New Zealand is a place of linguistic phrases which all have their own meaning and pertain directly to kiwis. If you are from overseas some of the lingo can be hard to understand. However, not all is lost on the foreign ear, it can be picked up if you spend a bit of time with us kiwis and listen to our everyday language. You won’t get lost in translation and you will find yourself talking kiwi in no time.
We are great storytellers in Aotearoa and a term we use a lot is when someone tells a larger than life story and they Spin A Yarn. When used as kiwi slang, this term is not to be confused with the other meaning, which is a spinner that is actually spinning yarn. The term did originate as a nautical phrase dating back to around 1800.
The phrase we are talking about is the kiwi slang version. This is the story telling yarn. One where people tell a long, drawn-out story that may not be true. It could go something like this: “My mate Jim caught a massive fish that had 20cm teeth and blue stripes on it”! The story is more fiction than fact and generally has an element of dramatic exaggeration with it.
When someone tells a tall-tale they generally spin a yarn, yarn meaning tale, and embellish the truth to make the story exciting for the listener. We do love a good laugh and often kiwis love to spin a yarn with tourists. You can see the look on their face when they are trying to fathom out if the story is true or not!
Neighbours often have a yarn over their fences to each other and a yarn is simply chatting to someone. When you spin a yarn then you make the story into an exaggerated tale. So if you are chatting to someone and you want to make the story imaginative and larger than life, just spin them a yarn.
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