A Brief Introduction to Speaking Kiwi

NZ StampFirst up, you have to master the New Zealand accent. You must sound pleasant, earnest, and a bit dim, and you should probably mumble, because you are at all times discreetly dissolving that giant lump of mutton at the back of your throat. You should also speak with a rising inflection, so that everything you say sounds like a question. (Certainty is terribly impolite.) And keep your lips as close together as possible when you talk; remember, you are trying to keep the flies from entering your mouth.

This man’s excellent impression of Prime Minister John Key will give you the idea:

Selecting an appropriate topic of conversation is important. You may talk about rugby, the road toll, mangrove swamps, birds, pig dogs, and the rain. And speaking of rain, you should memorize “Rain,” the nation’s most beloved poem.

Finally, you need to learn the vocabulary. If you are fluent in Kiwi, you will be able to parse a sentence like this with ease:

When Bruce and Tasha hooned it up the boohai, their ankle-biter got crook and chundered in the chilly bin each time they went over a judder bar, which made Bruce throw a wobbly.

(Translation: When Bruce and Tasha drove quickly and recklessly to a remote place in the middle of nowhere, their small child became sick and vomited in the cooler each time they went over a speed bump, which made Bruce lose his temper.)

Also note: in America, something is “quite nice” if it is very nice indeed, while in New Zealand “quite nice” is a gentle way of saying that something is not very nice at all. If a Kiwi tells you your banana cake is “quite nice, eh?,” I’m afraid your banana cake is rubbish.

And never mention toilet paper in polite company. Call it skindywoo, as in “I just had an epic chunder in the back of your van, mate. You got any skindywoo?”

A Few of Your Favorite Things

likeEvery single word at dictionary.com has a Facebook “Like” button next to it. I have spent the morning collecting data (ahem), and am happy to bring you this report on the state of the world of the things, courtesy of dictionary.com and Facebook.

Bondage (54 “Likes”) is more popular than yachting (9), but less popular than terrorism (1,500) and badminton (56). (Terrorism & Badminton: The Martha Stewart Story. No?) No one likes macramé these days. A giraffe (96) is more likeable than a polecat (5). 26,000 soppy bastards like love, while 558 emotional deadbeats can only bring themselves to like like. Sex (2,900) is preferred to chocolate (139), which will be troubling news for the monkeys who write the whimsical captions in women’s magazines. God (965) is more beloved than his holy sprog, Jesus (482), but both beat Satan (51) and Santa Claus (15). Cannibalism (58) is preferred to pork (28). Two people enjoy vomiting, which is two more than enjoy lawn tennis. Forty-nine people have some affection for pus, which makes pus more popular than lemonade (31). Twelve sensible people like facts. I will save you the trouble of looking up poop; 654 people endorse it. Whiskers (6) are more likeable than kittens (1); no one gives a toss for raindrops or rosesSpelunking (12) triumphs over a good spanking (8). Colorado (78) is vastly more likeable than Australia (7), but then you knew that already. Twenty-one people like rainbows. (Be nice to those people. They are just barely alive.) The doorknob is enjoyed by five raging perverts. And five people like tapioca, because that is all they serve at the asylum. One person likes polyps. I have sixty-three soul mates who share my vast affection for the word undulate. Two people enjoy having a lovely antipodean fossick. Six people like the saxophone. What is wrong with them? The word exacerbate (337) is oddly popular. The dog (574) beats the cat (516). Cunnilingus (149) beats cheese (86). No one likes towels or containers. Six people like a nice submarine, and I am one of them. One person likes fondling—presumably the same person who likes socks. Thirty-two really boring people took the time to express their love for the bicycle. WE KNOW. SHUT UP ABOUT THE BICYCLES. And eight utterly insane people enjoy asparagus; I want to punch each and every one of them in the face.

Spasm, Cappuccino, Polyp

wordgameToday we have an assortment of bits and bobs that we will nattily tie together under the theme words. First up, word games: my name is Tracey and I am a SpellTower addict. Have you played SpellTower? It’s an iPad game that combines elements of Scrabble, Boggle, and Tetris—oh, blessed nerd trifecta! (There’s also an Android version, and you can play it on your iPhone, too, but if you don’t have small fingers you will find yourself constantly making words like floot and merp and drangle.) SpellTower reminds me of the word-search puzzles I loved when I was a kid, the ones you find in those Be A Nice English Lady magazines, hidden between the knitting pattern and an article on how to groom recalcitrant Spaniels. My sticky little hand would drag a biro around a diagonal giraffe and I would feel like the cleverest person alive. I felt pretty damn clever when I reached a SpellTower score of 10,000—I briefly declared myself a SpellTower savant and contemplated a life of professional SpellTowery—until I heard about Jerry:

The other day [Jerry] told me that he’s been playing the same continuous game for over a month now and has obliterated his own high score. He has passed 1,000,000 points, adding about 20,000 points a day. He’s confident he can keep playing as long as he wants.

Did you hear that? Jerry is playing a game that will never end. Don’t envy Jerry his lexical genius. SpellTower will come to rule his life. He will see those colored squares in his dreams. The plink, plink, plink of the letters will drown out all human voices. It is only a matter of time before Jerry stops bathing.

SpellTower was created by an interesting artist/programmer chap called Zach Gage, who you can read about here (no, I don’t know him, and no, this post is not sponsored).

And from the sublime to the truly disgusting: I recently came across this old Language Log post in which the author had compiled a list of the most hated words. Panties and moist are top of the heap, naturally. Other hated words included baffle, squab, cornucopia, fleshy, luggage, and hardscrabble. (I would like to have a cup of tea with the woman who was outraged by hardscrabble. I bet she’s awesome.)

A man called Neven comments:

While I’ve hated the word moist for the longest time, there’s a fouler word: ointment.

What are your most hated words? We took an office poll a while back and came up with spasm, cappuccino, forceps, and polyp. And we all hated panties, of course; I assume Terry Richardson is the only person alive who can say panties without wincing (I assume Terry Richardson says panties twelve times a day, and each time he says panties a bit of drool gets stuck at the corner of his mouth and his nubile young assistant, Cloaca, dabs delicately at the drool with an artisanal tissue and Terry says “Sorry, folks!” and they all laugh like it’s the end of a sitcom and then Terry goes back to taking oversaturated photographs of teenage girls in knee-socks). But for me, there is one clear winner in the nauseating word stakes: slacks. Slacks. Ew. Even the definition—“trousers for casual wear”—makes me want to vomit in a bowl.