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How to Speak Kiwi

“One nation, united by our vowel sounds,” quip New Zealanders about the signature short front vowel sounds which immediately identify them wherever they are in the world.  While no one can doubt the specificity of the “Kiwi” or NZE (New Zealand English) language, considerable debate rages over its origins and development with little agreement between historians and philologists. 

Some experts point to numerous similarities between NZE and 19th century Cockney English as spoken in Dickensian London, while others point to the considerable influence of Australian English on the younger colony.  Academics have also examined the speech patterns and vowel sounds of the major immigrant populations who made their way to the Antipodean colonies in the 19th century, bringing with them Irish, Welsh, Scots, and South African diphthongs, vowel combinations, and individual speech cadence and inflections.  But no unified theory has emerged, apart from the agreement that NZE is a “mixing bowl” language which continues to develop in its own unique direction.

The Kiwi accent, in which New Zealanders take considerable pride, was deemed a speech impediment or even “a disease” by 19th century educators who insisted that children be taught to speak “the King’s English.”  This obsession with forcing a “correct” way of speaking was more acute in New Zealand, where the immigrant population tended to be of a higher social class and education than the initial immigrants to Australia, many whom were convicts.  

In contrast to the hostile relationship Australia had with its indigenous Aboriginals, New Zealanders were quicker to make peace with and incorporate the vocabulary of the native Maori tribes, particularly about plants and animals.  As Maori people and their language became more mainstream, the New Zealander vocabulary has become more and more unique to the country and visitors to New Zealand are advised to familiarize themselves with a few of the more popular phrases and words to avoid any confusion. 

As for the accent?  You are on your own, mate!

Banger:  Sausage.
Boot:  The trunk of the car.
Cheers:  “Good-bye” and “thank-you” fused into one succinct monosyllabic word.
Cods Wollop:  nonsense or falsehood.  Do not confuse with:
Colly Wobbles:  nausea, motion sickness, or nervous stomach upset.  
Crook:  sick, off color.
Cuppa:  a cup of tea or coffee.
Dairy:  not a food group, but rather a convenience store such as a 7-11.
Fizzy:  soda pop.
Get off the Grass:  the equivalent of ”Stop pulling my leg!”
Haka:  Maorian war cry and dance.  Recently made famous by New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team who perform an impressive Haka prior to every match. 
Hooray:  not a compliment, but rather a leave-taking akin to “good-bye”
Loo:  a bathroom facility. 
Quite Nice:  Something to be avoided like the plague.
Sarnie:  a sandwich.
Stubby:  a small bottle of beer.
Ta:  Thank-you.
Tea:  Dinner, supper, or the evening meal.
Smoko:  a nap or rest period.
Vegemite:  The color and consistency of blackstrap molasses with a vaguely umami/soy sauce flavor it’s considered ambrosia down under, misunderstood by the rest of the civilized world. 

Alexander + Roberts offer numerous ways to get to know more about the unique culture and vibrant landscape of New Zealand on dynamic itineraries such as Spectacular New Zealand

Posted: 11/18/2015 10:57:57 AM by Alexander + Roberts