Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Dutch the fush and chups - give vowels respect

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Paula Bennett and John Key are experts in peppering their sentences with 'actually'. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Paula Bennett and John Key are experts in peppering their sentences with 'actually'. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Columns aren't supposed to be instalments, but the feedback from last week's diatribe was huge.

The emails began flowing into my inbox on Sunday, and still they continue, vehement about pet hates I'd missed.

Readers were complaining not just about television, but also politicians and radio announcers, including our much revered National Radio, on which last week a reporter said because of the volcanic ash "less flights would be taking off".

Overwhelmingly the emails I received indicated listeners and viewers are driven crazy by doozies like "specific" pronounced "pacific", "four-wa" instead of "four", "with" instead of "worth" - as in "win a television with $2000", people being "electrocuted to death", something happening at "7am in the morning" or "8pm at night", "knowen" and "fillum" (Kim Hill is guilty of talking about going to see a "fillum", and Sean Plunket insists on saying "firstly", much to Sir Robert Jones' dismay).

Sports presenters talking about the "second tist" and the "tinnus in Mowlbourne".

But listen to our leading politicians - or try to - and sometimes you wonder what they're trying to tell us.

One reader pointed out that Paula Bennett, Minister of Social Welfare, and Prime Minister John Key can't manage to string two sentences together without over-using the words "actual" or "actually" (ikchill or ikchilly).

It doesn't add further meaning to what they are saying, it's just fluff. These two need serious speech training.

It's not enough for Bennett to trumpet she's a Westie and proud of it.

She's not an extra on a television soap, she's responsible for millions of taxpayers' dollars.

But on Close Up she can't communicate clearly or concisely, without her habitual "mmm, actually, Mark, it's actually, like".

Not good enough. But with good coaching, Key and Bennett could overcome this, retain their Kiwi charm, and be understood. At present Bennett, who's not unintelligent, comes across as a bit of a bint.

I'm accused of being a snob, wanting to speak the Queen's English, but if words aren't pronounced correctly, you convey a meaning that's totally different from your message.

Sucks is not the same as six, ear-lift is quite different from air-lift, women should be pronounced differently from woman.

When the BBC World Service operated out of Auckland, Rodney Hide broadcast weekly soapboxes and once sounded as if he employed cattle when he kept talking about "paying his bulls".

Lindsay Perigo gave him intensive - and hilarious - pronunciation lessons and after several hours, Hide emerged from the studio able to deliver his financial message about honouring contracts and paying bills on time.

But he still sounded like Rodney; he wasn't transformed into an upper-class toff.

I'm as Kiwi-accented as our Paula, despite the accusation: "Your failure to recognise the Kiwi accent betrays a mindset of arrogance and elitism."

New Zealand has three official languages, of which English and Maori are two.

Most Maori strive to speak te reo correctly, and because I mangled the Maori language, two years ago I paid $1000 to learn stage one Maori.

If it's good enough for us to insist Maori be respected, why can't we ask similar for English without being accused of being arrogant and elitist?

I don't believe all this "like" and "cool" and "whatever" is a natural New Zealand progression.

In the 1990s, when my now adult children were watching Beverly Hills 90210, Brandon, Brenda and their Californian mates sprinkled their speech with this nonsense, and like every other fad, we've copied it from America.

It's not intrinsically Kiwi.

Am I guilty of cultural cringe? Emphatically no. Cultural cringe is defined as an inferiority complex leading one to dismiss one's own culture as inferior.

Fie that we speak with English, American or Australian accents. I love my New Zealand accent, especially when I'm overseas, but I want to understand my compatriots.

The opposite of cultural cringe means taking some pride in the way we enunciate our words within that Kiwi accent, not running them all together so no one can understand us.

I sense a campaign building. From the Prime Minister down, we should be proud of our country, and say its name correctly - New Zealand, not New Zillund.

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