Where Did You Get Your Accent?


So tonight, a couple from Minnesota wandered into the liquor store (“bottleshop” they say here) that I have to keep an eye on as part of my bartending duties. I conversed with them while they made their selection. While ringing up their purchases, they asked me, “Where did you get your accent?” Shockingly, they insisted that already I have somehow absorbed enough of New Zealand such that my speech and pronunciation are a bizarre cross of Kiwi and American English. Great.

Anyway, yes! I have a job! After six weeks wending our way southward, much wwoofing, vehicle acquisition, sightseeing, and lots of investigating all the local systems (jobs, taxes, housing, post, etc.), my short-term goal is officially acheived. Yay! I’ve got a lot of lines in the water, so to speak, but my primary occupation at present is bartender extrordinaire.

The pub employing me has quite a reputation locally – seems like people either love it or hate it. I was enamored instantly. How can a Wyoming woman not be in love with a bar that has hunting trophies on the wall, cheap beer, old men, and country music? I’m only on day three, but so far it’s been fun! The hardest part is understanding orders. Late at night, after the good ol’ boys go home, we get slammed with 18-30’s.

The South Island beer – local blue-collar boys take much pride in this beer. Pictured here in a “stubby” – the slang for 12 oz. bottles.

The shorthand that people use for ordering drinks is all greek to me. A “lemonade gin” or “lemon-lime” gin is Gordon’s with 7up/Sprite. A “Mount Gay and Dry” is a brand of rum with ginger ale. A “CC Dry” is Canadian Club whiskey with ginger ale BUT generally they mean they want it already pre-mixed in a bottle. Ready-to-drink or RTD’s are quite popular here, and so I always have to clarify – am I supposed to make the drink, or do you want the RTD? The standard rum is Coruba. Bacardi is rare. The standard vodka is some Russian concoction, not Smirnoff. Pints are handles, pitchers are jugs. I’m supposed to understand that something like “I’ll ‘ave ‘un ‘uh Timmy’s” means to get a beer out of a crate in the back with Timmy’s name on it. Top it all off with the bewildering Kiwi accent, and I end up calling for a translator every twentith order!

And now for more on the Kiwi Quirks front:

My two favorite words to hear Kiwi’s say as of late are “keen” and “wee.” Wee means small or little and is almost exclusively used in place of those words. Because it seems like a very feminine word to me, it is hilarious to hear the many fellows who are “men’s men” use this term. i.e. (gruffly) – “When I was a wee boy, I remember these streets being full of people.” “We just take our wee grill when we go fishing.” “Sure, I’ll have a wee bit more.” Hilarious!

I hear “keen” at least once a day. It doesn’t directly translate across cultures, but can mean enthusiastic, would-like-to, want-to, interested, etc. Some examples:

“Did you hear the new restaurant opens for breakfast at 7:30?” (that’s EARLY for kiwi’s!)

“WOW! They’re keen, aren’t they?”

Or – “Are you keen to have a few beers tonight?” “If you’re keen, we’ll give you a call as soon as we know. “I’d been keen to have a look at your bike if you’re around.” Or “Are you keen to work up front?” (This can also be said, “Are you ‘quite happy’ to work up front?” But I’ve never heard something like “Is it okay with you if we have you work up front?”)

All in all, very entertaining.  All is well in New Zealand!



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