on dialects of english

My friend J once described something as being “kitty-corner” from a person in a restaurant, and I seriously thought she was making up random feline-words because she’s such a sucker for cats.

It turned out that kitty-corner (or catty-corner) is some Yankee slang for “diagonally opposite” – who knew?

I just thought of this as I was in a waiting room this morning with its attendant collection of rubbish magazines, one of which was the Reader’s Digest. Ah, the Digest, with its moralising stories of real-life bravery and unceasingly good clean jokes. When I was a kid and fancied myself the cleverest, I used to like those “Word Power” quizzes where you had to know the meaning of some tricky vocabulary word. Sometimes, however, they were completely beyond my ken, not ‘cos I wasn’t smrt, but because I wasn’t North American.

I am still fascinated and will yabber on boringly to people here, even after five years, about dialect differences. “Oh, we call it a such-and-such,” I say, and go on to make people’s eyes glaze over with the myriad ways in which sweets differ from candies differ from lollies (my term) which differ from ice lollies which are actually iceblocks, not popsicles. My fairly international set of friends provide hours of fun for my dialectical (haha) observations.

Wiki sez:

On New Zealand English.
Some NZ vocab words. Up the Boohai!
On Maori influence on NZ English, including some of my favourite phrases to use that result in blank stares:
taihoa: hold on a second, wait up
puku: belly, esp. when full
half-pai: pai = good. I had always thought this was half-pie, denoting something half-done or unfinished, but this makes much more sense.
Am suprised porangi is not on there, but maybe only the kids I grew up with delighted in using “crazy” as an insult.

Another guide to Kiwi slang, which is making me yearn to have a blog called “Waikikamukau Dispatches”.


4 responses to “on dialects of english

  1. I’ve never heard of half-pai!
    The one we used in general parlance (other than kia ora, more commonly pronounced “kyora bro!”) was “e noho ra”, and general reference to pakeha (which I still use in London, to general bemusement) and also whanau.

  2. My mum used to say “Look at this half-pai job you’ve done on cleaning your room/brushing your hair” etc etc.

    I had a friend who called the Warehouse the worry-forry (ware-whare), did you ever hear that?

  3. Nope.

    But this was back in the day of Stubbies, so The Warehouse hadn’t been invented yet.

  4. Wasn’t just you lot – we used porangi too. Now you’re just makng me home sick. Spit the dummy is still my favourite kiwi-ism, but, inexplicably, am still failing to make it catch on in CA.

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