Special Words in Special Places by Angela Caldin
Most English speaking countries or areas develop their own special words which may not be readily understood elsewhere. Manchester and the Midlands have the word mardy for example which means grumpy or surly, like a moaning child, while in Yorkshire parky means chilly or cold. Americans use sidewalk for pavement and in Canada they say eavestrough for gutter. Since living in New Zealand on and off for the last few years, I’ve heard and learnt a few new words which are particular to this land at the southernmost part of the world.
NZ Word Favourites
One of my favourites is wopwops, sometimes written as two words and sometimes shortened to wops. You can probably guess the meaning from these examples:
- I live out in the wopwops so I only come into town occasionally.
- If you want to escape from civilisation, you could do worse than explore the wopwops on the west coast.
It’s a term for an out of the way place, in the middle of nowhere, often with gravelled roads, out in the bush. We might also say out in the sticks or in the boondocks or the backcountry.
This leads me on to the term tiki tour which means the scenic route to a destination, or sometimes a sight-seeing journey with no particular destination in mind, wandering rather aimlessly:
- We took a wrong turn and ended up on a tiki tour through the wopwops to make it back to the big city.
In Māori mythology, Tiki was the first man who found the first woman, Marikoriko, in a pond. By extension, a tiki is a large wooden carving in human form, and now more generally refers to the small human figures carved in greenstone and worn as neck ornaments.
There’s a wonderfully evocative verb which is to rark up and I think it’s current in Australia as well as New Zealand. It means to annoy, confront, oppose, reprimand or provoke, especially by using emotive language:
- Don’t listen to his insults about your mum, he’s just rarking you up.
- If they don’t stop slacking, I’ll have to get them in the dressing room and give them a bit of a rark up.
Another rich verbal expression is to pack a sad meaning to throw a tantrum or be in a bad mood:
- Don’t take the baby’s toy away or she’ll pack a sad.
Then there’s the splendid verb to skite which means to boast or to show off:
- I wish he’d stop skiting about his new house; some of us can barely afford our rent these days.
So someone who boasts and brags is known as a skite.
My favourite new noun is bludger which is used in Australia and New Zealand to mean a lazy person who lives off or profits by the work of others while making no contribution. It is typically used in a derogatory way for those who live on benefits and do not work, even though it appears that they could. Apparently, it was originally British slang meaning pimp, and the word has evolved in the Antipodes while it has died out in Britain.
- Why don’t you get a job and earn some money instead of being a bludger on benefit?
- Get off your arse and give us a hand to move this furniture, you lazy bludger!
Westie is a colloquial term used in Australian and New Zealand English to stereotypically describe residents of Greater Western Sydney, the western suburbs of Melbourne or the areas west of Auckland, though it is also used as a derogatory term for people who might not live in the west of one of these cities but are seen as common and lacking refinement. An alternative term bogan is often used instead as it has a similar definition but does not refer to a geographical area. Both words describe someone who is perceived to be lower class and unsophisticated, similar to chav in the UK which is used to describe a lower class person who sometimes displays brash and loutish behaviour and wears real or imitation designer clothes.