It seems that even Santa has trouble with the Kiwi accent:
Steven Adams is a Kiwi playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s come under some criticism for using the term “quick little monkeys” to describe Golden State guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Apparently this has raised the ire of some sports fans and commentators, accusing Steven of racism. In some quarters his apology is not accepted, or seen as not genuine.
I must admit that I had to do some Googling to understand why the term is considered a racist remark in America. Here “little monkeys” has absolutely no racial overtone. It’s usually used either as an endearment for a group of active children, or in frustration when unable to keep them under control. A child escaping the clutches of a parent is likely to be called a “quick little monkey”.
The term is less often used when referring to adults, but to a Kiwi, describing opponents who you can’t pin down or control as quick little monkeys would come naturally. I suspect He was going to say they were “quick little buggers” (perfectly okay in NZ) or perhaps “quick little f**kers” (not suitable for early evening TV), and thought better of it in case they weren’t acceptable in the US.
The whole thing is a storm in a teacup. The issue should died down as soon as Steven gave his apology and explanation. But apparently not…
Whenever I travel to Whanganui to visit friends and family, I pass through the small town of Bulls (population: 1,800). There is not much that is particularly remark-a-bull about the town, except it enjoys making unforget-a-bull puns with its name. They are to be seen everywhere, which does make the town rather memor-a-bull. A large sign as you enter Bulls makes it obvious that the locals enjoy making fun of the name: Herd of Bulls? It’s a town like no udder.
Some of the puns are terr-a-bull, others are incred-a-bull. So here, without further ado are just a few of the building signs that can bee seen as you pass through.
- Avail-a-bull: Dairy (convenience store)
- Bank-a-bull: Bank
- Const-a-bull: Police station
- Cure-a-bull: medical centre
- Delect-a-bull: Café
- Eat-a-bull: A delicatessen
- Everything imagine-a-bull: Farm park & café
- Extinguish-a-bull: Fire station
- Fashion-a-bull: Women’s apparel
- Forgive-a-bull: Anglican church
- Full-as-a-bull: local pub
- Indispense-a-bull: Pharmacy
- Inform-a-bull: The information centre
- Irresist-a-bull: Sweet shop (candy store)
- List-a-bull: A real estate agency
- Live-a-bull: Another real estate agency
- Love-a-bull: Childcare centre
- Memor-a-bull: Museum
- Non-return-a-bull: Plunket Society (support services for the development, health and well-being of children under 5)
- Park-a-bull: A car park (parking lot)
- Read-a-bull: Public Library
- Reliev-a-bull: Public restrooms
- ReSpect-A-bull: RSA (Returned Services Association – a non-profit society for ex-military personnel)
- Stock-a-bull: Supermarket
- Store-a-bull: Storage facility
- Social-a-bull: Town hall
- Veget-a-bull: Fruit & vegetable shop
- Wear-a-bull: Clothing shop
They haven’t stopped at building signs. For example, wording on public rubbish bins (trash cans) urge you to be “RESPONSE-A-BULL”.
- Genuine Bulls Cream – Cream from Bulls (cream)
- Bulls Semen – extracted from Bulls with their consent (salad sauce)
- Bulls Eye Chilli Sauce – This ‘lord of the ring’ chilli sauce was tested on Bulls
- Grill-a-Bulls (a range of sausages)
- Bulls Wool – It’s about ewe and your baa skin (a range of merino wool products)
A signpost at the intersection of two highways even includes a sign pointing to Cowes in Australia!
What makes this town so remark-a-bull is that it’s the only place in the world where you can get milk from Bulls. I think that’s enough puns for one day.
I consider myself a reasonably tolerant person, but in one aspect I realise I fall somewhat short. There are some things that irk me – particularly where there is a New Zealand connection. One in particular is the use of the word “kiwi“.
It makes as much sense to call it a kiwi bird as it does to refer to a turkey as a turkey bird or a sparrow as a sparrow bird. The kiwi has been named just that for around a thousand years, and I can see no rhyme or reason for adding bird to its name today. And while we’re on the subject of kiwi, the plural of kiwi is not kiwis, The plural is kiwi. The day that the plural of sheep becomes sheeps is the day I will reconsider my stand on this.
As to the name of that brown furry fruit: it’s a kiwifruit (pl. kiwifruit). It is not native to New Zealand. Seeds were originally imported from southern China in 1904, and at that time it had a small, gooseberry sized fruit. Locally it was known as a Chinese gooseberry.
Export of kiwifruit to the U.S. started in the 1950s, but due to the cold war, the The name Chinese gooseberry proved to be somewhat of a stumbling block. The name melonettes was first thought of as an alternative, but as the U.S. had high import tariffs on melons, bureaucracy could have become the hurdle. Eventually the name kiwifruit was chosen because it is brown and furry like a kiwi, and has a NZ connection.
The name was originally a brand name, but the exporters didn’t think to register it, so the name has become generic instead.
In case you’re thinking that everyone knows its real name is kiwifruit, but it is shortened to to kiwi for convenience, I have news for you. When visiting the U.S. I got a kick out of seeing the incredulous look on the faces of Americans when I mentioned that in NZ it was a serious offence to own or eat kiwi, and that dogs must be muzzled when going into areas where there are kiwi. I was also often asked why New Zealanders liked to identify themselves with a fruit. When I said we didn’t, they would ask what we prefer to be known as, and I would say “Kiwis”, which usually resulted in a very confused look. Invariably I had to explain. Clearly a great many Americans don’t know the difference between kiwi and kiwifruit.
