Kiwi Vocabulary: The Good Bits

Here is a list of excellent words and phrases I learned in New Zealand and now intend on incorporating into my vocabulary.

“No worries”: Kiwis apologize for minor transgressions about as often as Minnesotans do. “Sorry, I reached the door first!” “Sorry, I gently nudged you while standing in line!” “Sorry, I was looking at your hair for too long!” The Minnesotan response is also “Sorry.” The Kiwi response, which makes way more sense, is “No worries.” I like how it acknowledges that a wrong has been committed while simultaneously brushing it off.

Cattery: Literally just a place where you keep your cat when you go on vacation. At first I thought this was a little overly sensitive – can’t you just open up some cans and hope? That’s the perk of cats, right? They poop in a box? – but then I realized that Kiwis tend to go on vacation for a really long time, since they are on the other side of the world from pretty much everything, and they are kind folk, and so yes, catteries are necessary. I was disappointed to learn that dogs are however still kept at a kennel.

Sparky: Also a cat-related phrase, as it was the name of the cat at our second WWOOF site. “She used to play with the cords on all our electronics when she was a kitten,” said Paz the hostess, fondly stroking her cat’s electrified-looking fur. “Just like a sparky.” So… an electrician, but adorable.

Sunnies: Your sunglasses. Totally necessary in NZ, as the sun is actually stronger there, I mean it literally is, I mean all the hairspray everyone used in the 80s burned a hole through the ozone right above NZ, so don’t forget your sunnies (though I did all the time, and thus one of my souvenirs is a permanent squint).

“Skull it”: “Everyone chug your drinks very quickly, we’re out of here.”

Style-y / stylie: Like many words in New Zealand, this adjective can be spelled different ways, but both of them are just a cuter way of calling someone very pulled-together. Sample line from a student’s story: “You’re looking so style-y!” (Related: about halfway through our fellowship my poet counterpart / housemate Nikki-Lee and I became exasperated with each and every piece of clothing in our jam-packed suitcases. We tried trading, but it didn’t work: stylie or style-y seemed utterly unachievable, however you spelled it. That suitcase is one reason I am glad to be home.)

The winner, which seems writing-related but isn’t:

“Lost the plot”. I loved this every time I heard it, but my favorite time was from our hostess, a lovely little woman with gray hair and cat-eye glasses and a voice like Mrs. Potts. She was cooking dinner but one component of it was taking forever and so while waiting she’d had like three glasses of white wine. I just have this distinct image of her turning around in the kitchen and going, “Well, girls, dinner’s coming, but it’ll be a bit odd – I fear I’ve rather lost the plot…”

Forthcoming: a list of words I certainly do not intend on using, ever, ever again.

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