Friday, June 1, 2007

Spelling Out the Kiwi Accent

Saw this gem of a quote in an article about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, currently going on in Washington-

For the third time in two days, the Kiwi accent of the representative from New Zealand threw the judges for a loop. After listening to a replay, officials still weren't sure if 13-year-old Kate Weir of Christchurch had tried to spell "jardiniere" (an ornamental plant stand) with a "g" or a "j." They finally asked her to give another word starting with the letter. When she said "giraffe," the bell sounded and she was out.
Ouw-some. I will admit a Kiwi accent does take a little bit of getting used to for a few days because you don't have much exposure to it in the United States. I had to even ask people to repeat what they were saying sometimes during my first few days! You get the hang of things pretty quickly though- the most important difference is that there's a vowel shift whereby you pronounce them further up in your mouth, so an "a" sounds like an "e" for example, and words like "chair" and "cheer" are pronounced the same. Endearingly, they also like to tack "eh?" onto the end of their statements, which is so wonderfully Canadian that it never ceases to amuse me.

By the way, one common myth about New Zealand English is it's very similar to Australian. It isn't at all, really, and outsiders just think it's the same because they've never been around Kiwis very much. A few days in New Zealand are enough to differentiate between the two, though I admit I haven't tested this much yet since I'm not surrounded by Aussies.

As a final note, here is an assortment of some of my favorite words indigenous to En Zed-

Chilly bin- A cooler. Isn't this a much better description of what's actually being used?
Hokey-pokey- A favorite ice cream with bits of toffee in it. Please note that this is not the word for the dance, that's the hokey tokey...
Jandals- Flip-flops. The word comes from an abbreviation of "Japanese sandals," which is what the first-flops were modelled after.
Kiwi- Yes, I know you guys know what this word is, but it can mean three words so it seems best to define it: "Kiwi" is a person, "kiwi" is a bird, and "kiwifruit" is the vegetarian option. Alright? Alright.
Togs- Your swimsuit. Not truly unique to New Zealand I think, but still a great word.
Tramping- What is known as "hiking" in the United States, "bushwhacking" in Australia, and "rambling" in England. I like this word because, like its other counterparts, it describes the activity perfectly for this particular terrain.
Twiddle- These are the squiggly line seen over letters like ñ, or more importantly in my case used to mark components as imaginary. Not indigenously Kiwi either, but it excited me the first time I heard it in E&M because I've just called it a "tilde" until now, which is much more boring.
Wicked- Also known around here as "coo'," "ouw-some," or "sweet as." Don't look at me too oddly if you find me saying any of these upon return to the States!


Anonymous said...

Hi Yvette,

I've been enjoying your blog a great deal. Good story about the spelling bee.

By the way, "wicked" is commonly used in Massachusetts (and has been for at least decades, which makes it surprisingly stable for a piece of slang).



Yvette said...

Hmm, must move to Massachusetts. Thanks!