The Kiwi Accent
I arrived late Saturday night in Auckland. It was almost midnight by the time I got to the hotel and had a shower, but of course because of the time difference, to me it only felt as though it was about 10pm. So I decided to hit the town, and see what was happening in Auckland on a Saturday night. The main street was alive with activity, and I felt very much at home in this city. I also believed that I had total command of the subtle phonetic differences that the kiwi's attach to the Kings English, and although I am far beyond sniggering every time I hear a kiwi count to "sex", I was about to be proven wrong.
Employing what I call the "Swantston street Principle" which basically translates that if you're traveling and want to experience any half decent food/drink/culture, get off the main drag (Those familiar with Melbourne's Swantston Street will know what I mean), I spied a tiny little bar down a dark alley way called "My Bar", and decided to see what the locals were drinking.
The bar was almost empty. There was me two guys and two young girls. I sat at the bar and waited as the bar tender fixed the cocktails he was making for the four other patrons. One of the two girls turned to me and asked me out of the blue "what brings you here tonight?" This started a conversation between us, and they seemed very friendly, and I'm sure their (more than) slightly inebriated state had nothing whatsoever to do with this.
A former kiwi friend once told me that "New Zealanders were just Tasmanians… with a speech impediment". So what happened next didn't come as a huge shock. One of the girls informed me proudly that her friend (who was sitting next to me at the time) was a "Mouldy Activist". I resisted the temptation to take two steps backwards and say the first thing that crossed my mind which was "OK… well, I'm can't say I'm exactly pro-mould myself, but it's good that you're passionate about something". Instead I sought clarification.
"Sorry a what…"?
Eventually it became clear that my phonetic boundaries between the words "Mouldy" and "Maori" was to blame for the misunderstanding. I must admit though I had to supress a laugh every time they talked about "Mouldy culture", but the "mouldy activist" was kind enough to serenade me with some delightful "mouldy" traditional folk songs. She had a beautiful voice, and the depth of connection to her mouldy ancestry was evident in her passion to sing her tribal songs.