Prime Minister-designate Jacinda Ardern's response to an Australian journalist who called to ask her how to pronounce her last name has left Aussies "flabbergasted" - in a good way.
Tiger Webb, a digital producer at ABC's Radio National who manages the media outlet's database on the pronunciation of people's names and place names, told the Herald he decided to double check how to say "Ardern" yesterday afternoon after hearing a few different variations used by Australian and New Zealand broadcasters.
After calling the New Zealand Parliament to ask staff there, Webb's call was transferred to Labour offices - and it was Ardern herself who answered. The next prime minister helpfully explained that her surname is pronounced "Ah-durn".
"She was lovely about it. It was quite a short conversation."
Ardern confirmed to the Herald that the conversation happened and said she was "happy to help" with Webb's query.
"It was funny. I was in a meeting and my desk phone started to ring and it doesn't ring much so I went over and I saw it was an international number and I just picked up," she said.
"He [Webb] said 'oh hello' and said his name and where he was from and that he just needed to know how to pronounce my surname. I told him and then I thought 'oh the poor thing, clearly the operator's just put him straight through'. I'm sure he probably didn't intend to do that but it was no trouble at all."
Webb tweeted about the exchange last night and this morning had received hundreds of positive replies from both Aussies and Kiwis, including ex-Prime Minister Helen Clark, who said "That's New Zealand".
Webb's colleague, Alex McClintock, an online editor at Radio National, tweeted that he heard the conversation.
Speaking from Sydney where he's based, Webb told the Herald he often called people to check pronunciation of their names but Ardern's response to his inquiries had been unusual.
"Normally what happens when you try and call politicians - basically anywhere - it's a bit of a bun fight to get all the way to the top and so yesterday I kind of did the usual thing of calling around a bunch of places - Radio New Zealand and a bunch of Labour offices," Webb said.
After struggling to get through to a Labour office he phoned the New Zealand Parliament to ask someone there.
A Beehive staffer who answered his call told Webb he'd put him through to Ardern's office, Webb said.
He was surprised when after a few rings he heard a voice on the line say "hello Jacinda".
"In Australia when you're being put through to someone's office that doesn't physically mean their office where they sit down at their desk and have a phone," Webb said.
"I thought 'there can't possibly be two, there can't be two Jacindas in Parliament today'. I said 'oh hi, I'm calling about your last name, it's been pronounced quite differently on the radio in Australia, how would you pronounce it?' She said 'Ah-durn'."
Webb then offered Ardern his congratulations on becoming Prime Minister and Ardern thanked him, he said.
The journalist, who has worked at Radio National for five years, said he was surprised by how accessible Ardern was because across the ditch most politicians had minders who wouldn't let the media speak to them.
However, he wasn't particularly surprised at the reaction on Twitter the story had generated.
Webb said the exchange "played into" the Flight of the Conchords joke that in New Zealand "you can kind of stick your head out the window and yell down the street and get the Prime Minister".
"There's a lot of New Zealand pride - which I totally understand - and a lot of Australians are really flabbergasted I think because we feel like here we've become very disconnected from any physical manifestation of government and government is something that happens separately from people a lot of the time."
While Ardern said she was unsure whether other calls would be connected to her direct line so easily in future, she would "absolutely" be a Prime Minister who was accessible to the public.
"One of the things I think is quite important and that makes politics in New Zealand special and unique is accessibility," she said.
People could - and likely would - come say hi if they saw her out, including at the supermarket, Ardern said.
"I wouldn't change that for the world. I think it's a good sign if people feel like they can just come and talk to you. That's how it should be."