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Yeah Na! The art of Kiwi Slang

Yeah Na! The art of Kiwi Slang

In the intricate tapestry of languag, slang is a vibrant thread, weaving together cultural expressions and idiosyncrasies.As an artist in New Zealand I see it as an art too!  Every society has its unique linguistic code, and New Zealand, with its rich cultural tapestry, is no exception.

Let's take a journey through New Zealand culture to uncover Kiwi slang, exploring its evolution from playful abbreviations to the contemporary trend of condensed language.

The ABCs of Modern Linguistic Brevity

In the digital age, slang has taken a turn towards brevity, with phrases like "F off" and "ATM" becoming commonplace. This linguistic shorthand, born out of the necessity of texting, has created a divide between those fluent in the art of abbreviation and those left deciphering the code. We'll delve into this phenomenon, examining how the need for quick communication has influenced the evolution of Kiwi slang.

Kiwi Lexicon: Where 'Togs' Meet 'Bathers'

Growing up in New Zealand, you quickly becomes familiar with unique terms that might leave outsiders scratching their heads. Take, for instance, the Kiwi word 'togs,' casually used for swimwear. However, an Australian visitor might find humour in this, referring to it as 'bathers.' for other countries and cultures, it's simply a 'swimsuit.' These linguistic variations add a layer of amusement to daily life and offer insights into the cultural exchange that occurs through language.

Bridging the Linguistic Gap

To decipher the Kiwi vernacular, we'll explore a selection of slang terms, unravelling their meanings and shedding light on the cultural context that makes each expression uniquely New Zealand. Understanding Kiwi slang is not just about words; it's an immersive experience of the vibrant expressions that define the Kiwi way of life.

Embark on this linguistic journey through the charming slang of Aotearoa, where words aren't just spoken—they dance with cultural significance, creating a symphony of shared laughter and mutual understanding.

