Let's bunk school and go to the movies

By Amelia Wade

Linguistics researcher studying Kiwis' word preferences finds marked variations between regions and age groups.

Most New Zealanders call their holiday home a bach, but southerners are more likely to call it a crib.

Some New Zealanders go to their bach during the holidays, others to their crib.

It all depends on your age and where you're from, according to a researcher who looked at which words New Zealanders preferred.

And if a child gets caught skipping school, their parents are going to tell them off for ``wagging'' but the teenagers would say they got in trouble for ``bunking''.

University of Canterbury lecturer Dr Kevin Watson said ``wagging'' is in the lead until the 19-30 age group, where there's a crossover and ``bunking'' takes over.

``This might mean that `bunking' is finally `winning', but more data is needed to test this properly,'' Dr Watson said in a blog post.

The linguistics lecturer analysed a Facebook survey of 1000 people aged from 16 to over 70 on commonly used Kiwi words and how different age groups use different words.

The survey was a follow-up to a study carried out in 1999, when paper questionnaires were sent to Year 11 and 12 students across New Zealand.

Dr Watson said he wanted to understand more about words that are distinctly Kiwi and to see how they have changed.

 He and his research team, including first-year linguistics students, found most people referred to holiday homes as baches.

``The word bach has been around as long as many people can remember,'' he said. ``Most of the participants in the survey, from teens to their 70s, used this Kiwi word ...''

However, opinions vary on the word's spelling - ``bach'' is the most common, but some prefer ``batch''.

``Some respondents wrote that they got very annoyed about the different spellings, because they believed the way they spelled the word was the correct way and everyone else was wrong,'' Dr Watson said.

``Crib'' was another holiday home contender, but this was much more common if you were from Invercargill or Dunedin. And while the popular fried potato snack is most commonly known as ``chips'', you're far more likely to call them ``potato chips'' or ``crisps'' if you're aged 61 to 70.

``It is possible that `chips' has been competing with `chippies' and also `potato chips', but has ultimately won the battle in the speech of our younger speakers,'' Dr Watson said.

He found another variation in age groups' preferences.

``For the place you go to watch a film, some people 40 and over said they go to the `pictures'. But younger people said they went to the `movies', and this accounted for 80 per cent of the responses for people aged 30 or younger.''

Dr Watson said ``movies'' might look like an Americanism, but some respondents made a distinction between a movie as a thing to watch and the cinema as the place, ``so it may be that cinema will be around for a while yet''.

Survey questions

Do you have another name for a holiday home?

Winner: Bach

What is the name of the snack, made from slices of potato, which comes in a bag or packet?

Winner: Chips

If you missed school without permission, for example to go to the park or into town, what word would you use to describe it?

Winner: Close call between wagging and bunking.

- The Aucklander

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