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Kiwi English: An Analysis

By SammyK on Tue, Jan 6th 09 at 12:10PM | Permalink | Comments (19)

The English of New Zealanders (Kiwis) is quite different from American English. To the untrained ear, Kiwi English sounds either British or Australian, but don't tell a Kiwi that!

After spending over a month in New Zealand, here's a few words I've learned:

Sweet as - This notoriously New Zealand. It's root form is "{adjective} as". "As" functions as an adverb like "very". So, "This hamburger is tasty as," is the same as saying, "This hamburger is very tasty."

Serviette - napkin. Which is also the word for "napkin" in Spanish, German, and French... and probably other languages as well.

Heaps {adjective} - Another way of saying "very". "This pad-thai is heaps tasty."

Cheers - Can be (and usually is) used as a replacement for, "thanks."

No worries - Basically a translation for, "you're welcome." Some people say this after every other sentence... it's annoying if you're not used to it.

Litter - We have this word in American English as well, but they use it differently here. It sounds fine in American English to say, "Don't litter," or "He littered everywhere." But we hardly ever call, trash "litter." Some trash cans are labeled with "litter" here.

Togs - swimming trunks

Gruts - underwear

Capsicum - bell pepper

Zed - Their way of saying the letter "z."

Eh - Pronounced like the letter "a." Used in the "traditional Canadian sense." Pretty interesting, eh?

The bush - the boonies

Tyre - Their way of spelling "tire." We figured this one out when we got a flat.

Hire - in American English, you can hire people, but not objects. Here you can hire speed boats, fences, canoes, and just about everything else that can be rented.

Mint - as in "the car is in mint condition," but they can use it to describe more than the condition of something as in, "We had a mint day."

Wee - small or little.

Queue - a line (like a checkout line at a grocery store.)

Torch - flashlight

Trolly - Shopping cart. Or as we say in Kentucky, a "buggie."

I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface of the differences between the American and Kiwi dialects. But this just showcases some of the linguistic variety that there is even between dialects of the same language.

And linguistic variety makes me happy.


nick waters wrote on January 6th 09 at 12:52PM
Thanks for the share; sweet lingo discoveries!

You mentioned not comparing "Kiwis" with "Aussies", why is that? Is there a wee bit of tension between the two?
Itinerant Londoner wrote on January 6th 09 at 01:50PM
Loads of these (serviette, litter, zed, tyre, hire, queue, torch, trolley) are the same in British English, and 'wee' comes from Scottish English.

Great post too - I have a kiwi flatmate here in London and all of this is very familiar (especially the 'eh'!). One you've missed though - all the kiwis in London I know call everyone 'bro'
Benny Lewis wrote on January 6th 09 at 04:09PM
Apart from what Londoner listed, in Ireland we also say cheers for thank you and "no worries" for your welcome. To me "hiring" a person sounds like what you do with a prostitute... and should be used more with objects :P
It gets even more complicated in Ireland since we use the words "bring" and "take" different to the rest of you...
"Wee" is a necessary word. How other English speakers get by without a diminutive confuses me! :P
Thanks for sharing!!
Anil wrote on January 7th 09 at 08:59AM
I've always been interested in Kiwi English and the differences between American, Brit, etc linguistics.

The history of the evolution of how those words diverged would be interesting.
Dustin wrote on January 7th 09 at 12:33PM
Bell peppers are actually not peppers, they are chiles. Any chiles called peppers is technically wrong. Columbus called them peppers by mistake. Capsicum is the latin for chile. So the Kiwis are spot on.
William wrote on January 8th 09 at 12:29AM
Also, a zucchini is called a Courgette. I asked where the zucchini were in a grocery store and the guy had no clue what I was talking about. Later he found me, excited because he figured out what I was looking for.

The Bush really refers to the woods, or forest. A guy I talked to said if I went on one trail I would be hiking in the bush the whole time.

Also, they say "Later I'll have a shower" or "I think I'll have a walk before dinner" rather than "Take a shower" or "Take a walk."

I've also heard a shopping cart called a "trundler."
Alicia wrote on January 8th 09 at 02:42PM
Aussies use a lot of those same words, actually. Except for Aussies say "mate" and Kiwis say "bro". Seemed pretty similar other than that. Enjoy NZ!
Nomadic Matt wrote on January 9th 09 at 03:31AM
i love kiwi speak....its heap good.
Shane wrote on January 9th 09 at 06:40PM
Your Kiwi sojourn puts you well on the way to learning 'strine (Australian). Heaps similar slang. Slightly different inflection on vowels but eh. Some Kiwi speakers sound very similar to Aussies. Some others, to the Aussie ear, sound quite different. We also say zucchini in Oz. Oh and wee is the same as... er... pee in Oz. No tension between Aussies and Kiwis, just a friendly rivalry. They refer to us as the West Island for example and we ignore the sheep shagging Kiwis mostly. There are more Kiwis in Sydney than in any other city except for Auckland apparently.
See ya later mate and happy travels.
Shane wrote on January 9th 09 at 06:50PM
Ooh, forgot a biggie for Oz, "shout". If you're in a pub and someone says "My shout" it means they're buying. It works both ways. "Your shout mate" means it is your turn to buy. Of course you don't have to go "shouts". Mainly used in pubs and bars but you can hear it anywhere you're buying something like food etc.
Beau Mitchell Photography wrote on January 10th 09 at 02:16AM
Beached as -

Cole wrote on January 10th 09 at 09:46PM
Where are all the videos from Argentina Sam? Was the tango to hot to post? Viva la videos!
Cole wrote on January 10th 09 at 09:48PM
SammyK wrote on January 10th 09 at 09:55PM
Thanks for all the comments on this one. I'm really happy that all you could contribute to the linguistic discussion. :)

@Cole: You know it, baby! Haha. Just kidding. The Argentina videos and explanations are coming later this month.
Tim M wrote on January 14th 09 at 07:52AM
You forgot about "bugger"!..that's one of my favorite ones I heard in NZ.
shane wrote on January 14th 09 at 08:08AM
Ah bugger... one of the words we in Oz have in common with the kiwis. This is an Oz tv commercial actually made in NZ that perfectly epitomises the usage of the word bugger
saltaran wrote on January 15th 09 at 04:24PM
When are u guys posting real Episodes? these minisodes suck!
xandra wrote on March 22nd 09 at 07:18PM
um you forgot jandals!!
My wrote on July 2nd 09 at 03:54AM
hey, im a kiwi and its good fun to read about what other people write about your way of speaking seeing as it is perfectly normal to me :P

liked what you wrote about it and the explanations are pretty much spot on but i do have one little disagreement.. a proper kiwi would never say "heaps tasty"

"Heaps" is not really an equivalent to very, it's more like saying lots

There's lots/heaps of Pad Thai

Love you lots/heaps

sorry to be all correcting and boring :P
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