The Nu Zilnd accent

There’s a great YouTube channel that shows a replay of rugby games for a limited time, so it was appreciated to be watching the All Blacks vs Wales matches at 10:30am rather than 2:30am (I initially had a rather late night/early morning trying to watch the game live). I haven’t had any great bouts of homesickness since I moved here, but the first time I felt some emotion stir inside me was hearing the national anthem, seeing the boys in black with their fists over their hearts, and then some camera shots of my hometown causing a slight bit of salt to join water around my eyes.

That was until we went back to the commentary and some slightly snipped accents started mysteriously coming out of the speakers. Granted we can’t base those talking on television as representing an entire nation’s ways of speaking (Australians must hate Ian Healy), but suddenly hearing the voices of New Zealanders again I immediately thought “Ugh, is that what I sound like?”

Ours is one of the most ridiculous and impossible to impersonate accents in the world. Where do you start? Our inflections go up and down at a constant velocity, we clip words like we’re worried we might have to say another syllable at some point, and don’t get me started on the phrase “Yeah nah definitely”.

Being an Auckland boy I have no idea how my accent compares to others around the country (if you can tell me what makes an Auckland accent please comment), but I’ve personally known people from Christchurch and Tauranga who personify the more stereotypical kiwi accent. A massive lilt at the END OF A SENTENCE? followed by an “eh”is usually a hallmark. I remember going on a holiday to the UK for a month and got used to Brit accents, then when I came home my friend Simon started talking to me and I was like “Whoa! What? What’s going on?”. He’s an extreme case but he should work with this lady on teaching people the idiosyncrasies of kiwi speech.

One thing that’s stood out for me is I don’t seem to like using the letter “r”. I mentioned in a previous post how kiwis say car as “ka” and Americans as “CAURR”, so kiwis reading should try saying “Heather, do you know whether we’ll be together in this sort of weather? Want a beer?” and reflect on what you’ve just said. So we have an accent which is very unique and one which Americans enjoy, especially when they heard me say “battery” and “letter box” (should be “mail box”) the other day. One guy wondered why I said “litter box” and where cats came into the conversation. And I have found myself starting to adapt a little. I seem to be talking a lot louder and with more intension than in the past, and that’s probably because Texan’s are loud and proud of being loud and proud. So it has naturally become infectious.

Despite my criticism I’m hoping I don’t lose any of my accent, as I no doubt will, because I do enjoy sounding different than everyone else around me. So far there’s been one American ask if I was from New Zealand, and that’s because he had worked with some at a hostel in Abu Dhabi(!) and could tell the difference. I’ve had English be the majority of guesses as to my origin, and is one of the rare times in my life where I’m actually preferring to be mistaken for an Australian rather than English. At least it’s in the correct hemisphea.

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