In a Word

An email arrived this week from an English relative who is proof-reading some of the chapters of my current book. He picked me up on my use of the word “stoush.”

I hadn’t realised that stoush is one of those words peculiar to New Zealand and Australia, and quickly confirmed (with the aid of the trusty Oxford dictionary) that it was indeed antipodean slang meaning “hit, fight with” and its origin was uncertain.

Well, “particularly nasty weather,” I thought. How many other New Zildisms have slipped into the text? Having taken a squiz at the dictionary to see if my English was crook, I sculled the coffee that I was drinking (it was smoko time), and realised that my use of English wasn’t too flash after all. What a dag!

As to the stoush. Well, I’d been rattling on about the Napoleonic Wars being the culmination of a centuries-long stoush between the English and the French. In my mind stoush = war, fight etc.

But in my rellie’s mind stoush meant zip. But, it was close to the Scots “stushie” which has a very similar meaning.

Maybe stushie climbed into the vernacular and became stoush during the pioneering days of the nineteenth century. If so, its a timely reminder of the rich heritage of the English, Irish, Scots, Maori, French and many others who have contributed to the building of our nation. We may forget them on a day-to-day basis, but they still pop up in our mannerisms, language, rituals and beliefs.

Anyway, I’d better rattle me dags and get on with the housework. Mum’ll be home from her girlie-session soon and she’ll give me ninga-ninga and throw a hissy if the dunny’s not clean, and then I won’t be allowed to pop down t’ the boozer for a Mac’s with me mates.

I’ll put that Peter Cape CD on while I get the electrolux out – I like that “Taumm-ranoooi, Taumm-ranoooi, Taumarunui on the main trunk line”… song, eh. The older sheilas like it, too.

Funny I should be thinking about icons and heritage at a time when they’re slowly disappearing. Even Vegemite. Jeez. Not made here any more, so Kraft tell me. Only made in Aussie since May. ‘Nuff to make ya spit the dummy!

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