable to say this back in the UK. But have since heard it spoken by two other confirmed Kiwis who do not, to this agent’s knowledge, know his hairdresser.

So am lead to conclude that either, A) my hairdresser has a truly globe-spanning influence with her vocabulary (they do meet lots of people in their line of work, after all) or B) while it is a favourite phrase of hers it is overall an uncommon one and thus took a little longer than usual to corroborate.

Hmm. Just saw my reflection in the mirror, and shivers! It’s time for another haircut.

27. ‘Australian coach spits the dummy after Kiwis claim Rugby League World Cup title’.

That or something similar was how the headline ran in one of the papers the day after New Zealand’s boys did that very thing.

Curious as to the meaning of this phrase that had certainly never fallen on these ears (or eyes) back in the States, I have come to find that it describes when someone is so riled up about something they get carried away in a pique of whining, name-calling and blaming – much as the Aussie coach did after his side was humbled by the indomitable Kiwis.

Without getting into a sidelong discussion about the match, suffice to say it is never good to 'spit the dummy'. A dummy, and I believe this term is Australian in origin, refers to an infant’s binky or pacifier. To ‘spit’ it describes what usually precedes a crying jag or temper tantrum or both. While this is something we have all done as infants, on numerous occasions, it is bad form to grump about on this level as an adult.

Assuming, of course, that the individual in question can be considered an ‘adult’, as some people just never grow up.

28. “They can’t expect us to keep paying such high prices for petrol when their own costs per barrel have plummeted, can they? Surely not.”

Another elegant turn of phrase, ‘surely not’ is by no means anything remarkably unique. It is just a refreshing alternative to heavy hitters like ‘absolutely not’ or ‘hell no’.

29. “I mean, who gives a toss if she’s at your party? It must be nice to have all that money and always go to posh gigs and be seen swanning about. Won’t someone just end her?”

OK so there are a few good ones in there, but ‘swanning about’ really just nails it when describing someone vapid and vain, doing what they do in their high society ways.

No bitterness from this agent here! I mean, if it weren’t for my undercover status... well, I still couldn’t swan about because I couldn’t afford to.

Sigh.

On to the next one.

30. “All he has is a small biscuit for his breakfast, then he goes for a long walk in the afternoon before I give him his tea at night.”

A pause.

“You feed him tea?”

“Well of course I feed him tea! He’s got to eat sometime, doesn’t he? When do you think I should feed him instead? In the mornings?”

Discussion regarding a client’s pet dog, during which it finally dawned on me that ‘tea’ is a synonym for dinner – dog, human or otherwise.

Not sure of the origins, probably British of course, but that’s one more little mystery solved.

31. “Let me just put it all in a wee bag for you, dear.”

As you might imagine, something ‘wee’ is something small. Also used to describe a person, often a ‘wee lass’ or a ‘wee little chap’.

The very same word also describes urine or the act of making it, but I have yet to hear anyone say they’ve got to excuse themselves for a ‘wee wee’.

32. “Phone your order in today for your Rugby Sevens tickets and whack it on the plastic!”

Akin to the short, violent motion used to slide a credit card through that stubborn magnetic strip reader, to ‘whack’ something on there is suitably descriptive. I say this because, whenever I do this, I also envision my credit rating taking a big ‘whack’.

Savings account? What savings account?

33. “Meanwhile, we're down here doing all the hard yakka, and they’re the ones reaping all the benefits!”

Cannot recall the original conversation, but does it matter? I hold this definition to be self-evident.

Speaking of yakka, or hard yards, you’ve done quite a lot of it just to get this far in this report! Good on ya.

34. “It was a real yakker!”

Enthusiastically spoken as Zimbabwean agent Danie described, with not a little fondness, his memories of the time he got on a party bus in Christchurch.

He was actually referring to the scene at each of the pubs they would stop at. They would ‘bowl in’, have a drink or two, then get back onto the bus to be driven to the next pub in a series of about, oh, two dozen.

Very often, the population of the bus at the end of the night would be quite different from the one that set out on the bus earlier in the day. It was quite normal to lose a few passengers at each pub, only to then pick up replacements along the way. Drinking was allowed on the bus as well, so there really was no need to miss out on one second of the merriment.

I’d be shocked to learn if these things still happen, but if they do then consider this sentence this agent’s formal request for a transfer to the Christchurch branch, Party Bus Division.

Certainly the regulars on those buses must have a set of lingo all their own, different again from the rest of New Zealand’s? Would you want this now-seasoned agent to miss out on such a golden opportunity?

Surely not.
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* Identity crisis? What identity crisis? I'm undercover, man!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Kama said...

Just a quick note to let you know, the party bus culture is alive and kicking down here, and you should absolutely put in for that transfer ;-)

8:19 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Cheers, Kama!

I'll bring up the issue of the transfer at my next debriefing with Home Office.

And if asked, I'll deny this conversation ever took place. Secret agent stuff, you know =D

1:53 PM  

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