Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: Overheard on a Bus

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  • Robyn Gallagher,

    The first friend I made was a girl at the motel we were staying at, who I thought was exotically-named "Seerah" or something similar... Similar confusion resulted.

    Ha! When I was 7 I saw Sooty and friends live at the Founders Theatre in Hamilton. Matthew Corbett got a volunteer up on stage, a little girl called Sarah, who he thought was the exotically named Serra.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • noizyboy,

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • Jen Hay,

    (ii) Less frequently commented on, though, is the fact that this merger of the two front centring diphthongs is part of a larger pattern. Younger NZers also merge two vowels that may be regarded as back centring diphthongs: thus "sure" and "shore" are also homophones.

    Interesting suggestion - I've never really thought of them as linked. The sure-shore merger is merging on the lower vowel ('shore'), and for many speakers is actually a monophthong. Plus the two mergers are progressing through different mechanisms - the sure-shore one is jumping from word to word, so most speakers still have the original 'sure' vowel in words like 'cure' for example. The near-square one affects all words containing those vowels.

    I think the NEAR-SQUARE merger is more likely linked to the NZ short front vowel shift - the thing that makes 'head' sound like 'heed' (and 'pen' sound like 'peen'). Since the vowels in 'head' and 'heed' are the approximate starting points for the vowels in 'square' and 'near' respectively - once they become too similar, the diphthongs become hard to keep apart. (but we can still keep 'head' and 'heed' apart using other tricks, like vowel length).

    I am 33 and have never pronounced 'fear' and 'square' or 'hear' and 'hair' the same... am I the last of a dying breed?


    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Michael Stevens wrote:

    There is a significant class aspect to this...

    The whole language and class thing does my head in -- all that processing going on subconsciously inside people's heads.

    But I believe Assoc-Prof Hay has done some work that suggests you can predict someone's NZ accent from the type of bread they eat (white or brown).

    English is a glorious soup of a language...

    I agree!

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    My sort of sister in law went into a sewing shop in Ireland and asked for some pins.

    No, she was told, they don't sell any. Perhaps she should try the stationers down the road.

    You must have some, she responded. Why wouldn't a sewing shop have pins.

    I'm sorry, we don't sell any, they said, wondering why this crazy kiwi thought they'd sell pens and was being so rude in insisting that they do.

    I think she found them herself, but she had less luck with getting a quick-unpick. Even when she explained what it did, they had no idea what she was talking about.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    uroskin wrote:

    Honestly, as a non-native English (or Nuzild-ish) speaker I cringe how English is mangled on these shaky isles.

    i cringed when i arrived in london and heard the east lundun accent. sounded like baby talk

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    i cringed when i arrived in london and heard the east lundun accent. sounded like baby talk

    Yer 'avin' a larf, innit?!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    Fletch Goldsworthy....

    Am I to assume Fletcher is your first name? Wow... pleased to "meet" you.... that would make you only the second other Fletcher I've met in my life...

    Sorry to all others for the thread-jacking...

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 893 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    A deeply unworthy thought -- and at an intellectual level I know that it's indefensible -- but that was, I'm afraid, my very first reaction.

    I'm not sure it's actually indefensible. I'd be willing to make a case for there being accents that you wouldn't want to try to sound smart in, and that if you wanted to be taken seriously you should try to soften a little. Similarly, I doubt somebody who speaks perfect BBC English is going to be taken seriously as the next hip-hop superstar. Different cultures have different appropriate modes of speech, just as they have appropriate modes of dress. Is acknowledging that a bad thing? Accents are mutable, after all.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    ...on the other hand, i was stoked to hear the cornwall accent. everyone told me it was your typical farmer's accent, but i knew they were all pirates

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Yer 'avin' a larf, innit?!

    I can't help myself... some dialect related humour from Armstrong & Miller (takes second for the video to start working, for some reason):

    Now... must do work...

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Fletch Goldsworthy,

    Ditto FletcherB.. although you are beating me, I've heard of a few but not met even one! We are a rare breed.

    But pleased to meet you!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    I've found it really interesting noticing how spelling and grammar errors are affected by accent. Not all of them, but before I started working with Americans, I hadn't realised that the reason my friends from Oklahoma mix up 'accept' and 'except' is that they sound exactly the same to them.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • uroskin,

    are those the same people who rhyme house with mice?

    Doesn't it?
    I never understood why the plural of house isn't "hice", while it is lice and mice.
    Nuzildish may be cringing but Shore girls speaklng valley talk with a kiwi accent is reason enough to cancel a second harbour crossing.

    Waiheke Island • Since Feb 2007 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Well, I must be bucking a trend - I'm twenty-one and pronounce near and square quite differently. Here and hear are homonyms, and so are hair and hare, but the two sets are different. "Heir", if anything, is a homonym with "air", and neither rhymes with "ear".

    That said, I can see a slide towards sameness in my speech with most of those, and I suspect that my pronunciation would differ depending on who I was talking to - e.g., my uni lecturer or my flatmates. Among other people my age, class seems to be the primary distinguishing factor in pronunciation (as well as, again, situation.)

