Dic­tio­nary gives ‘em a taste of Kiwi

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ELESHA ED­MONDS

Yeah nah, it’s no lie how much of a hard slog it can be to take a squizzy at Ki­wis’ jib­ber-jab­ber.

Yet au­thor Noel Kelly isn’t one to shy away from do­ing the hard yards and has taken a tiki tour into the wop wops of slang.

The cen­tral city res­i­dent has put to­gether a Dic­tio­nary of Slang in New Zealand which con­tains more than 32,000 in­for­mal words and ex­pres­sions used around the coun­try.

The book has taken five years to pro­duce and is the first time any­one has at­tempted to com­pre­hen­sively ex­plain or record Kiwi jar­gon.

Kelly, who spent 15 years work­ing in Eng­land, be­gan col­lect­ing slang while he was at­tempt­ing to write a novel.

‘‘I was look­ing at de­vel­op­ing the char­ac­ter through the lan­guage so I started de­vel­op­ing a list of Kiwi ex­pres­sions which were dif­fer­ent to the English ones,’’ he says.

‘‘But the list-mak­ing took over and the novel went into the bot­tom drawer and the next five years it was do­ing this.’’

The for­mer New Lynn book­shop owner says he spent a lot of time re­search­ing the mean­ings of dif­fer­ent ex­pres­sions.

‘‘Like all dic­tio­nar­ies and in­clud­ing slang you go back to other sources,’’ he says.

‘‘I haven’t got a lot of knowl­edge so I cre­ated lists and then gave them to friends and ac­quain­tances that have bet­ter knowl­edge.’’

Kelly, now a full­time writer, says the dic­tio­nary was based on Sid­ney Baker’s, New Zealand slang: A Dic­tio­nary of Col­lo­qui­alisms which was pub­lished in the 1940s.

How­ever Kelly’s dic­tio­nary also fo­cuses on con­tem­po­rary terms and in­cludes slang he has seen used in New Zealand, re­gard­less of its ori­gin.

De­cid­ing whether an en­try has true Kiwi her­itage is of­ten im­pos­si­ble, Kelly says.

‘‘A lot of slang starts on the edge with young peo­ple, with drugs and in prisons in­ter­est­ingly enough, but a lot of that doesn’t sur­vive be­cause it’s very lo­calised and very spe­cialised,’’ he says.

‘‘When you’re do­ing some­thing like this there is al­ways the prob­lem of what to leave out as much as what you put in.

‘‘It’s re­ally the edit­ing which is the most dif­fi­cult part of it.’’

Kelly says dic­tio­nar­ies record our coun­try’s lan­guage at a cer­tain point in time.

‘‘Th­ese col­lec­tions are a point of time of what peo­ple are say­ing and in 50 years time there will be a lot of changes.’’

He says re­search­ing slang is a never-end­ing ex­er­cise and he plans to re­lease a sec­ond edi­tion of the dic­tio­nary.

‘‘As soon as it went to print I’d al­ready got a list of 40 ex­pres­sions that I’ve heard since that New Zealan­ders are us­ing.’’


Noel Kelly has put to­gether a dic­tio­nary of slang which con­tains more than 32,000 ex­pres­sions used around New Zealand.

Dic­tio­nary of Slang in New Zealand.

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