1111. A gidday and a cheerio

Gidday. As some of you know, when it comes to a significant number, in this case Story 1111, I like to depart a little from the usual. However, I hope there is something here of interest.

I am a New Zealander, but lived, studied, and worked for some time in North America, namely Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Quebec. I don’t know much about what happens in other places, but there is a presumption that some words mean the same when in fact they don’t! We might read each other’s writings and presume we know what is meant by certain words. This posting will give a few examples.

1. Tea and Supper
Visitors to New Zealand from North America get caught out. Someone might say: “Tea is at 5.30 and we have supper about 9.30”. The guests can’t believe how much is devoured at 5.30. They politely nibble and await 9.30 for supper. Supper time comes and it’s a cup of tea! Tea is the main evening meal. Supper is a cup of tea or milk chocolate or even a wee nip of brandy or whatever before bed. A lot of New Zealanders would think that “The Last Supper” would not be a meal.

2. Rooting
One hears an American cheerleader declare that she is “rooting for the team”. “Rooting” in New Zealand is the colloquial expression for “having sex”.

3. Boots and Bonnets
In New Zealand:

A car’s trunk is a boot.
A car’s hood is a bonnet.
Gas is petrol.
A service station or a gas station is a petrol station.
Swiss chard is silver beet.
Rutabaga is swede.
A crib is a bassinet.
A diaper is a nappy.
A speed bump is a judder bar.
A rectory is a presbytery.
Ground meat is mince.
A chicken is a chook.
A bell pepper is a capsicum.
American football is gridiron.
Field hockey is hockey. Ice hockey is “ice hockey” and never simply “hockey”.
Rugby is football.
Football is soccer.
A woollen pullover is a jersey.
If you’re pissed off, you’re annoyed; if you’re pissed, you’re drunk.
French fries are chips.
Chips are chippies. A chippy is not a bimbo! A chippy is not a fish and chip shop! A chippy, if not edible, is a carpenter!
A baguette is a French roll. And on that note, most donuts and bagels made in New Zealand are horrible. Most donuts and bagels made in the States are to die for!
A dumpster is a skip.
Jello is jelly.

4. No and Yes
When I was in Boston I was known as the person who said “No” for “Yes”, and “Yes” for “No”.

Supposing I was dining at someone’s place in Boston:

Host: Would you like some more?
Me: Thanks.

And they would take my plate away because they took it to mean “No thanks”. Generally speaking, I found Americans say “Please” if they want a second helping. New Zealanders always say “Thanks” for more and “No thanks” for no more.

5. You’re welcome
The expression “You’re welcome” is creeping into New Zealand parlance. The more common (and older) expression in response to a person’s thanks is “No worries”:

“Thanks for doing the dishes.”
“No worries.”

Ending a phone call was always a bother for me when in America:

Me: Thanks.
American: You’re welcome.
Me: Thanks.
American: You’re welcome.
Me: Thanks.
American: You’re welcome.
Me: Thanks.
American: You’re welcome.

In the end I would hang up feeling uncomfortable, because “Thanks” in New Zealand acts as an ending. I never realised this until I got stuck on the phone!

6. Gidday and Cheerio.
“Cheerio” for “goodbye” is disappearing I think, but “Gidday” is still here! When I was in Boston everyone would say “Cheerio” to me with a slight plum in their accent! They were taking the mickey out of me because I grew up with “Cheerio” as an expression for “See you later!”

When I was a kid, “Hi!” was regarded as very American; sort of in the same ilk as “Howdy”. Then “Hi!” took over the world!

7. Cheers and Have a nice day.
These are expressions I never grew up with and am uncomfortable with them to this day! Cheers! was used as a toast before an alcoholic drink and that’s okay; now “cheers” seems to have the added connotation of “thanks” or “goodbye”.

What I don’t like about “Have a nice day” is the word “nice”. Nice is such a below average concept. If I say something is “nice” I really mean it is horrible but I’m being polite. “Quite nice” is even worse.

8. Salad and Main
When I first landed in LA, everything was exciting. I was on my own and hungry. I found a place to eat and ordered. The waitress asked if I wanted a salad. I said yes. The salad came out, and I waited and waited for my meal to arrive. In the end I ate the salad and then the meal came out. In New Zealand we pile the salad onto the plate with everything else. Sometimes the salad is in a separate dish but only if you want to have “a touch of class”. It’s not eaten first or separately. The first time I saw salad in a separate dish was at a restaurant with my elderly mother. She said, “How are meant to eat this politely?”

An entrée is served before the main course. It is not the main course.


9. Bills and checks
In America in a restaurant one asks for the check and pays with a bill. In New Zealand one asks for the bill and pays with a cheque. Of course these days one just waves a bank card!

10. Tipping
In New Zealand there is no tipping. In the United States, I would worry the whole time, trying to work out how much to tip – getting a haircut, eating a meal… In New Zealand, the tip is included in the bill (oops! check). So don’t pay twice!

11. Cookies and biscuits
The term “cookie” is not used in New Zealand. It’s called a biscuit. In North Carolina, say in Taco Bell, a biscuit was some sort of bread, shaped like a scone. I said, “I’m sorry but I ordered a biscuit and not a scone”.



