Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: Overheard on a Bus

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  • B Jones,

    The border between tig and tag runs through the North Island, somewhere south of Hamilton. I think someone did a study on it once, which I where I heard about it and realised my cousins weren't just freaks for playing tig.

    The great thing about kids' language is that it's passed from kid to kid without it being mediated by any sense of what the proper language should be. I've never worked out why if you wanted to temporarily bail out of a game of tag and be immune from being tagged, you crossed your fingers and yelled something like "fans" but with a soft, almost French N. I'd heard "pax" used similarly, which makes sense from the Latin, but fans is a mystery.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 777 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Laurie Bauer & Winifred Bauer (2003). Playground Talk. Wellington : Victoria University, School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies.
    Further information on the study is available here

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 849 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I'd heard "pax" used similarly, which makes sense from the Latin, but fans is a mystery.

    My son uses 'pax', so that's definitely running down here in Dunedin. I'm sure that I used to play 'tag', not 'tig' when I grew up in Auckland, but it was a while ago.

    I was playing tag/tig with my son and a random kid at the ice rink last weekend. Random kid had a rule that you couldn't be tagged whenever you crossed your fingers, which I have to say, made the game a little bit stupid.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6147 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    The border between tig and tag runs through the North Island, somewhere south of Hamilton.

    There's some other North/South and maybe generational borders too.

    Try this one.

    "We took a pottle, a peter and some belgian to the crib."

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    sorry - "belgium'

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    In Hawke's Bay in the 70's, we played tag. In playing handstands, we also used to say "Handstands cement" - was years until I realised it should have been "Handstands commence!"

    We used the infamous "... pull the trigger" rhyme. In our defence, none of us (in a reasonably multiculti cohort) knew what it meant. Just a made up word that rhymes with "trigger", one presumed.

    Eventually some adult overheard and gave us a vocab lesson. I remember we were horrified, but I don't specifically remember us refraining thereafter. Perhaps we figured that it was actually only a coincidence. I don't remember.

    We played tag. The person doing the chasing was called "in" (not "it" or "he"). The
    New Zealand Playground Language Project
    studies this and more, and gets bonus points for a questionnaire that makes the game sound like it should be R16 if not outright banned.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 451 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    "Can't tig your master."

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    We used the infamous "... pull the trigger" rhyme. In our defence, none of us (in a reasonably multiculti cohort) knew what it meant. Just a made up word that rhymes with "trigger", one presumed.

    My friends and I would choose who was "it" with a round of "eeny meeny miney mo, catch a nicker by the toe".

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • daleaway,

    "Fans" is a local variant of UK "fainits". Possibly a very old word indeed.

    There's a discussion on http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/MIDMARCH/2007-12/1199105278 .

    Since Jul 2007 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • noizyboy,

    "pee pee na na" anyone?

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Susan Archer,

    Loving this discussion - oh, the wonders of language and human beings, NZers in particular - thanks everyone for so many excellent and entertaining posts, and David for kicking it off with such an amusing story.

    As for Bob - well, it flags me as a deep southerner and probably dates me as well, but I understand him perfectly:
    "We took a pottle, a peter and some belgian [belgium] to the crib."
    Thus we enjoyed some strawberries, beer and luncheon sausage in our holiday home! And I'm pretty sure we played tig too.

    I've retained many of the sayings and particular words I grew up with, but have never had that most distinctive feature of southerners' speech, the burrrr, despite spending my first 17 years in Southland.

    However, I do distinguish "near" & "square", "share" & "shear" etc, though I don't know how much longer I'll be able to hold out!

    Auckland • Since Oct 2007 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Jane Treadwell,

    So I wasn't the only one beaten up at school for sounding funny - phew, that's a relief!! I arrived as an 11 year old from the vallies with the whole sing-songy Welsh accent and got relentlessly bullied for it. I now have what friends call an IBM accent (I've Been Moved) as no-one can quite pick it - a melange of English, Kiwi and a touch of Welsh when visiting Mum and Dad!! People in Oz think I am English; people in the UK sometimes mistake me for Sth African -eh?.

    I'm 44 and have always pronounced fear, fair and fare differently and my kids tease me for it. But then I also talk of yog-urt not yo-gut, and vit-a-mins not vite-a-mins.

