Does hearing someone say "fink" instead of "think" drive you up the wall?

According to experts, it's something you're going to have to get used to because the "th" in words is predicted to disappear completely from the spoken English word.

Speaking to NewstalkZB's Rachel Smalley, linguist, academic and author David Crystal explains that the blending of accents born of multiculturalism will see the "th" in words replaced by an "F", "D", or "V".

That's right, "mother" will become "muvver" and "thick" will be pronounced "fick".


"In a report that's just come in from the University of York, somebody's asked them to predict the future ... they've spotted this spread of the substitution in the London area in particular and the prediction is it's going to spread everywhere else," says Crystal.

By 2066, it is anticipated that the "th" sound will have vanished completely in London due to the number of foreigners who struggle to pronounce what are known as "interdental consonants" - created by the sound made by pushing the tongue against the back of the top teeth.

As Crystal explains, there are several regional accents where the "th" has dropped already.

"If you go to New York the famous 'I live on 33rd St' is 'tirty-tird St'."

While the study cites multiculturalism, there is the idea that laziness could also play a part.

"I wouldn't like to use the word 'laziness' but it's certainly easier not to do a 'th'. It's quite a tricky sound to do and certainly quite a lot of foreign learners of English find it difficult," says Crystal.

He notes the alternative sounds ("F", "D" or "V") are easier to articulate.

Smalley admits in New Zealand we don't tend to use our vowels very well: "We drink beer and have a bare bum" has the same sound for both "beer" and "bare".


So could we see a change in the "kee-way" accent going forward?

"All accents change," says Crystal. "That is a fact of life. It doesn't matter where you are, which part of the world. The history of English shows it is an inevitable thing."