It’s all aboot the accent, eh?

February 25, 2009

It’s no fun being an American living in a foreign land.

Especially when you’re actually a Canadian.

There are a lot of things we enjoy about living in New Zealand:

— best ice cream in the world

— best wine in the world

— the price you see is the price you pay, taxes in, so no having to do GST/PST percentage math in your head

— a driver’s licence that’s good for 10 years, or about 15 different hairstyles

— the world’s last lode of O’Ryans potato chips

— no need for a military budget except to help with UN duties

— no nuclear anything

— no poisonous anything

— feijoas in the backyard.

But there is one thing we still struggle with: Kiwis hear our accent and automatically think we’re from the U.S.

OK, I will admit we got that a lot more during the three years we lived in Gisborne. People in Napier, being somewhat less isolated and therefore a bit more worldly, have actually pinned down our Canuckness on the majority of occasions.

We understand it’s simply a case of not being familiar with the North American accents and not a plot to insult us. Still, Viking Woman has developed her own cheeky response. Now, when someone asks which part of America we’re from, she asks them which part of Australia they’re from. Ouch! You can see the Kiwis flinch and then nod. Touche.

They understand Canadians don’t appreciate being mistaken for arrogant, ignorant pricks who will bomb women and children for a barrel of oil. As opposed to, say, toothless gorms using hockey sticks to protect their igloos from ravenous polar bears.

As further proof that the South Pacific is a million miles away, I once saw a wall map in the Cook Islands that had Canada and the U.S. displayed in the same shade of red with no discernible 49th parallel. The words “North America” were printed across the entire continent. A mistake or a warning or a prophecy? Time will tell.

If Kiwis do pick up on our Canadian citizenship, it’s usually after they hear us say “about.” Because, much to our dismay and annoyance, to the ears of everyone else on the entire planet it apparently sounds like “aboot.”

Which makes me cluck in disgust. “Listen to me,” I say, and then carefully pronounce “about” as we do: “abowt.”

“Abowt. Aboot.”

“Ow. Oo.” 

“Hear the difference?”

They waggle their heads: no.

Of course, these are the same Kiwis who can’t discern their own regional accents. Never mind that our Canadian ears hear “six” for “sex” or “shit” for “shed,” on the west coast of the North Island, the residents tend to add an “o” sound before an “i.” So “life” comes out as “loife.”

If Kiwis can’t distinguish that difference in their own backyard, then we can hardly expect them to understand us. The strange part is no one here ever comments on how we must also pronounce “shout” as “shoot.” (These are the same people, by the way, who add a “w” and several “o’s” to “no,” resulting in something akin to “nowooooo.”)

Which leads me to believe the world is having us on. That the whole “aboot” thing is just a way to wind up Canadians whenever we get a bit too uppity. Sort of the Great White North’s version of “the dingo ate my baby.”

But, just as there was a real Lindsay Chamberlain and there are dingoes in Australia, so there must be at least a faint grain of truth in the whole “aboot” issue. 

Somewhere in Canada, someone actually has an accent that has resulted in the rest of us being subjected to international ridicule.

Tell you what I’m going to do. If you’re out on one of those fishing boats off the foggy coast of Newfoundland and really don’t know how to pronounce “ow,” please pass along your mailing details and I will post you a ticket to New Zealand.

I will even meet you at the Napier airport.

After which I will kick your ever-loving, aboot-speaking arse all the way back across the Pacific.

Then, again, maybe I’m just overreacting. Maybe I should just stop pooting and get on with loife. More ice cream, anyone?


4 Responses to “It’s all aboot the accent, eh?”

  1. Megan said

    I like how Kiwis say “yeeees!” and “nooooo.” Not just a blunt yes or no, but how you would expect a little old granny, grey hair piled on top of her head, reading glasses on the end of her nose and knitting needles in hand to sound when she is talking to her cat.

  2. iheartfilm said

    lol. Love the blog. By the way, Mike the spam bot left you a message.


    • bitemymoko said

      Hi Chris

      Thanks for the kind words. And thanks for the warning about the spam bot. What, I can’t even blog without getting zapped? Pathetic.

  3. devito1971 said

    i agree I wouldnt want to be there and mistaken for american. Sit down and have a beer and a chat in 10 min they ll know we are canadian.
    Psst mail me some O’RYAN’s Sour Creme and Bacon chips….havent had those since around 91.
    Cheers from Sask

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