Gidday. As some of you know, when it comes to a significant number, in this case Story 1111, I like to depart a little from the usual. However, I hope there is something here of interest.
I am a New Zealander, but lived, studied, and worked for some time in North America, namely Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Quebec. I don’t know much about what happens in other places, but there is a presumption that some words mean the same when in fact they don’t! We might read each other’s writings and presume we know what is meant by certain words. This posting will give a few examples.
1. Tea and Supper
Visitors to New Zealand from North America get caught out. Someone might say: “Tea is at 5.30 and we have supper about 9.30”. The guests can’t believe how much is devoured at 5.30. They politely nibble and await 9.30 for supper. Supper time comes and it’s a cup of tea! Tea is the main evening meal. Supper is a cup of tea or milk chocolate or even a wee nip of brandy or whatever before bed. A lot of New Zealanders would think that “The Last Supper” would not be a meal.
One hears an American cheerleader declare that she is “rooting for the team”. “Rooting” in New Zealand is the colloquial expression for “having sex”.
3. Boots and bonnets
In New Zealand:
A car’s trunk is a boot.
A car’s hood is a bonnet.
Gas is petrol.
A service station or a gas station is a petrol station.
Swiss chard is silver beet.
Rutabaga is swede.
A crib is a bassinet.
A diaper is a nappy.
A speed bump is a judder bar.
A rectory is a presbytery.
Ground meat is mince.
A chicken is a chook.
A bell pepper is a capsicum.
American football is gridiron.
Field hockey is hockey. Ice hockey is “ice hockey” and never simply “hockey”.
Rugby is football.
Football is soccer.
A woollen pullover is a jersey.
If you're pissed off, you're annoyed; if you're pissed, you're drunk.
French fries are chips.
Chips are chippies. A chippy is not a bimbo! A chippy is not a fish and chip shop! A chippy, if not edible, is a carpenter!
A baguette is a French roll. And on that note, most donuts and bagels made in New Zealand are horrible. Most donuts and bagels made in the States are to die for!
A dumpster is a skip.
Jello is jelly.
4. No and Yes
When I was in Boston I was known as the person who said “No” for “Yes”, and “Yes” for “No”.
Supposing I was dining at someone’s place in Boston:
Host: Would you like some more?
And they would take my plate away because they took it to mean “No thanks”. Generally speaking, I found Americans say “Please” if they want a second helping. New Zealanders always say “Thanks” for more and “No thanks” for no more.
5. You’re welcome
The expression “You’re welcome” is creeping into New Zealand parlance. The more common (and older) expression in response to a person’s thanks is “No worries”:
“Thanks for doing the dishes.”
Ending a phone call was always a bother for me when in America:
In the end I would hang up feeling uncomfortable, because “Thanks” in New Zealand acts as an ending. I never realised this until I got stuck on the phone!
6. Gidday and Cheerio
“Cheerio” for “goodbye” is disappearing I think, but “Gidday” is still here! When I was in Boston everyone would say “Cheerio” to me with a slight plum in their accent! They were taking the mickey out of me because I grew up with “Cheerio” as an expression for “See you later!”
When I was a kid, “Hi!” was regarded as very American; sort of in the same ilk as “Howdy”. Then “Hi!” took over the world!
7. Cheers and Have a nice day.
These are expressions I never grew up with and am uncomfortable with them to this day! Cheers! was used as a toast before an alcoholic drink and that’s okay; now “Cheers” seems to have the added connotation of “thanks” or “goodbye”.
What I don’t like about “Have a nice day” is the word “nice”. Nice is such a below average concept. If I say something is “nice” I really mean it is horrible but I’m being polite. “Quite nice” is even worse.
8. Salad and Main
When I first landed in LA, everything was exciting. I was on my own and hungry. I found a place to eat and ordered. The waitress asked if I wanted a salad. I said yes. The salad came out, and I waited and waited for my meal to arrive. In the end I ate the salad and then the meal came out. In New Zealand we pile the salad onto the plate with everything else. Sometimes the salad is in a separate dish but only if you want to have “a touch of class”. It’s not eaten first or separately. The first time I saw salad in a separate dish was at a restaurant with my elderly mother. She said, "How are meant to eat this politely?"
An entrée is served before the main course. It is not the main course.
9. Bills and checks
In America in a restaurant one asks for the check and pays with a bill. In New Zealand one asks for the bill and pays with a cheque. Of course these days one just waves a bank card!
In New Zealand there is no tipping. In the United States, I would worry the whole time, trying to work out how much to tip – getting a haircut, eating a meal… In New Zealand, the tip is included in the bill (oops! check). So don’t pay twice!
11. Cookies and biscuits
The term “cookie” is not used in New Zealand. It’s called a biscuit. In North Carolina, say in Taco Bell, a biscuit was some sort of bread, shaped like a scone. I said, "I'm sorry but I ordered a biscuit and not a scone".
Since the late 80s New Zealanders have paid by Eftpos (Electronic funds transfer at point of sale). Cash can still be used if you have any. Some parts of the world still use the EFTPOS system sparingly, but here it covers the entire country. I haven’t used cash money for maybe ten years. I think a different word other than Eftpos is used in some places overseas, but I don't know what it is. In New Zealand everyone calls it eftpos.
13. Cornmeal, cornflour and corn starch
These days I get muddled with these terms. There was a time when I knew… Cornflour in New Zealand is the fine stuff, so if you’re in the Americas and using a New Zealand/Australian recipe to make a pavlova, then use the corn stuff you might use to thicken gravy!
Conversely, if you’re in New Zealand and making something from an American recipe, don’t presume that all cornmeal is the coarse stuff. If you're in New Zealand and the recipe calls for corn starch, use cornflour!
14. Knives and forks
Until I went to America I’d never used a fork politely in my right hand. If as kids we used the fork bent upwards we would be told to stop shovelling the food. No! The fork was held in the left hand, the knife in the right. The fork was bent down which made it almost impossible to eat peas! We still usually use the knife and fork this way.
Pumpkin is a vegetable, along with potatoes and so on. Pumpkin pie is beginning to creep in, but more as a novelty and a slightly exotic foreign thing to do. Most of my family wouldn’t touch pumpkin pie: “Yuk! It’s a vegetable!” Personally I love it!
In the long run, no one gives a hoot – the world has grown so small. But these are some of the words and phrases and doings that I have come across that lend confusion to our wonderful world. It’s probably enough until Story 2222.