Thursday, January 5, 2012

New Zealanders use US and UK sayings. Really? That can't be so. No, you're having me on.

Both past and present, I've had people who have read my drafts telling me that I use UK, US, and New Zealand (Maori included) sayings and ways of speaking in my dialogue. Then they say it doesn't sound right. Make up your mind woman, choose one or the other! And it usually comes from people in either the United Kingdom or the Unites States that comment on this. My initial reaction is always frustration, because I clearly state that my books are about New Zealanders, and since I'm a New Zealander I would know how my fellow countrymen (and me!) would speak. Right! Nope, apparently not because I still get people telling me that it doesn't ring true. But, unfortunately for me (as I'm the one getting the comments) the reviewers are wrong, because I only write what I know and have heard around me. And, with my Behind the Lives series, which is set in South Auckland, the American sayings will be even more abundant as the US media saturates what we watch in this sector of New Zealand society. And because New Zealand is a British colony, it goes without saying that we will also  use their words as well.

Assuming you know a culture:

*The real definition of assume"Making an 'ASS' out of 'U' and 'ME.'"

What I'm getting at here is how people view different cultures. A lot of it is assumption and when the author from a particular country writes something that goes against the reader's perception of what that country is like they automatically assume the author is wrong. I remember my husband telling me about an interview with a South African author and how he regularly gets told that he doesn't write South African enough. And the comments have all come from foreigners.

The Internet and other media:

I'm going to do a bit of assuming here, so hopefully I won't make an arse (NZ spelling) out of myself :)  With Hollywood taking over the world (not the governments) as well as Google, Yahoo, and every other search engine, it goes without saying that it will affect how some people speak. It has me, because I might say the word pub (English) and it scared the living shit outta me (which I've been told is a US saying when people read my stories) and cuz (the New Zealand slang word for cousin) all in the same sentence.

"Last night after coming home from the pub this big mof&*%er scared the living shit outta me when he pulled a knife on my cuz..."

Did I really say that? Nope, I'm a good girl ... well, my parents think so. And my parents don't lie. But, I have heard people talk like this in South Auckland, and as I said I use the above words, minus the mof&*%er because I'm a good girl. Anyway, mofo is easier :)

New Zealanders are notorious for butchering language / shortening words.

And so are Australians. And don't contradict me Aussies, because I've heard enough Gazzas, Bazzas, and Shazzas to last me a life time ;)

So, if you're reading a New Zealand (or Australian) story you may get a little confused sometimes, because if we're trying to correctly portray our country there are bound to be some bastard words in there. Hopefully, the sentence you're reading in either my book, or some other Kiwi's, will make sense, but if it doesn't the author may sometimes put in a glossary.

Here are some commonly butchered words from New Zealand:

Afternoon = Avo.
Present = Pressie.
or Christmas presents = Crissy pressies.
Barbecue = Barbie.
Chicken = Chook.
Cup of tea = Cuppa.
Elastic strap (as in Bungy Jumping) = Bungy.
Full / overflowing  = Chocka.
Good Day, sir = G'day, mate  OR  Gidday, mate.
New Zealander = Kiwi (And not the fruit! That's called a Kiwifruit in New Zealand).
Sunglasses = Sunnies.
Take a quick look = Squiz.

And so forth...

In conclusion: If you're reading about a different country put your assumptions aside and give the author (who was born and bred in the country they are writing about) the benefit of your doubt.



  1. New Zealand is a melting pot of cultures, and you'll find British, American, Pasifika and Asian influences everywhere.

    And, for the record, Marita, I think you've captured the rhythm and lingo of South Auckland street-speak perfectly. It's a reflection of the subculture of the 'hood, and no one can fault you for that. That's exactly how youngsters there talk!

  2. I've got an FB friend who lives in Australia and sometime I have a hard time understand her. Oh, I live in the USA and I'm sure she has trouble understanding me.
    FYI-talk using FB messenger

  3. I have Aussie cousins. They gave me a run down of Aussie phrases when they were here in October. Funny...loved it. Also, their daughter here the yr before picked up Brit phrases....i.e. gobsmacked...I thought it was an Aussie phrase because she used it. So sometimes words/phrases become interchangeable as we adopt them. Now I say gobsmacked... Have to try some of the other phrases as well...but the Aussie ones. Thanks for sharing from New Zealand.