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13 November 2013

Speaking Ambriki (American-British-Kiwi English)


Via the Graphics Fairy

I think I've discovered a new dialect of English called "Ambriki". It is what happens when you take two Americans, move them to Britain and then ship them off to New Zealand. They end up speaking a strange version of English called Am(-erican)Bri(-tish)Ki(-wi). It is guaranteed to make the whanau back home laugh at you when you say things like tomahto sauce instead of ketchup, talk about having a wee lie down and fill up your car with petrol so that you can go to hospital (as opposed to the hospital). Or you say things like, "Aye, but she's a dreach day out today," which you pretty much say every day in Scotland as the sun rarely shines. Or ending every sentence with a rising inflection so it seems like you are constantly asking questions, even when you're just making statements of fact. Ambriki is a whole strange mix of a sprinkling of Scottish and Maori words, odd pronunciations, the superfluous use of the letter "u" in words, changing out the letter "z" to "s" (e.g., centralise vs. centralize), and when you do allow the letter "z" to be used, pronouncing it as "zed" instead of "zee". And then there is the metric system and Celsius. But let's not even get started on that.

I've been working and writing in British/Kiwi English for the past twelve years and generally only used American English when I emailed the family (otherwise they mock me). Since I started this blog, I've tried to revert back to American English in terms of spelling, vocabulary and idioms but quite frankly I'm finding it to be confusing and the spell checker (which I've recently changed to American English) is really getting on my nerves because it is constantly correcting me. I would prefer to think I'm smarter than an annoying piece of programming. Apparently I'm not.

Here are a few of my favourite Ambriki expressions:
  • Lolly (candy, sweetie) - You haven't seen anything until you've seen a "lolly scramble" in action. Take a bunch of kids and a bag of lollies. Throw the lollies into the air and watch the kids scramble to grab as much candy as they can. Kind of like a piñata but without the piñata. Complete, utter madness. Someone always ends up in tears. It is usually the parents.
  • Bangers (sausages) - It is just fun to say "bangers" and there is nothing better on a cold day than a plate of bangers and mash.
  • Tin (can) - Since we don't have a fridge, I'll be using a lot of tinned goods on the boat. (Hmm...so far everything has been food related. I guess that's just how my mind works.)
  • Box of birds (cheerful, happy) - If you're a Kiwi and someone asks you how you are, you can reply with "box of birds." I'm not really sure that birds are very happy if you stuff them into a box, but I guess they are in New Zealand. Maybe that's why the moa became extinct - they kept trying to stuff them into boxes and forgot to punch out air holes so they could breathe?
  • Half eight (eight thirty) - This one confused us for a while. People would tell us to turn up at half eight. Did they mean turn up at four which would be half of eight? No, they meant come at 8:30 pm. They always looked really surprised when we were so early. But oh so polite even with curlers in their hair and dinner not even started yet. The trick is when the Brits put half in front of an hour it really means half past the hour. 
  • Jandals (flip-flops) - Kiwis must have excellent blood circulation because they love nothing more than to go barefoot no matter what the weather. I'll be wearing two pairs of socks and boots and the Kiwi kids will be running around at school without shoes. When they have to wear shoes, you'll often see them in jandals. Jandals are also very handy footwear for boaties.
  • Mad (crazy, insane) - Here is an example of how this term is used, "You want to live on a 26' sailboat, which doesn't even have a fridge, permanently? Are you mad?" 
  • Knackered (tired) - At the end of a long day sailing, I'm often knackered.
So anyways, if you meet us out on the water, we're really not a pair of pretentious Americans who are speaking with some weird accent and using strange works and phrases to try to come across all posh. We're just confused. But if you buy us a drink and some hot chips, we're happy for you to have a wee giggle at our expense. We'll even tell you some stories about how things can go horribly wrong when you use the term "pants" in the wrong context in Scotland. Yes, we are indeed separated by a common language.



One thing Scotland and New Zealand have in common - lots and lots of sheep.

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11 comments:

  1. I was seriously confused by the date on this post, November 14, for at least 5 minutes. I looked at my calender, worried I had somehow missed a full day of work and no one had told me. Then, of course, it hit me. Southern hemisphere! Duh. Cute post about our various language challenges.Claire goes to Scotland, land of sheep and no sunshine, in December. I'm sure she'll come home speaking a foreign tongue.

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    1. Yes, NZ is something like 21 hours ahead of the West Coast of the States so it is already tomorrow here! It is all very confusing, especially when you're trying to call someone and figure out what time it is there. She'll love Scotland despite the fact that there is practically no daylight during December. But the rain and lack of sun will be a good excuse to pop into a pub or café and listen to those lovely Scottish accents.

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  2. Ha ... mix that up with some sailor talk and things will really be "mad"! Hope you're as happy as a "box of birds" today!

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    1. It is definitely a "box of birds" kind of day today. The sun is out already and the high should be around 21C/70F. Feels like summer already in the Southern Hemisphere! Hope you're "box of birds" today too.

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  3. That all makes sense to me. Although, my friends are more specific on their birds and say, "box of fluffy ducks"

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    1. That makes sense - I think birds would be much happier in a box if they were fluffy.

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  4. I really like your writing and this post is just hilarious! I mean box of birds??? How cool is that!! I would love to say box of birds instead of plain "fine". I knew mad, knackered, tin and lolly (which is also used in German) before but bangers and jandals are quite new to me.....and boy, they sound strange! But it's so interesting how many different accents there are in the English language and how that affects English speaking expats! Thanks for linking up and joining the prompt!

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    1. Thanks for that nice feedback Van! I love the "box of birds" expression too - one of my favorites. I keep trying to find a way to say it naturally and work it into conversations, but I just never seem to be able to pull it off with a straight face - it is just too cute of a saying :-)

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  5. I love learning these random sayings in other languages! It's also fun to explain American sayings and get just as strange looks...we all have our weird idioms. You're also so right...bangers is way more fun to say :)

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    1. So true - it does work in reverse. People think I say strange things all the time. All this talk of bangers - I think I might need to have bangers and mash tonight for dinner :-)

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  6. Oh my goodness, you've inspired me to try a lolly scramble on Halloween whenever groups of kids knock at the door. Wouldn't that be a sight? Ha ha

    I have to try not to write in Manglish (Malay English)

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