So why have I used the word Kiwis in the title when I’ve stated that the plural of kiwi is kiwi? When it comes to the mammalian variety (NZers), the word is spelt with a capital “K” and the plural does end with an “s“.
So ends this
Over the last week I seem to have come across an unusually large number of blogs discussing the oddities of the English language. So here is my little contribution to the discussion relating to regional dialects.
Most English speakers from outside the antipodes are unable to distinguish the difference between New Zealand and Australian English. But there are differences, particularly in vowel shifts. In Australian English (Strine) The “I” sound in hit has moved to sound more like heat. In New Zealand English (Nyu Zild), Vowels have moved further but in the opposite direction, resulting in hit sounding more like hut.
Nyu Zild has also seen shift in “e” in red and pen so that it sounds like rid and pin to British and American speakers. A similar shift has occurred with the “a” sound as in mat and sad sound like met and said.
So If I were to say “Peck the pack of pickles“, an American might hear “Pick the peck of puckles“. If I said “Fix the bit that’s bent” they might hear “Fucks the but thets bint“.
A New Zealander can sound like Lyn of Tawa:
Or like Member of Parliament Maurice Williamson during his speech supporting the the final reading of the Definition of Marriage Bill:
Oh what a beautiful sound!
So what’s the relevance to the Title of this post?
A Kiwi was driving on an Australian motorway, and noticed some graffiti on a overpass, which read NZ sux (New Zealand sucks). A few days later, he passed under the overpass, but now someone had added AUS nil. Get it?
Since I began posting comments online some five years ago, I have been careful in choosing what words to use. No, it’s not because I use words that are offensive — I’ve never had the urge to use them — it’s because I’m not sure how well I’d be understood if if wrote using my natural language.
Most of the forums and blogs I frequent are either international or American. This is inevitable considering the small size of NZ compared to the rest of the English speaking world. I do post on a few kiwi sites, where I can use language I’m comfortable with, and be reasonably sure I will be understood. However, on other sites I often agonise over what words and expressions to use. English varies from region to region, and while many variations are obvious, others are less so.
One advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of coming from a small place such as NZ is that I am probably more aware of how my English differs from the dominant American variant than the typical American is about how his language differs from NZ English.
Now that I have started blogging, I want to be able to express myself in language I’m comfortable with, but if I want to increase readership, I need to use language that the readers are comfortable with. I’m not sure how successful I can be at achieving both objectives.
Many words can be used safely, even if not universally used. For example every English speaker understands railway and railroad even though they are likely to use just one of them. Similarly, while a speaker may use only petrol or gasoline he/she will understand both. If I used the word cattle-stop, you would more than likely guess that it refers to a stock grid or cattle-guard.
On the other hand, I’m not going to say that my best mate is a hooker for the All Blacks on a non-NZ forum. I’d say that my best friend plays for our national rugby team. Nor am I likely to say that you deserve a chocolate fish. And I wouldn’t attempt to write that my mate has hired a chippie to fix the bach on his section by the lake that was munted in the shake a fortnight ago.
I know when an American refers to a fanny, he’s referring to the part of the anatomy you sit on, and not what the word means in NZ. And if an American or British visitor asks where the bathroom is, I know he doesn’t really want to know where the bathroom is. He wants to know where the toilet is instead.
If an American wants to know where to find the elevator to the second floor, he actually wants to know where to find the lift to the first floor. If I mention biscuit, he’ll probably think of what I know as a scone, whereas I’m referring to what he calls a cookie. If he asks for jello, he really wants jelly, and if he asks for jelly, he really wants jam.
If an American child makes a spelling mistake, she will likely use an eraser or white-out to correct it. A kiwi kid will use a rubber or twink instead. Our ankle biters like candy-floss and lollies, whereas American children like cotton-candy and candy. Our children like soft drinks, but American children prefer soda or pop.
I know non NZers won’t know what I meant if I decided to join the business waka, or I said I feel a box of birds. I doubt that they would know what I meant if I said I avoided a certain bar because it was chocka. There are many expressions I would like to use, which may be universally understood, but because I’m not sure of that fact I avoid using them.
Would you know what to do if I ask you to boil the jug, mow the berm or rattle your dags? Do you know the difference between being pissed, being pissed around, being pissed off and taking the piss, or the difference between pissing down and pissing up? If I mentioned that someone wasn’t only a bit of a dag, he was the whole sheep’s arse, what would you think of that person?
Do you know what I’m doing if I go tramping? Do you know the difference between bugger, bugger me, bugger off, bugger all, Well I’ll be buggered and I’m buggered?
If I posted a motoring blog, would you know what parts of a car a bonnet, boot, bumper, wing, accelerator and windscreen are? Would you know what I meant by a tar sealed road or a metal road? How about if I top up? You probably know what a roundabout is, but do you know what a give way or a zig-zag are? If I told you that a pavement isn’t for driving on, would you think I’m talking a load of cods wollop?
If I talk politics, would you understand what I mean when I refer to MMP, Rogernomics or waka jumping? How about the beehive or coat-tailing?
Is a unit a house, apartment, a farming property, an electric fence system, a stock carrier, an electric train, or a section of study?
Does crook mean angry, bad, broken, inadequate, empty, ill, used-up, thief, unproductive or weak? If I’m crook as a dog, what am I? If I put you crook, what have I done?
My problem is there are many words and expressions similar those above that I would use if they were correctly understood by most readers. I don’t want to cater just for a New Zealand readership, but I would like to be able to express myself freely without causing confusion.
If I haven’t confused you with strange expressions and you’re not a kiwi, then you deserve a chocolate fish. on the other hand, don’t spit the dummy if it all seems like nonsense. I’ll eventually suss it out, which will make it sweet as.