More fun with Kiwi slang

Decades ago, when I was ‘flatting’, one of my flatmates (roomies) was American – direct from Brattleboro, Vermont, in fact – and took huge delight in making jokes about the differences between American English and New Zild slang.

Needless to say the Kiwi contingent of the flat (apartment) joined with great glee. Phrases like ‘can I borrow a rubber’ (eraser) suddenly became hilarious. And some Kiwi terms are pretty funny anyway when you think about them. Here’s a sample:

Sweet as. Not actually a complement about someone’s bottom. It’s a contraction of ‘Sweet as a nut’, meaning ‘it’s good’ or ‘I’m happy with that’.
Up the duff. Scatological, inherited from Britain. Means ‘pregnant’.
Hottie. A hot water bottle, used to pre-warm a bed in pre-electric blanket days.
Having a quiet one. Drinking only one or two bottles of beer instead of the usual 48.
Eh. Filler word used to end a phrase, similar to the Canadian ‘Eh’, but in origins probably a borrow word from Te Reo Maori.
She’ll be right. ‘I’m happy with that’.
Yeah, right. Means the previous statement was sarcastic and meant the opposite. Focus of a major beer advertising campaign.

English is such a funny language sometimes. Do you have any quirky terms you’d like to share?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

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19 comments on “More fun with Kiwi slang

  1. jjspina says:

    These are hilarious, Matthew! Got a laugh out of ‘up the duff.’ The rubber one was funny too! American English is incredible with its double entendre. Example: It was an emotional wedding. The wedding cake was in tiers.

    Here is joke for you: Why can’t you hear the pterodactyl go to the bathroom? (answer: the ‘p’ is silent)

  2. Wasn’t it G.B. Shaw who noted that the Americans and the English (and, presumably, the Kiwis and the Aussies into the bargain) are two peoples separated by a common language?

    I remember reading that American soldiers in England during WW2 had a time with phrases like “When shall I knock you up?”

    One of my favorite etymological arguments revolves around the phrase “the whole nine yards.” Does it refer to the length of a belt of .50-cal. ammunition fed into a WW2 fighter plane’s ammo trays? If so, why is it (as I read somewhere) that the earliest traceable reference to the phrase was in the early 1960s? (Besides, wouldn’t it depend on how many rounds/gun the plane carried, which varied from one to another?)

    Good post!

    • It’s a funny thing in NZ, but we used to speak American English in the early-mid nineteenth century. Brought in by whalers. Only later did we rush towards the “Queen’s English”. Meanwhile, a lot of Te Reo Maori infused itself into the language. Though I think the latest generation have become more Americanised again. My favourite Te Reo ‘borrow word’ is ‘tutu’, meaning ‘mischieviously tinker with’. If something doesn’t work, we often say, ‘did you tutu with it?’

      I hadn’t heard where ‘the whole nine yards’ comes from – a fascinating potential etymology. I certainly wouldn’t have thought an ammo belt length was consistent in aircraft.

  3. EagleAye says:

    Haha! Love it. I like to keep a hottie in my bed as much as possible. ;)

    Lush: Someone who drinks too much
    Flush: Having a lot of money.
    Loaded: Could mean drunk or could mean has a lot of money. You might enter a bar loaded, and come out loaded, but much poorer.

    I’m still trying to understand who’s idea it was to call something you park on, a driveway, and something you drive on, a parkway. I think someone was loaded when he thought this up.

    In the US many like to call Bud Light, ‘beer,’ but the rest of the world calls it ‘bottled water.’ I can’t even get a buzz from it. The stuff is so foul I don’t even try anymore. This guy once insisted that Bud Light is the strongest beer. So I had him sample some of my preferred beers. He was snockered after a single glass!

    • My wife threw all our hotties out after they perished… :-) Apropos beer, I never could understand Budweiser – I mean, why ruin perfectly good beer by adding wood chips during the process? Though there is a worse beer. Years ago, my friends and I set up a ‘San Miguel’ society – we’d get together with a can each of various obscure beers and have tastings. The entry bar was that you had to first drink a whole can of San Miguel, a beer, we insisted, which had been “personally passed” by the Phillipine President…

      Snockered – now that’s a good bit of slang! Our Kiwi equivalent is ‘schickered’. Very evocative & no mistaking the meanings either way!

  4. vickyadin says:

    There are dozens like these, aren’t there Matthew. As a newbie pre-teen back in the 60s arriving in New Zealand the confusing ones were, Bring a plate, she’ll be right, and gumboots (not wells as they were in England) along with bro, cus, and mate.

  5. Maggie J says:

    I’m a big fan of british TV so I’ve grown accustomed to their slang, but the “up the duff” made me laugh. I think I’ve heard this before, and I thought it was a reference to sex, in the rear, but with this new bit of info, im ever so confused. still, very funny, thanks for the laugh

    • It’s definitely a funny phrase…in every sense of the word. It was once used in the meaning I’ve given on an episode of Xena, many years ago. The Kiwi audience would have mostly ‘got’ it. Not sure about the same in the US though.

  6. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I always love learning this oddball kind of stuff.

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