Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A Brief Introduction to New Zealand English

Decades ago as a new arrival in New Zealand I was often mystified by some of the words and sayings used locally. Presumably some of the language arrived with the early immigrants and was simply adapted a little but some were Maori words that had been borrowed and applied for use by Pakeha (non Maori or in this case New Zealanders of European descent). I struggled a bit with believing that kai meant food, a tangi was a funeral and utu meant taking revenge. I soon learned though that bikkies were biscuits, brekky was breakfast, footy was rugby, kindy was kindergarten, rellies were relatives, sunnies were sunglasses and gummies were wellington boots. More challenging were terms like bro and cuz meaning friend and sometimes cousin though generally the cousins became cuzzies. Some of the expressions were fun like saying bugger to indicate you were disappointed with something or someone or describing something as choice if it was a situation or item that you thought was attractive. I could never come to grips with calling other British settlers brits, however, or worse still homies. Neither was I prepared to describe having a meal as having a feed. Some terms simply seemed to become absorbed with quiet ease – advising children to do their best by telling them to give it heaps or saying I was gutted when I was very disappointed about a situation or admitting to having stuffed up by making a mistake. Occasionally a word would seem to be particularly apt such as munted for broken beyond repair. The city of Christchurch was described as being munted after the earthquake. I became very fond of going out into the wop wops when intending to drive out of the city. It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to calling your swimsuit your togs and your flip flops your jandals and referring to the neighbours hens as his chooks. The term I have entirely adopted and use as often as possible though is whanau (pronounced farnow) for friends and family. This wonderfully descriptive Maori word that describes the circle of people who are closest and most important to you would take off immediately and settle into United Kingdom Modern English if given half a chance I am certain.

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