Tag Archives: phrases

1694. Mum’s not the word

Some time ago, 11 August 2017 to be exact,  I posted about how sometimes living in different countries with the same language we presume that every word and phrase means the same. Some found it interesting, so I’m going to dig up another handful. I’ve lived only in Quebec, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Zealand, so it’s not improbable that some words and phrases are also used in other places.

1. Quite
It took me thirty years to realize this, but when New Zealanders say “quite” we don’t quite mean the same as Americans. I realized this when I had an American friend visit and my sister invited us both to dinner. At the end of the meal my American friend thanked my sister and said the meal was “quite good”. My sister said to me later that he could at least have said the meal was nice.

As I understand now “quite good” in American means something is very good. In New Zealand, “quite good” means that really it could’ve been a lot better but I’m saying “quite good” to be polite. If something is “quite good” or “quite nice” then it’s struggling to be average.

2. Ta
“Ta” means “thank you” and is heard a lot more often than “thanks” or “thankyou”. It’s said like “tar” with a short A.

“Could you pass the sugar please.”
Henrietta passes the sugar.

Speaking of sugar, I once said at table “Sugar please”, and the voluptuous blonde answered, “Is that a request or a term of endearment?”

Ta is not to be confused with “ta ta” which is a little kid’s way of saying goodbye.

“Say ta ta to grandma.”

3. Wop wops
Living in the wop wops means living beyond the black stump (as I think they say in Australia) or living in the boonies (as I think they say in America). I used to think that when Americans used “living in the boonies” they were saying “living in the bunnies” so naturally I took it to mean they were living a long long way out of town.

My Aunty Flo (hands up those who don’t have an Aunty Flo) was a raging extrovert and when she came to visit us from the city she would go on and on about how she was visiting the wop wops. As a little kid I was transfixed.

4. Bach
This word is pronounced “batch” – so it’s not the composer. I presume it comes from the phrase “Bachelor Pad”. A bach is a beach house (usually not very fancy) that a family (if they can afford it) lives in during weekends or holiday breaks. There is a difference between the term used in the North Island and what is used in the South Island (New Zealand is made up of two main islands). North Islanders call it a “bach” and South Islanders call it a “crib”. I have no idea what they call it anywhere else in the world, but if you know…

The only other trans-island difference in New Zealand English that I can think of is the word “couch” – that invasive grass that once you’ve got it in your garden it’s there to stay. North Islanders are inclined to call it “couch” and South Islanders are inclined to call it “twitch”. I have no idea what they call it anywhere else in the world, but if you know… Apparently both “couch” and “twitch” are variations of the Scottish word “quitch” for the wretched pest.

5. Jandals
Jandals are what Australians call “thongs” and some other countries call “flip flops”. I have not a great idea as to who calls what where. Jandals is short for Japanese sANDALS. Apart from Ernest Rutherford splitting the atom, Jandals are New Zealand’s sole contribution to Western Civilization. That and the automatic postal stamp vending machine – which has fast become obsolete because of email.

When I broke my ankle and had 4 pins screwed in, I was wearing jandals at the time. These days the foot is so deformed that I cannot fit into a shoe, but I do fit in when need be to a large pair of:

6. Gumboots
I think some other countries call them wellingtons, or galoshes – you’ll know what you call them from the picture. Galoshes for me are quite different; they are a rubber sheath that one pulls over the top of regular shoes when it’s rainy or muddy. So I’d be interested to know what you call both of these things in your country. When I was growing up on a dairy farm we lived in our gumboots. The back door would usually have a dozen or so pairs of gumboots of different heights and sizes all higgledy-piggledy so that mother would say nine times a day “Pick up those gumboots before someone trips on them.”

7. Dag
A dag is a bit of dried you-know-what hanging off the wool on a sheep’s bottom. When the sheep runs along the dags rattle. This gives rise to the common expression “Rattle your dags” which means “Get a hurry on”.

The other common use of the word dag is in such expressions as “What a dag!” or “She’s a dag”. It can refer to an amusing person or event. “She’s a dag!” would amount to the same as “What a character!” and “What a dag!” would amount to the same as “That’s very funny!”

8. Pack a sad
As far as I can see the expression “Pack a sad” is not universally used, but is common over here. If I’m wrong I’d be happy to be corrected. “Pack a sad” means “Throw a tantrum”.

And then the teacher packed a sad.
There’s no need to pack a sad just because I smashed up your car.

That’s enough for one day. Thanks for reading, and I hope you found the occasional thing a bit of a dag.

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!