Dictionary gives ‘em a taste of Kiwi
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.