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Kiwi Slang

New Zealand slang

When visiting out lovely country, it pays to know what the New Zealand slang. Your guide to 'Kiwispeak'.

One News: Kiwi Accent

When you visit New Zealand you will find a beautiful country, breath-taking scenery and friendly people. The Maori will share with you their culture and not laugh too hard when you try to get your tongue around some of the place names, and everywhere you go you will be treated in a polite and friendly manner. But strange things happen when you go down to the local pub for a drink with the regulars - all of a sudden they speak with foreign tongues - a sort of code - what does it all mean?
You go into a shop, the pub or hotel. You would expect "hello", wouldn’t you? Not here. You’ll probably be greeted with "Kia Ora" or "Gidday". Kia Ora being a form of Maori greeting and is usually followed by 'Kia ora, kei te pehea koe?' ( basically said as it looks). It's quite civil, simply hello, how are you? (Incidentally you are not expected to reply in the same tongue!)

Gidday is cow ‘cockie' talk. Much of the Kiwi (a New Zealander) lingo comes from either the Maori or farming groups. You will hear these people talk about the ‘girls’ (their cows), their ‘gummies’ (Wellington boots or galoshes), and the ‘better-half’ , ‘other half’ or missus, yes, the wife. The term depends on the mood SHE is in, I think. They will call you ‘mate’, or ‘cobber’, a ‘bro’ or a ‘cuz’, even if they don’t know you. They are all good terms - it just means the chap likes you. The term ‘ehu’ (pronounced Aho) is fine as well, that’s just a friend. If you are buying a beer you will want a ‘handle’ or a ‘jug’. You can get a glass ( 7 oz) but you’d have to ask.

It pays to be careful if you are taking directions from these locals, though. For example, if you ask where somebody lives, you are likely to hear, ‘just around the corner’, ‘just down the road’, ‘just over the hill’ or worse ‘next door’. That’s where the term ‘somewhere near Taupo’ comes from. Kiwis figure that to anyone that comes from a large continent such as America or Australia, anywhere in New Zealand, is near Taupo. Just remember that a country mile is as long as a piece of string, and you won’t be far wrong.

Shopping is a breeze. We do have supermarkets and loads of specialty stores. But if you are shopping for Kiwi friends, take a few notes. 'Spuds' are potatoes, ‘Vogels’ is a type of bread. You won’t find toheroa, tua tua, or kina, as they are a type of shell fish and you pick them off the beach. And if your kiwi friends say ‘let’s go get some mussels (or scallops) for the 'barbie’, they are talking about a trek over the rocks, not a trip to the shops. An extra note about the barbie, don’t be surprised if it is done as a hole in the ground - that’s a hangi, and a perfectly acceptable way of cooking food. It does taste wonderful. If you are wanting something particularly kiwi in the food line try the Vogels, hokey pokey ice-cream, vegemite, or Lemon and Paeroa.

The kiwis are a neat bunch. They will stand in the local in their gummies or their jandels (thongs), they wear togs, not a swimsuit, they will have a bevy or a tinnie (can of beer) and always invite you to join them. You’ll have to view a New Zealand Toyota advertisement to realize the significance of "bugger". Another great New Zealand advert - "you’ll always be a kiwi, if you love our Watties sauce", that’s tomato sauce and kiwis seem to pile it on everything. They are the masters of understatement, as one man was quoted when his house was under water "she’ll be right, mate". And you know, it usually is.
Well its off down to the shed, with a ‘get in behind’ to the dog, the girls need milking, so its into my gummies and ‘I’ll catch ya later’. That’s goodbye.

Reviews / Comments for Kiwi Slang

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This is a great overview. And quite helpful for an American in EnZed.

Don't mean to stick my hand up but I have a few additions and clarifications I'd like to see:

The verb "Fang" as in: I was fanging down the motorway when I saw the speed camera.

"Take the Mickey" I'm certain it's the same as "Take the Piss" but it's not something an American would be familiar with.

"American Hotdog" should be specified as a cold hotdog with shredded cheese and ketchup. An American hoping for a real hotdog would be a bit shocked to bite into one of those.

Under "Tomato" you give a pronunciation guide that might be misleading to Americans. In America we do not have the silent R, so pronouncing our Rs doesn't sound like "Ahh." It sounds like a pirate "Arrrrrrr." Might I suggest a pronunciation guide of "tom-Ah-toe" to avoid confusion.

Also, I'd like to suggest a pronunciation guide for "Tiki." Americans pronounce this like the Hawaiian word, which sounds like "Tee-kee." But the Maori word is pronounced "Tick-ee."


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