Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Peter Bills' Rugby World Cup blog: The language barrier

Fush and chups?
Fush and chups?

It has been an interesting experience living out here in New Zealand for the last 5 or 6 weeks.

Not so much difference, you might assume, between life in New Zealand compared to Ireland or the UK. It is springtime now out here, the weather is not cold but a bit up and down.

There have been some nice sunny days, but last night when I flew back to Auckland from Wellington, it was pouring with rain. I reckon the pilot saw the runway only about five seconds before his passengers, so low was the heavy cloud and the heavy impact.

So weather patterns are pretty similar to the northern hemisphere during the seasons.

But you would be wrong if you concluded that this place was like Ireland and Britain. For a start, they don’t speak the same language.

Well, you might think they do, but they don’t. Let me give you a few examples. I’ll start by asking you these two questions.

The first is, what is and where would you expect to find a chicken disc?

The second? What is trum mlk?

The answer to the first would completely defeat most people in Ireland and Britain. The answer is, at an airport for it’s the New Zealanders’ way of saying ‘Check-in desk’. And the second answer is, trim (fat free) milk.

Now if this strikes you as a bit odd, then read on. If you ask for fish and chips in a takeaway here or enquire in a restaurant what the fresh fish is that day, you will get strange, bewildered expressions.

You see, they just don’t say fish and chips. In the Kiwi language, it is fush and chups. Fresh fish is, frish fush.

Now please don’t ask me why on earth this interpretation exists or where it first came from because I haven’t a clue. But what it means is that you have to listen extremely carefully when they start talking and wise up fairly fast when it comes to interpreting this local dialect.

The fact is, the New Zealanders flatten their vowels. They don’t say ‘flat’ they say ‘flet’. An ‘a’ becomes an ‘e’ so that an apple is an ‘epple’. An ‘e’ becomes an ‘I’, as it frish fush and an ‘i’ becomes a ‘u’. An ‘o’ is almost obliterated because the word ‘pot’ becomes ‘pt’ and ‘got’ sounds like ‘gt’.

All you need to add to this novel interpretation of the English language is a Maori taxi driver who speaks at the speed of machine gun bullets, as some do. I promise you, it is desperately difficult to understand or pick (sorry, puck) certain words.

Perhaps that is why South Africa went out of the Rugby World Cup on Saturday night. They probably couldn’t understand Kiwi referee Bryce Lawrence’s words or even if they could, they certainly never fathomed his strange interpretations of the law book.

In Lawrence’s world, not only does fresh fish become frish fush. Hands are allowed in the rucks, too. The latter is an unfathomable as the former.

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