How New Zealanders have butchered the English language

I’m probably going to get yelled at for saying this but New Zealanders have butchered the English language.

I’m not exempt, if fact, ever since I hung up the microphone as a radio journalist my pronunciation has progressively gone to the dogs.

But I do feel like I can speak with authority on the subject considering I spent two long years of my life in speech therapy at Broadcasting School to make me sound not like myself – an 18-year-old.

I ended up sounding so old-school BBC with my pompous and perfectly rounded vowels that they failed me for not sounding like myself – an 18-year-old.

Apologises for getting side-tracked but I’m like an elephant – I remember these things.

Anyway here’s my problem with the way we speak.

We shove a w in where an l should be – schoowl, milwk, powl.

We’ve replaced our t’s with d’s – if you need a perfect example listen to the way a New Zealander sings our national anthem with sentences finishing with the words feet, meet and entreat.

We’ve replaced words ending with r’s with a’s – lata, matta, betta.

We end our sentences on a high note even when we’re not asking a question (my former speech teacher called high rise terminal).

And because we’re a small country we’re incredibly colloquial and forget that to the rest of the world sayings like nek minute don’t translate.

However, I did manage to teach the phrase to one English traveller and she emailed me the other day to say she’d seen nek minute in an urban dictionary. The definition: a phrase used to describe a dramatic turn of events.

I’m also a chronic user of the phrase, ‘I’m internalising a really complicated situation in my head’ from the recent kiwi anti-drink driving ad . I use it to describe how I feel when I’m trying to order off a foreign menu.

Again, doesn’t translate well. In fact, most people just look at me like I’m mental.

My conclusion that Zealanders have butchered the English language though was cemented after numerous people on my tour group in South East Asia said that I was harder to understand than the two German girls – and one of them spoke pigeon English.

Then in Thailand when I was describing the Bangkok gem scam to a Welsh lad he thought I was talking about a ‘gym scam’ and asked if they forced me to buy a treadmill.

But more awkwardly, a few days later when we were signing our friend we nicknamed ‘Scuba CC’ up for a day of diving the English instructor thought we were quite up ourselves for nicknaming her ‘Scuba Sexy.’

And just one last thing about being a New Zealander while I’m on the subject.

The other day a Turkish man asked me what our national symbol was. I replied a kiwi. He’d never heard of it so asked me to explain what it was.

I began, “it’s a short, fat, flightless bird, with a really long beak who’s hopelessly endangered and almost extinct.”

Then it dawned on me, we’ve possibly chosen ourselves the most un-inspiring national symbol. Yes, it’s unique to New Zealand but surely we could have picked a bird that could at least fly.


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