Language Police hunt hypocoristical KiwisBy Dr Dianne Bardsley Director, NZ Dictionary Centre
It is always interesting to read articles and letters to newspapers editors about the so-called appalling use of grammar, punctuation, and poor vocabulary that we are purported to use.
Language has been described as a wild creature that grows and changes untidily as people use it and New Zealanders and Australians are known for having their own way of making the ‘Queen’s English’ untidy.
Jim, Mora taken to task
In a letter to the Listener in 2007, Radio New Zealand National host Jim Mora was taken to task for his use of informal pet names or hypocoristics.
The irritated listener wrote “I am fed up with “palmie’ for Palmerston North, “chrissie” for Christmas and “‘the heke” for Waiheke Island .. Jim Mora does not sound like us”. But perhaps Jim Mora does sound like us.
Using hypocoristics is a part of the Kiwi characteristic of establishing or of bestowing an informal identity on a place, a person, or a process. Whether we like it or not, the Westpac Stadium is now known widely as the Cake Tin, and many of us will feel that there is more colour and character in that than in the use of a sponsor’s name.
Hypocristics spread out
A recent development has been the use of hypocoristics in less personal and informal circumstances than their previous use.
In the domains of skiing, surfing, and fishing, terms like Rags for Raglan, Gissy for Gisborne, or Cardy for Cardrona are commonplace, and we all had pet names for the various schools with which we are familiar, so perhaps it is not unexpected that we should extend the use of these terms more widely.
Whatever his age, Barry has become Bazza, Murray is known as Muzza. We might knowingly eat Eggs Benny in K Road, or drink a savvy in Remmers or a chardie at The Mount with Banksie or Bondy.
The difficulty, of course, is that for visitors or new speakers of English, the narrative ‘We met Macca in his Swannie at the Keg in Kune’ requires some translation.
But a more serious problem to the language police or tongue troopers is the apparent unwillingness of some people use conventional punctuation
Apostrophes have been a hot topic for many years, and as Lynne Truss points out in her best-selling Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance approach to Punctuation ‘It’s tough being a stickler for punctuation these days.
One almost dare not get up in the mornings.’