The Dominion Post
OSLO: Green and beautiful
As an American about to celebrate her sixth year living in beautiful Aotearoa, it’s fitting to highlight 10 of my favourite phrases that I’ve only ever heard in this neck of the woods. Kiwis are nothing if not ingenious in all life matters. From a DIY-spirit buried in their bones, to all manner of verbal linguistics that could originate from a deeply unique island nation near the bottom of the world.
Kia ora, mate
Wow, what a beautiful, poignant phrase. An informal Ma¯ ori greeting used by many here, it means ‘‘be healthy’’ and can be used to say hello, thank you, or goodbye. It’s a little phrase that expresses a lot, acknowledging someone in a beautiful simple way. Let’s use it more.
Grab your togs
The first time I heard the word togs, it was a piping hot summer’s day in Wellington with no wind (honestly), when everyone was skipping work to head straight to the beach.
I think I said ‘‘what?’’ a half-a-dozen times before someone explained togs mean swimsuits.
She’ll be right
Who will be alright? Me? You? The world? Depending on the tone and/or speaker, I’ve interpreted this to mean when things are in the gutter, actually it’ll all be OK. Or, when I’ve cobbled together something in a very haphazard way, I think yes, this will do.
It’s fitting that I’m writing this from my favourite wee bach on the coast where I escape to once a year to write, do some deep creative thinking, and thoroughly enjoy an outdoor toilet filled with spiders the size of a small child.
A quintessentially Kiwi phenomenon, a bach is what I like to think of as a cobbled-together holiday house to run off to. And down at the bottom of the South Island, we call them cribs. Don’t ask me why.
Good as gold
Kiwi slang for ka pai, everything is fine, all good, don’tcha worry mate, no worries – the delightful phrase ‘‘good as gold’’ peppers many a conversation here, adding a layer of depth and beauty to an otherwise very average phrase.
Harking back to the Gold Rush era of the South Island, it’s lived on in our diction to this day. Just kidding; I made that up.
Hey? Eh? Aye?
A question mark manifested into real life. If said at the end of a sentence, it often implies a question, like you’re waiting for someone to agree or disagree with you. Or it can mean, ‘‘pardon?’’
Nowadays, with the younger generations, it’s almost like a filler word at the end of a sentence.
For example, when you’re thinking and you just say ‘‘like’’ many times, to the annoyance of any adult in the vicinity. Oh, just me then?
Rattle your dags, girl
I beg your pardon! I’ve been privileged to have this command hollered at me more than once, having spent a fair amount of time on high-country sheep stations around the South Island.
It means ‘‘get a move on’’. Imagining the pooencrusted fleece that rattles around on a sheep’s bum when they run, I would have loved to have been next to the farmer who yelled out this phrase in a fit of inspiration.
Is it yes or is it no? I’m unclear. Wait, instead of confusing the rest of the world with their flippant use of ‘‘yeah, nah’’ perhaps New Zealand has stumbled on the most perfect answer of all, a choice phrase that conveys a softened blow of ‘‘no’’, interpreted however the listener chooses, or meaning, ‘‘yes, I agree, but actually no, I don’t’’.
A miracle phrase, in which you can’t be blamed for the interpretation.
Spin some yarns
I love a good yarn. Whether it’s a long, fanciful, drawn-out, rather questionable story (no, Bob, I don’t believe you saw a Fiordland moose), or just hanging around catching up, a yarn is a phrase slowly forgotten by the rest of the world but longlived in the pubs of Aotearoa in winter.
What a crack up!
A bloody good laugh, mate, or someone who is extremely hilarious, who causes you to crack up with laughter. Like hopefully you are now.