Should America ever get its act together (it’s not looking good) it might be possible someday to travel to the amazing country of New Zealand. And should you ever have the opportunity to travel here, being the altruistic guy I am, I’d like to prepare you for your arrival. Yes, they speak English here…but it’s a different kind of English than ‘American English’ (which to some, is admittedly an oxymoron). I wouldn’t want any of you to experience the embarrassment I’ve experienced, learning this new language.
You can see from the photo above, that what Americans call flip flops, or sandals, or maybe thongs are here called “Jandals”. Should you, in a lapse of judgement as you’re heading out to the beach say, “Just a minute…I need to put my thongs on”, you will emerge from your room to an audience expecting to see you in a G-string. You could wear a thong to the beach, but if you do, expect to be very cold, and also expect a lot of attention directed your way. Instead of a G-string, grab your TOGS!
You’re all set to go the beach now…you’ve got your togs, your jandals..check and check! You jump in the car and head down the road, and bump!…what was that, you ask. “Oh,” a knowing local informs you, “you just ran over a jutterbar”. No, it’s not the Kiwi equivalent of a Nutterbar (that wouldn’t make such a big bump in the road)…it was a speed bump. I did ask why it’s called a jutterbar… apparently it’s because it makes your car shake when you go over them. Fair enough. On the way to the beach, you notice almost every car on the road…even the occasional Porsche or BMW sedan…all have hitches on the back. You mention this to your local friends…”Why do all cars here have hitches?” and are met with blank stares all around. “You know, on the back of the car, to tow things”, you clarify. “Oh, tow bars! We all have them..you know, in case we want to tow anything. You HAVE to have one.” End of discussion.
Every car needs a tow bar?! You can’t ever tell if they are taking the piss out of you. Which means, if I might be so bold as to translate, maybe they are trying to tease or kid you. I first encountered this saying in the hospital. One of the patients said something in a teasing way to me (I couldn’t tell), and I looked at my registrar for translation help (I do this about 43 times a day)..and she said, “He’s just taking the piss out of you.” I replied, firmly, “I’m the doctor, I think I should be removing the urine from him.”
“No, No..it’s just a saying..he’s kidding.” She quickly explained.
“Yes, I know…” I lied.
The Kiwis are sooooo polite. How polite, you might ask? Well, when they say no, they do in the most polite way possible. For example, you might during hospital rounds excitedly exclaim, “I think another 4 years of Trump would be great!”. And it would be met with a, “Yeah….nah.” You see, even when these uber polite Kiwis disagree with you, they first agree with you….then, they say what they really think. Like the other day, I was having a yarn with my colleague…(have a yarn = talking about stuff)…and she was telling me about her son, who had gone on a hoon (a hoon = a crazy drive) out in the whop whops (whop whoops = out in the boonies or out in the sticks). I said, “you know, that’s just what kids do.” And she said, “Don’t be an egg.” (don’t be an egg = don’t be dumb..or dense) “Even though he’s fit as a buck rat,” (fit as a buck rat = strong) “things could still go grotty on a drive like that, and even if he’s OK, the car would be munted.” (grotty = bad, in a bad way) (munted = wrecked or destroyed).
I might digress here just a bit and stray from the subject of Kiwi language to the very interesting topic of….KIWI INGENUITY.
New Zealand is, of course, an island (or two, or three..). When something breaks, or you need something in a hurry, it might takes weeks to get it shipped here, so the culture here has adapted…and people just figure out way to make things work.
Practicing medicine in the hospital I encounter a lot of urgent clinical dilemmas, and a portable ultrasound can answer many clinical questions in a very short time. Does the patient have a large pericardial effusion?(fluid around the heart) Are they dry…or do they need fluid? Can I safely tap this pleural effusion? (removed fluid from around the lung) Almost daily, one of these situations arises, and that’s why when I came to New Zealand, I packed my trusty little portable ultrasound machine (it even hooks into my iPhone to produce images!)
Occasionally, though, there are patients with infection control issues…maybe they have C. difficile (a bad kind of diarrhea…not that there is a good kind…but this is especially bad) or maybe they are colonized with Staph. In those circumstances, it’s important to have the ultrasound probe covered with a clean plastic covering so the device doesn’t get contaminated. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring any of these covers to New Zealand. I was having a yarn with one of my colleagues about this issue (having a yarn, see above for translation) and she said, “Oh, we just use condoms…come on down to my office, I have heaps of them!” (heaps of them = many, many condoms). So, the other day I sauntered down to her office….
Her office staff assured me they work great with their ultrasound machine….
They showed me their machine…and I quickly appreciated their probe was much larger than mine. Probably sensing my apprehension, one of the staff, eyeing my ultrasound probe, quickly chimed in, “Oh, don’t worry, the condoms will even fit your probe.”
Sheepishly, I quickly took several of the condoms, thanking the staff for sharing them, and went back to my office.
So that’s an introduction to Kiwi life. And I’m not trying to take the piss out of you.