What do you do when you don't understand something?
It's a strange question, sure. I can't speak for the rest of you, dear readers, but when I'm stumped, I usually study. Hard.
So when I realised I didn't have the foggiest notion what Kiwis were saying on a fairly regular basis, I decided to immerse myself in the culture. Read: I went straight to the nearest bar. Unfortunately, I emerged even more confused than I was before (that may have had something to do with the cosmos I may or may not have consumed).
READ MORE: • An immigrant's guide to Kiwi slang
However, I did gain further insight into the meaning of a few more "Kiwi-isms." Allow me to share a few of my gleanings.
• KIA ORA
One of the beautiful things about New Zealand is the frequency with which people will use Te Reo Māori in everyday conversation. The most famous example is probably "kia ora". It is also one of the most versatile phrases around. While it usually means "hello", it can also mean "goodbye" and "thank you". Confusing? Yes. But learn it. People will love you for it.
You'll hear this one more than almost anything else. It basically means "cool" or "great". Truthfully, it's a bit concerning. Every time I hear it, I still think someone or something has a short temper. Then again, roast beef can't be angry, right? I hope not, anyway. I also want to know who first came up with mean as a slang term. But I don't really want to meet them. Probably because I imagine they're, well, mean.
If something is "munted" then it's probably ruined. But it can also mean someone is very drunk or terribly ill. A good one to remember when out after dark.
I keep thinking it means "noggin," but really it's another way of referring to trail mix. You know, the snack you bring with you when going for a hike that usually consists of nuts, dried fruit, and maybe some chocolate all combined into one? Yeah, that. Buy why the Kiwi trail mix normally doesn't have M&Ms is a bloody shame. I'm disappointed.
Thank you. I don't use this one when talking to people at all. It's too short and sounds rude to me. But a lot of Kiwis think nothing of it. Then again, they also say "mean" a lot. Go figure.
"Great", "good" or - as you can probably guess - "beautiful". So why not just say beautiful? It's just lazy.
Kiwis have an interesting (and by interesting, I mean incredibly confounding) habit of tacking the word "as" onto the end of a sentence to make whatever it is they're talking about extra-important. Good as. Smart as. As garish as a plastic pink flamingo as. You get the idea. Warning: stay here too long and you'll start saying it all the time, too. Freaky as.
Rubber boots. The origin of their name truly mystifies me. Side note: the further south you go, the more often you see people wearing these. By the time you make it to Southland, you'll often see more gumboots than, well, shoes.
• HOT CHIPS
French fries. You might also hear the cup they're sometimes served in referred to as a "pottle". Sometimes the nuances of language truly boggles the mind.
A swimsuit. Which begs the question: why not just call it a swimsuit? Would be far simpler, yes?
These are flip-flops. Everyone in New Zealand seems to own at least four pairs, and will proudly wear them in any and all situations, regardless of the level of formality. In fact, they might just be the most famous clothing item associated with the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Candy. Not necessarily a short way of saying "lollipops". Don't make the same mistake I did and assume that's the case.
This one's a pretty bad insult, essentially meaning a person is stupid and/or useless. It also tends to set people off when you say it to them. Don't use it unless you're ready to get yelled at, possibly at a high volume and possibly while the person gets in your personal space a la Conor McGregor.
An acronym for "electronic funds transfer at point of sale". One of the great things about New Zealand is it's almost completely cashless - you can use a credit card or EFTPOS card (all New Zealand banks issue them when you open an account) basically anywhere. It's so ubiquitous, it really doesn't make much sense for every store, café, restaurant, et cetera to have a sign that says "EFTPOS available", since it's what one expects.
A toilet. I think it sounds gross to call it that because it conjures images of outhouses in rural places, so I'll keep calling it a toilet - or, as I sometimes do, the water closet (WC).
So that's some of what I've learned lately. I'm sure as I continue to exist in Aotearoa, I'll pick up even more of the local lingo. Or so I hope. Have to aim for something, right?
Anyway, my time's up. You've been great. Enjoy the kitesurfing around Mount Maunganui. Not that I've actually tried it.