My First Kiwi Idiom

The adage that “the United States and the UK are nations divided by a common language” probably applies equally well between any countries that were colonized by the British way back when. Physical proximity between the nations is probably not as important a factor in language drift as one might think, nor time frame: both Canada–the US and New Zealand–Australia support my assertion.

Language drift might be most apparent in pronunciation, but an area that I enjoy exploring is idioms. An idiom is an expression whose meaning can’t be gleaned from the words used, or a style of speaking that is fairly specific to certain people. My current favorite idiom also hinges on knowing the meaning of a variant of an old Scottish term.

A person from New Zealand shared it on a forum we both frequent; I’ve since learned it’s also common in certain areas of Australia and Canada. It is: rattle your dags. It means to hurry up.

A dag (shortened from “daglock”) is a dried clump of poo that has matted a few locks of wool on a sheep’s hindquarters. A single dag wouldn’t make much noise, so … yeah. Multiple dags on a sheep would make noise—but consider the sound possible from just a modest-sized herd. It’s a little gross and thoroughly hilarious to me.

Given that cattle ranching won in the US West, it isn’t surprising that “rattle your dags” isn’t common in the US. I’m tempted to start using it, but since many Americans border on obsessive regarding personal hygiene, I don’t think it would be well received.