As a Northern Englishwoman, making myself understood is always a bit of a struggle — even in the UK. The constant argument over the correct name for a bread bun and the breakfast/lunch/dinner debate is something that heats the heads of colloquially-confused Brits (breakfast, dinner, and tea is the go-to in my neck of the woods).
If I thought speaking to a southerner was difficult, moving across the globe and sparking up a conversation with a Kiwi is something else entirely. People are constantly baffled by my addition to the conversation; “What on earth is a settee?” “A Hoover, what’s a Hoover?”, and there are multiple words sat collecting dust in my brain ready to be rolled off the tongue once I set foot on home soil; ‘mardy,’ ‘lasses,’ ‘nowt,’ ‘summats,’ and ‘oryt’ sit on the bench as they watch ‘something,’ ‘don’t,’ and ‘nothing’ play on in the sport of conversation.
Despite initially refusing to lose my accent and the much-loved colloquialisms that reiterate my proud northern heritage, I’ve since come to realize that I’m going to have to adjust my terminology in order to both understand and be understood. Over the past year spent in New Zealand, I’ve noticed some terms and phrases slowly trickling their way into my speech, some on purpose and some completely unwittingly.
Unintentionally I’ve slipped in the odd ‘no worries’ and ‘heaps’ into conversations, but more and more I find myself using the word ‘aye’. ‘Aye’, (note: can be spelt either aye, eh, ae, or ay, apparently), is the most contagious slip of the tongue that New Zealand has to offer; a word that punctuates every sentence and can be used to either evoke a response or in agreement — I’m still not completely sure which. It’s almost as though a conversation can’t possibly flow without this simple addition and every sentence needs validation, similar to ‘you know what I mean?’ but less working class, much easier said, and definitely more frequently used.
There are other terms, however, which I steadfastly refuse to get on board with. ‘Jandals’ instead of flip-flops for example, or ‘chips’ instead of crisps, ‘pants’ instead of trousers, ‘lollies’ instead of sweets, ‘togs’ instead of bikini and ‘the dairy’ instead of the corner shop. I’m still entirely unsure of the meaning, origin, and context of the word ‘chur’ and I have absolutely no idea how to navigate the ‘yeeah… nah’ or ‘nah… yeah’ phrases. (What do you people mean? Yes or no?)
The waters of discussion are still murky and after a whole year in this country I’m not any more comprehensible to the people of New Zealand than I was this time last November, but at least I’m finally starting to understand them a little more, and I guess that’s all that really matters, ae?