    The whole discussion reminds me of my Maori teacher, who effectively spoke two different dialects of English - the talking-to-parents dialect, with perfect diction, and the talking-to-students dialect, which went something like "Youse guys done well in the last assessment, eh?" It was the first time in my life I really noticed differences in NZ English.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report Reply

  • uroskin,

    Oh, and a plural form of spice for multiple spouses would convey its meaning so much better too, as in big love :)

    Waiheke Island • Since Feb 2007 • 178 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    Turn Sad Men Gay With Zeal

    Nyuk nyuk nyuk.

    Somewhere between Men and Gay?

    And to think these days we can't tell the difference.

    I think I can at least hear the differences mentioned even if I'm not sure I practise them (31). I did do speech lessons. I was taught "The black pen is not much good" and "He saw her last move" for the long and short monothongs (which I think leaves me with one fewer than your list). The "near" we're after is, as widely noted, a diphthong ('zeal' plus whichever one the neutral vowel is?).

    I had a schoolteacher once who went to the opposite extreme. I can't remember the word, but she used to deliberately mangle it so it sounded different enought. Coincidentally, I end up changing schools because of her.

    For the uninitiated: monothong, diphthong, tripthong = 1, 2 or 3 different vowel sounds connected up into one 'vowel'.

    I'm guess, but I'm not sure it's not being able to distinguish so much as not bother - a change in pronunciation rather than phonetic capability.

    I realised my development psych lessons about learning to seperate out consonants were true listening to a baby babble recently; but (surely*) we still use all the basic vowel sounds so the question of how they're put together isn't a hard-wiring thing.


    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1115 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Any word on the phenomenon of pronouncing a distinct final "r"? I've noticed that a lot in the last 5 years or so, mostly among young Polynesians but also more generally.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,


    'Don't call me Shirley.'

    (That joke - from Airplane - is another one which only works for Americans, doesn't it? Because we pronounce 'surely' and 'shirley' differently... at least, I thought we did. But apparently in a lot of cases we're all about the homophones, and my rarefied Shore upbringing as one of the valley girls of the southern hemisphere has deafened me to it. Gag me with a spoon!)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Because we pronounce 'surely' and 'shirley' differently... at least, I thought we did

    You're right - I think surely and shore-ly (if it were a word) would be the common NZ homophones..

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • anjum rahman,

    on the day my parents migrated here, they had a conversation in which they thought they heard the other person say "oh, so you've come here to die."

    totally offended, they responded "no, we've come here to live".

    then there's the whole cross-cultural thing, like when they were invited to come over for tea, and had dinner before they went.

    hamilton • Since Nov 2006 • 130 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    A deeply unworthy thought -- and at an intellectual level I know that it's indefensible -- but that was, I'm afraid, my very first reaction.

    I knew someone whose parents came from 'British stock', and didn't like Kiwi English. They'd talk normally until they got into some semi-formal situation - talking to someone they didn't know on the phone, dealing with someone at a counter.

    Then proper English would come to the fore and they sounded like one of the royals. It was terribly embarrassing snobbery.

    And I knew another guy who was a radical lefty. He was rather white, and talked like it, until he was hitting up some Maori to come on a protest or to express solidarity with them. Then all of a sudden he was all bro and cuzzie, choice and Kia ora!

    I don't mind language changing, in fact I get annoyed at people getting annoyed at how language changes. But I find just as annoying people who pretend to be something they're not through the way they talk.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I had a schoolteacher once who went to the opposite extreme. I can't remember the word, but she used to deliberately mangle it so it sounded different enought.

    my dad would vehemently insist that tyranosaurus was pronounced tyro-nossorus.

    I never figured out if he was kidding or not.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    Sometimes you have to pretend to be something you're not...

    I learnt to speak kiwi real quick after my arrival from Australia...

    Starting Form 2 at a new school only days after the "under-arm incident".... while I never actually got beaten up... the harassment was more severe than just the normal Aus/kiwi rivalry... partially just to be understood, but more to not stand out.... I purposely/consciously learnt/imitated the local vernacular... for a year or two I could switch between them at will, but now its completely subconscious and programmed in.... I am taken for a kiwi on both sides of the Tasman, and if I try to sound australian.... it sounds just like any other kiwi trying to sound australian.

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 893 posts Report Reply

  • Grant McDougall,

    If by some fluke that kid were to actually learning to shear, he / she would be on to a winner, financially.
    When I was growing up in Gisborne, the folks of a mate of mine owned / ran a large shearing gang, doing a lot of farms in the East Coast, Hawkes Bay areas.
    As a result, they were utterly loaded, huge, flash house, etc. It's a common misconception that shearing isn't a very well-paid gig; quite the opposite, it's big money.

    My mate's younger brother, who became a shearer like his dad, married into the British royal family about three years ago, incidentally.

    Dunedin • Since Dec 2006 • 760 posts Report Reply

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