Here's A List of Kiwi Slang

  • Ads - television commercials as in advertisements
  • Ankle-biter - a toddler or small child
  • Aotearoa - Maori name for New Zealand meaning land of the long white cloud
  • Arvo -  as in the afternoon
  • Bach –  for the north island, or crib if your south island, which means your holiday home 
  • Barbie - barbecue
  • Been on the Turps - Binge drinking
  • Big smoke - large town or city
  • Bit of dag - hard case, comedian, person with character
  • Bloke - man
  • Brickie - bricklayer
  • Brown eye - to flash your naked butt at someone
  • Boy-racer - a young man who drives a fast car with a loud stereo (Girl-racer, a girl one!)
  • Bring a plate - means bring a dish with some food on it to share
  • Bugger – exclamation of annoyance
  • Bungy - kiwi slang for elastic strap, as in Bungy Jumping
  • Caravan - mobile home that you tow behind your car
  • Cardi - cardigan or coverup with buttons
  • Cheers - thanks or thank you
  • Chocka – full or overflowing as in ate too much food or put too much in the rubbish bin 
  • Chook - chicken or fowl
  • Chick - slang word for woman/female
  • Chips - deep fried slices of potato but much thicker than a french fry
  • Chippy - builder, carpenter
  • Chrissy pressies - Christmas presents 
  • Chuddy - chewing gum
  • Chunder - vomit, throw up
  • Chur - Thanks
  • Cockie - farmer
  • Cuppa - cup of tea, as in cuppa tea
  • Cuz - cousin, family
  • Dag - Funny person
  • De facto - name used for a couple who are not married but are living together
  • Ding - small dent in a vehicle
  • Dole - unemployment benefit
  • Dodgy - bad, unreliable, not good
  • Down the gurgler - failed plan, ruined
  • Drongo – idiot, stupid person
  • Drop your gear - take your clothes off, get undressed
  • Dunny - toilet, bathroom, lavatory
  • Duvet – the warm cover on your bed, like a quilt or doona.
  • Ear bashing - someone talking incessantly or being told off
  • Entree – small meal before the main course as in an appetiser
  • Fizzy drink - soda pop
  • Flannel - wash cloth, face cloth
  • Flat - apartment, name for rental accommodation that is shared
  • Flicks - movies, picture theatre
  • Flog - steal, rob
  • Footie - rugby union or league, as in "going to watch the footie."
  • Full tit - going very fast, using all your power, as in "he was running full tit."
  • G'day - universal Kiwi greeting, also spelled gidday
  • Get the willies - overcome with trepidation
  • Going bush - take a break, become reclusive
  • Good on ya, mate! - congratulations, well done, proud of someone
  • Good as Gold - feeling good, not a problem, yes
  • Gumboots or gummies - rubber boots, wellingtons 
  • Handle - pint of beer
  • Happy as Larry - very happy, nothing to do with anyone called Larry either!
  • Hard case - amusing, funny person
  • Hard yakka - hard work 
  • Home and hosed - safe, successfully finished, completed
  • Hoon - Young adult driving fast like a boy-racer
  • Hosing down - heavy rain, raining heavily
  • Hottie - hot water bottle  or someone who you really fancy
  • How's it going mate? - kiwi greeting
  • Iceblock - popsicle, Ice Stick 
  • Jandals - thongs, sandals, flip-flops, those rubber things you wear to the beach
  • Judder bar - speed bump
  • Jumper - sweater, jersey
  • Kiwi - New Zealander
  • Kiwifruit - Brown furry-skinned fruit, Zespri, Chinese Gooseberry 
  • Kick the bucket - die or pass away 
  • Knackered - exhausted, tired, lethargic, extremely tired 
  • Knuckle sandwich - a fist in the teeth, punch in the mouth
  • Laughing gear - mouth, as in wrapping your laughing gear around this, eat it
  • L&P - Fizzy soda water made in Paeroa New Zealand
  • Lift - elevator
  • Lolly – sweets or candy, not usually chocolate, though
  • Loo - bathroom, toilet
  • Long drop - outdoor toilet, hole in the ground
  • Lurgy - flu
  • Mad as a meat axe – crazy or insane
  • Main - primary dish of a meal
  • Maori - indigenous people of New Zealand
  • Mate - buddy
  • Motorway - freeway
  • Naff off - go away, get lost, leave me alone
  • Nana - grandmother, grandma
  • Nappy – babies’ diaper 
  • North Cape to the Bluff - from one end of New Zealand to the other
  • OE - Overseas Experience, many students go on their OE after finishing university, see the world
  • Offsider - an assistant, someone’s friend
  • Old bomb - old car
  • Oldies - parents
  • On the never never - paying for something using layby, not paying straight away
  • Open slather - a free-for-all
  • Pack a sad - bad mood, morose, ill-humoured, broken , as in "she packed a sad"
  • Pakeha – Maori name for a non-Maori person
  • Panel beater - auto repair , panel 
  • Pav - pavlova, meringue type dessert usually topped with kiwifruit and cream
  • Perve - to stare especially at the opposite sex
  • Petrol - gasoline, gas
  • Piece-of-piss - easy, not hard to do, as in "didn't take me long to do, it was a piece of piss" 
  • Pikelet - small pancake usually had with jam and whipped cream
  • Piker - someone who gives up easy, slacker 
  • Pinky - little finger
  • Piss around - waste time, muck around
  • Pisshead - someone who drinks a lot of alcohol, heavy drinker
  • Piss up - party, social gathering, excuse for drinking alcohol
  • Pissed off - annoyed, angry, upset
  • Plonk - cheap liquor, cheap wine
  • Pong - bad smell, stink (Rotorua pongs with sulpher in the air!)
  • Pram - baby stroller, baby pushchair
  • Pressie – present or gift
  • Pub - bar or hotel that serves liquor
  • Pudding - dessert 
  • Pushing up daisies - dead and buried
  • Quack - Medical doctor
  • Rark up - telling somebody off
  • Rattle your dags - hurry up, get moving
  • Rellies - relatives, family
  • Root - have sex, get sex
  • Ropeable - very angry
  • Rubbish - garbage, trash
  • Rust bucket - decrepit motor car
  • Scarce as hens teeth - very scarce, rare item
  • Scarfie - university student particularly in Dunedin where it’s really cold
  • Scull - consume, drink quickly, usually alcohol
  • Scroggin - trampers high energy food including dried fruits, chocolate
  • Serviette - paper napkin
  • Shandy – a drink made with lemonade and beer
  • Shark and taties - fish and chips
  • Sheila -  woman/female
  • Shit a brick - exclamation of surprise or annoyance, scared
  • Shoot through - to leave suddenly
  • Shout - to treat, to buy something for someone, as in "lunch is my shout."
  • Sickie - to take a day off work or school because you are sick 
  • Skite - to boast, boasting, bragging
  • Snarler - sausage
  • Sook - cry baby, wimp
  • Sparkie - electrician 
  • Sparrow fart - very early in the morning, sunrise
  • Sprog – baby or young child
  • Spud - potato
  • Squiz - take a quick look
  • Steinie - bottle of Steinlager, brand lager
  • Strapped for cash - low on cash, no money, broke
  • Stubby – a small glass bottle of beer
  • Sunday driver - someone who drives very slow
  • Sunnies - sunglasses
  • Sweet as - Cool, awesome, no problem
  • Ta - thanks, thank you
  • Taking the Piss - Joking/making fun of
  • Take-aways - food to be taken away and eaten, fast food outlet
  • Tea - evening meal, dinner 
  • Tiki tour - scenic tour, take the long route 
  • Togs - swimsuit, bathing costume 
  • Torch - flashlight
  • Tramping - hiking
  • Up the duff - pregnant
  • Ute - small pickup truck
  • Veges - vegetables
  • Wally - clown, silly person
  • Whinge - complain, moan
  • Wobbly - to have a tantrum 
  • Wop-wops - situated off the beaten track, out of the way location
  • Yack - to have a conversation with a friend, to talk
  • Yes but can you handle the jandal?  Translation: Can you deal with the situation?
  • You’re such an egg. Meaning, you’re such a clown.