    Singapore • Since Nov 2007 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • John Farrell,

    The southern burrrr seems to be a recent thing - my wife, who grew up in Invergargill, never had it. Her father, a lifelong southlander, who died a few years ago in his 80s, spoke like Anthony Hopkins playing Bert Munro. My youngest brother in law, however, speaks with a burrrrr.

    Since returning to Dunedin, I have noticed that some of my Dunedin nephews also have the burr.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 197 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    My uncle grew up and lived all his life around Milton in Otago. He had the local variant of the burr that was softer and closer to what we think of as Scottish.

    'Mouse' and 'house' tended towards 'moose' and 'hoose'.

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    Ahh, the Scottish influence on NZ diction...

    Had an English teacher - himself of Scottish ancestry - who reckoned the pronunciation of the country's name as "New Zillun" was an echo of Scottish pronunciation, although he put a lot of the blame on PM Peter Fraser, who used to pronounce it this way (and who of course was born in Scotland).

    Another verbal tic which I've heard suggested is a Scottish thing is the way NZers use the word 'wee' a lot in conversation.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    "NZ Sucks"... "Australia nil".

    It's traditional that when New Zealanders say 'six', Australians hear 'sex'. I like to explain that by suggesting that, for an Australian, 'one, two, three, four, five' is foreplay.

    Here's The Chaser try to get Helen Clark to say 'six'.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1094 posts Report Reply

  • Stuff n Things,

    Anyone else been reading 'pronunciation' and cringingly thinking 'pro-now-n-ce-ation' instead of 'pra-nun-ce-ation'?

    Had a discussion about this with a mate the other day. He always finds it ironic when folks winge about having to correct overseas' visitors pro-now-n-ce-ation.

    Wellywood • Since Apr 2007 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    Another verbal tic which I've heard suggested is a Scottish thing is the way NZers use the word 'wee' a lot in conversation.

    ""You have got to. Sure there was a lot of disappointment, and a lot of work went into it. But it has gone. You can't change it," McCaw said. "The first wee while you were frustrated. But as rugby players we are lucky. We get another chance to get back on the field and carry on."

    Ritchie McCaw on Stuff today. Born and bred North Otago.

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    The southern burrrr seems to be a recent thing

    According to the Southland Dialect entry from the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand:

    A “burred” r is pronounced at the end of words and before consonants (beer, there, shore, after, march, port, certain), and was noticed by McBurney in 1886 in Dunedin, Christchurch, and Nelson.

    I can has cheezburrrrgerrrrr?

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1841 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    Thanks for the reference Robyn.

    "Diphthong au of cow has a first element like the e of very, and a fronted second element – eu.

    Some speakers turn it into a tripthong eiu by inserting a glide between the first and second elements – (abeut, abeiut) rather than (about) for about"

    This was the way my uncle pronounced. It had a lovely lilting cadence to it. None of the nasel 'Nu Zillun' speak.

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    Actually the whole section on speech in the 1966 encyclopedia is fascinating.

    How about this little beauty in the vocabulary section.

    Examples of the native words now in general use are the names of birds, fish, plants, and trees: kea, tui, hapuku, tarakihi, koromiko, raupo, and kauri. It is not likely that this element in the vocabulary will ever increase much.

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    It is not likely that this element in the vocabulary will ever increase much.

    I guess this was written just before the start of the Maori renaissance, when many assumed Maori was a dying race who would soon be assimilated into European culture.

    Not even, ehoa!

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1841 posts Report Reply

  • Susan Archer,

    My thanks also for that reference about the burr, Robyn - I certainly heard lots of examples when I was growing up, which wasn't very recently! (May not even have happened yet...)

    However, I agree with John's observation that the rolled 'r' is unevenly distributed, or expressed: some Southlanders have the burr, others don't. Perhaps there's an academic paper on it somewhere?

    As for "wee", I'm very fond of it, though my husband and children occasionally mock me for using it, and people sometimes don't know what it means. Somehow, it's a comforting, affectionate synonym for "little" - but perhaps that's because it's a childhood word, used by doting grandmothers and great-aunts.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2007 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I use 'wee' a lot myself. It confused Americans no end. Is it an Otago/Southland thing, or a general NZ thing?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3623 posts Report Reply

  • noizyboy,

    I use 'wee' all the time. Christchurch born, Welly domiciled.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 171 posts Report Reply

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