For those who can’t read French…
NZ English 'sweet as' by dictionary rules
The New Zealand Herald, 30.10.2004
By DEREK CHENG
JAFA, waka, boy racer - New Zealand English has long had a distinct
vocabulary. And it is being recognised with the launch of the New
Zealand Oxford Dictionary next month.
While it is not the first New Zealand English dictionary, it is the
largest and most comprehensive.
"A dictionary of this sort makes a cultural statement," said co-editor
Tony Deverson, professor of English at Canterbury University for 35
"Language is generally a reflection of the society that uses it, so [the
dictionary] opens the window on New Zealand as a place and New Zealand
English as a distinct variety of the language - like 'give 'em a taste
of Kiwi' in a dictionary."
As well as being an English dictionary with more than 100,000
definitions, it contains 12,000 New Zealand entries.
It also contains entries on people, places and historical events. There
are more than 600 Maori words, some of them recorded in the journals of
Captain Cook in 1769.
The dictionary is a project of the New Zealand Dictionary Centre, a
joint venture between Oxford University Press and Victoria University.
The content was decided by Professor Deverson and co-editor Graeme
Kennedy, the centre's founding director.
Among the New Zealandisms are political, sporting and cultural terms
including "party-hopping", "Silver Fern" and "customary rights". Modern
colloquialisms such as "sweet as" and "munted" are recorded for the
"When it came to more recent terms, one looks for evidence that they are
established and likely to have a reasonable lifespan," Professor
"We didn't include 'fart tax', for example. It just wasn't clear whether
that term was going to persist."
Dictionaries are never completely up to date, Professor Deverson said.
"A few people we have included have died since the dictionary went to
bed, such as [author] Maurice Shadbolt, who will be shown as alive until
the next edition.
"When dictionaries are published, certain people will look to find
something they feel deserved inclusion and it's not there. That's why we
invite people to write in for things that are either wrong or can be
While older Kiwi expressions such as "bonza" are used less, Professor
Deverson said NZ vocabulary was not in danger of dying out. "The kind of
New Zealandisms that reflect innovation in society continue to come
along and will continue to do so.
"New Zealand English is not just a current divergent form of English, it
has its own life history."
John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, agreed:
"The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary puts New Zealand English on the map
as one of the major varieties of contemporary English."
The launch is scheduled for November 17 in Wellington, hosted by Deputy
Prime Minister Michael Cullen.
Matter of definition
New Zealandisms in the new dictionary:
* Boy-racer: "A youth or young man fond of driving very fast and
aggressively in high-powered cars."
* Clobbering machine: "A perceived tendency of bureaucratic and social
institutions to stifle individuality and criticise high-achievers (cf.
* Cuz (also cuzzy): "A term used, esp. by Maori and Pacific Islanders,
of and in address to a cousin or other family member (cf. Bro)."
* Sweet as: "Very satisfactory; excellent, fine."
* Waka-jumper: "An MP who deserts his or her political party during a
parliamentary term (org. used of certain Maori MPs who left New Zealand
First following the breakup of its coalition agreement with National in
I’ll be in beautiful Kiwiland next month and will try to get the dictionary then… I want it to be 100% Kiwi, with an accent and all.
[Edited at 2006-01-01 07:51]
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