Kiwi As, painting of jandals on a beach by Collette Fergus 

Jandals or flip-flops, rubber footwear. Painting by Collette Fergus

Conclusion: Harmonising with Kiwi Slang

As we journeyed through the linguistic landscape of Aotearoa, it became evident that Kiwi slang is not just a collection of words; it's a vibrant expression of culture, humour, and shared experiences. From the dynamic evolution of slang, influenced by the digital age's brevity, to the unique lexicon where 'togs' meet 'bathers,' each term carries a slice of Kiwi identity.

The exploration of modern linguistic brevity revealed the impact of quick communication needs on the formation of Kiwi slang. The divide between those fluent in abbreviations and those deciphering the code mirrors the ever-changing nature of language in the digital era.

When we examine the Kiwi language, it provides glimpses into New Zealanders daily life, where linguistic variations add layers of amusement and contribute to cultural exchange. By unravelling the meanings of select slang terms, we gained insights into the colourful expressions that define the Kiwi way of life.

Embarking on this linguistic journey, we discovered a symphony of shared laughter and mutual understanding. From 'ads' to 'yack,' each term contributes to the unique melody of Kiwi slang, creating a harmonious blend that resonates with the essence of New Zealand's identity.

In the world of Kiwi slang, words aren't just spoken; they dance with cultural significance, fostering a sense of community and pride. So, whether you find yourself in the 'wop-wops' or at a casual 'barbie' with mates, the Kiwi linguistic symphony invites you to join in, celebrate, and embrace the richness of Aotearoa's colloquial expressions. After all, navigating the jandal-filled path of Kiwi slang is a delightful journey into the heart of New Zealand's linguistic charm.

Feel free to 'drop me a line' (get in touch) if you have any additions to add to this list. Language is always evovling and there will often be new words.


Posted: Monday 13 December 2010


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