12. Eftpos
Since the late 80s New Zealanders have paid by Eftpos (Electronic funds transfer at point of sale). Cash can still be used if you have any. Some parts of the world still use the EFTPOS system sparingly, but here it covers the entire country. I haven’t used cash money for maybe ten years. I think a different word other than Eftpos is used in some places overseas, but I don’t know what it is. In New Zealand everyone calls it eftpos.

13. Cornmeal, cornflour and corn starch
These days I get muddled with these terms. There was a time when I knew… Cornflour in New Zealand is the fine stuff, so if you’re in the Americas and using a New Zealand/Australian recipe to make a pavlova, then use the corn stuff you might use to thicken gravy!

Conversely, if you’re in New Zealand and making something from an American recipe, don’t presume that all cornmeal is the coarse stuff. If you’re in New Zealand and the recipe calls for corn starch, use cornflour!

14. Knives and forks
Until I went to America I’d never used a fork politely in my right hand. If as kids we used the fork bent upwards we would be told to stop shovelling the food. No! The fork was held in the left hand, the knife in the right. The fork was bent down which made it almost impossible to eat peas! We still usually use the knife and fork this way.

15. Pumpkin
Pumpkin is a vegetable, along with potatoes and so on. Pumpkin pie is beginning to creep in, but more as a novelty and a slightly exotic foreign thing to do. Most of my family wouldn’t touch pumpkin pie: “Yuk! It’s a vegetable!” Personally I love it!

In the long run, no one gives a hoot – the world has grown so small. But these are some of the words and phrases and doings that I have come across that lend confusion to our wonderful world. It’s probably enough until Story 2222.

Have a nice day! And cheerio for now!

28 thoughts on “1111. A gidday and a cheerio

  1. Sarah Angleton

    You’re right. The world is growing smaller. I knew a lot of these, but some I didn’t. I will definitely think twice the next time I want to root for my favorite sports team. I like them and all, but there are boundaries I don’t wish to cross. Have an absolutely wonderful day! Is that any better than quite nice?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yvonne

    That was fun to read. After 50 years in Australia, I still find myself using a few Canadian expressions, and haven’t yet reconciled to calling cookies biscuits. I LOVE pumpkin pie. Have an above average day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Fifty years in Australia? You came over when you were 3?
      Thank you for the above average day wish: I hope your day is not too full of the usual crap! I think the cookies/biscuits thing is so engrained since babyhood that it is impossible to make a complete swap. I also find it amazing how many words and expressions Australia has pinched from New Zealand!!


  3. Shubha Athavale

    That was a wonderful read Bruce and I was smiling and nodding away….
    In our first week in Australia a storekeeper said “Tah” when I handed him money and then a few months later I realised he meant to say “Thanks” and in India we’d say “pardon” when we didn’t catch what someone said, nowadays in Australia I hear people saying “sorry?”
    Have a fantastic day Bruce. It’s 23 degrees here in August!!!! What will spring be like?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. arlingwoman

    I love this language stuff. A while back I had to ask Derrick what ‘whitebait’ was because he was eating it and I was wondering, ‘smelt? sardines? bait minnows?’ It’s so much fun to find out the different terms for things in different places. And of course, frankly, scones are just dressed up biscuits…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      It’s funny because I’m not 100% sure if “whitebait” in the UK is the same as whitebait in New Zealand. Here they’re little see through fish about 1/2 an inch long that have a black eye that stares at you when you eat them in a fritter. Language is a fascinating thing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. chrisnelson61

    Good to know that you haven’t deviated too much from the ‘Old Country’! I quite like the differences we get over here in dialect: where I grew up a parting was often accompanied with ‘ta-ra a bit’ (quaint, eh?). I only live about 15 miles from where I was raised, but I haven’t ever heard this used where I live. Maybe it’s just age!
    One bug-bear I have is the current obsession with answering a question with the word ‘yes’ –
    as in “How are you today?”
    Don’t know what that’s all about.
    Anyway, ta-ra a bit, and take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Yes – we are still tied a lot to mother’s apron strings when comes to language. I’ve forgotten about the ta-ra – I haven’t heard that since I was a kid. Also “toodle-roo”*. My bug-bear is not the “yes” but the raising of the voice at the end of every sentence as if it’s a question!
      * Also “tooda-loo” and “toodle-pip”!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. umashankar

    What an essay for your 1111th post! It gripped me with a force that was felt again at rereading. At this point, I am not sure whether to say please or thanks but I surely want to thank you for being there, Bruce! It was hilarious to go through your miseries across the globe due to quixotic phraseology peculiar to regions and times. I will eagerly await for Number 2222!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Andrea Stephenson

    Great fun Bruce, not surprisingly many of our words are the same as yours in New Zealand – though I don’t think rooting figures anywhere in our vocabulary! I hate the modern use of ‘cheers’ – I don’t know why but it really irritates me, and I always try to avoid ‘nice’ when I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      Thanks, Andrea. I knew a lot of the words were the same in the UK, but not having lived there I couldn’t really speak for it. There is a punctuation exercise in NZ (rarely used): Punctuate – “The Kiwi eats roots and leaves.”



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