NZ spelling: consonants optional


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Here I go again.

Damn it.

I start each column with the intention of not complaining and not being what I said I would never be … my grandfather.

I don’t want to be him, because, despite his heart of gold, he did nothing but complain about young people, declining standards (of everything) and the lack of discipline nowadays; But, here I go (again).

I’ll just come straight out and say it now: “I’m struggling not to yell at the radio or the television (though for some inexplicable reason I don’t yell at my device screens, unless there’s an issue relating to my printer or passwords).”

Why am I yelling at the TV?

Because of the relentless Kiwi mispronunciation of words in our media. Not so much the mispronunciation by regular people on the street, but mispronunciation by ‘so-called’ educated experts and communicators – I hate hearing intelligent people sound dumb, even intelligent people I don’t particularly like.

I applaud expansion of the use of te reo … Ka pai. Ka pai rā tēnei mahi. But while our everyday use of te reo goes from strength to strength, there is another parallel trend which impresses me far less: the elimination, or rather the extermination, of certain consonants from spoken New Zealand English. In some cases the ‘final solution’ pivots from elimination of consonants to substitution of alternate consonants.

Take for example the trend to turn ‘t’s into ‘d’s – committee becomes commiddee – it’s not priddy.

For mine, the most famous acolyte of the spoken New Zealand English ‘new deal’ is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – her commiddee’s are todally new style – she’s taken to the NZ pronouncing[sic] style like a ‘fish t’ warda’, as they say.

For many years we Kiwis have endured the mockery of non-New Zealanders picking on the way we say stuff. The mockery is usually accompanied by a parroting imitation of said entertaining phrases for the amusement of all present: “fush and chups” … hahaha … guffaw guffaw.

Please, enough people. There are only so many fat jokes a weighty person can endure before they decide thin-people-parties are hideously boring.

Let’s look at an example of Kiwi consonant abolition. Many New Zealanders obviously feel we no longer have need for the letter ‘g’. I’ve been lookeen and listeneen – seems ‘g’ is really not needed.

However, in my opinion, the number one way to sound dumb, even if you are really smart, is to substitute ‘k’s for ‘g’s. Somethink to think about – I don’t profess to know everythink, but I’ve heard the k-sub from no less than two different parliamentarians recently. I know they’re both quite smart people, but my voting brain feels confronted and repulsed. Am I just a snob? Is this the reason the BBC newsreader just seems smarter – do they just do better pronouncing[sic]?

I still know what people are sayeen, even when I’m not on the commiddee, so what’s the problem?

Why am I yelling at the telly?

Because, as my Grandad used to say , “We must maintain standards my dear boy.”

When people who I should look up to as keepers of the standards repeatedly butcher the pronunciation of common words, I feel as if they are not doing their jobs, they are not upholding the standards I expect, they are disappointing me, they are not leading by example.

Yet no one is calling them out. No one, other than me screaming despairingly at the TV, seems to care.

Sadly, the offenders are often politicians, and newsreaders, and public speakers, and commentators, and academics, and … well, frankly, they are people who should know better in roles that should demand better.

With role models this bad, I can’t really be mad at the kids: “Yous are not to blame kids.”

Some colloquial language trends though, I love: Case in point, ‘totes’ has recently become ‘hundred pisent’ (‘t’ is an optional inclusion) – though I’m literally the only person in this country still using ‘gunny’ – and I use ‘literally’ quite intentionally, though admittedly incorrectly, but that’s not important, aye?

Please don’t get me started on written English. “Does no one proofread articles any more?” … and this is the point at which I realise I’ve become what I said I would never be: my grandfather.

Note to self: When one finds oneself shouting at the television, shut up (you stupid old fool) – language is dynamic and hopefully will continue to be so. Be honest, you clearly know that the commiddee is the committee, despite the pronunciation, so get over yourself!

For now, that’s everythink … ouch!

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Alan Neben
Alan Neben
Alan Neben is a Mount Maunganui local and experienced New Zealand publisher. His columns provide a light-hearted perspective on social changes effecting New Zealanders

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