Definition of Irony in New Zealand: Criticizing Maori Pronunciation. In English With a Kiwi Accent


Click on the image to hear Botha’s supercilious rant (Let us know if you need an English translation).

Little known actor Hana Both has posted a rant to her Facebook page, taking a swipe at people for not saying Maori words properly in her presence.

According to the IMDb Hana Botha is an actress, known for Insecurity (2016), Last Star (2017) and Birdsong (2013).

Many of our readers will know how accents and received pronunciations are used as a socially divisive tool in New Zild. This Kiwi sport of ‘one up manship’ is frequently used by New Zilders to denigrate migrants when they mispronounce the Maori language, or to lambast them when they speak English properly. Now it looks like they use it against their own too.

Actor Hana Botha posted a video on her Facebook page about failed pronunciation, and it has received more than 40,000 views, more than 1000 reactions, and more than 400 shares. “It’s something that has become more annoying over the summer months, you know, when you’re talking to people about where they’ve been travelling to for Christmas and New Years,” Botha said in the video.

She said it “honestly boggles my mind how many people don’t even attempt it. Yeah, I don’t get them right all the time either, they’re hard, you have to think about them, sometimes you have to try two or three times, but that doesn’t mean that you should just be like ‘Oh, no, actually I’m not going to bother with that, I don’t have time for that.”..

A Te Reo speaker would not take an English place name and try to pronounce it with Maori vowels, she said. “So why are Pakeha allowed to get away with making the Maori vowels into English vowels? read more in today’s NZ Herald

Many British migrants in New Zealand object to being called Pakeha and consider it racist and offensive, almost as offensive as the egregious way their language is corrupted in New Zild.

Of course, the correct use of English language doesn’t receive much credence in New Zild and woe betide the person who criticizes the Kiwi version.

Understandably, the Kiwi accent’s slaughtered vowels and mashed consonants are often the subject of amusement to people outside the country. Not least  well spoken British entertainers like Graham Norton, who frequently puts Kiwis in his plummy red chair.

In 2003, Norton was listed in The Observer as one of the 1000 funniest acts in British comedy  (Though Norton is Irish, the bulk of his television career has been in the UK). source

Maybe if Kiwis are going to use English to carp on about pronunciation they should at least learn to speak it properly first?

“Fush and Chups”, “Sunbathing on the dick”, “Woman” (the plural of woman) and “Beached az” jokes aside, the New Zealand accent and the upward inflection at the end of a sentence is incredibly hard on the ear of other English speakers.

Din’t yuh thunk? Bru?

Groundskeeperwillie makes a good observation below that sums up this issue well:

This whole placename pronounciation drive has been simmering for years in NZ (TVNZ etc has had a lot to do with it) and whilst I think it’s great to try to keep the language alive, this is more about points scoring than a genuine attempt at education.

If I did speak Maori then comments to correct my mis-pronounciation should be taken gracefully as they’re intended to help. Not this, though. This is different.

45 thoughts on “Definition of Irony in New Zealand: Criticizing Maori Pronunciation. In English With a Kiwi Accent

  1. I recently had a conversation with my very part Maori ,100 % kiwi flatmate,he told me that in N.Z you only look after yourself and fuck everybody else ,that was a great revelation being that he’s been living in my house for cheap rent ,never cleans anything ,never does the dishes ,smokes in his bedroom including weed ,has loud sex and never buys any food or contributes anything to the pot ,he also drinks any beer in the house and very really buys if he does he hides it in his bedroom and consumes it alone.I have realised that most Kiwis are savages ,to treat them well is a sign of weakness which they will be quick to exploit ,they will take and take and take from you .So the best defence is to become like them ,be a horrible cash demanding no friendship shithead ,charge for anything and lock anything you don’t want stolen ,these are the most pure scum people on the planet .

    • That’s pretty much my experiences just summed up. It seems to me that kiwi’s have this mentality on how they can screw or exploit someone else. It’s like a cat that plays with it’s catch that it’s going to kill and then eat.
      Kiwi’s just tease, use one up man ship, constant put downs, condescending language, and look for any weaknesses and then attack. Pick up any horror films with evil characters and your average kiwi would resemble the dark triads traits of the evil character.
      You can’t make this stuff up, the question on my mind, is what goes through a person’s head that makes them behave like that. Watching adults behave like that is very interesting.

          • I am all for raising the standards of living in NZ for the betterment, but I strongly believe the people in NZ are the problem or at least significantly contribute to it. If people in NZ learn to finally confront their problems and abandon their apathy, pride and ego in order to re-educate and enlighten themselves to work towards sustainable long-term solutions to the many problems their nation faces then perhaps there will finally be a light at the end of the tunnel for this nation. But in order for this to happen, NZers have to rid themselves of their opportunistic, predatory nature where they countlessly exploit and screw others over for their own gratification and self-gain. I personally doubt NZers will ever change, perhaps I am wrong and maybe one day they will “wake up” and change, but I doubt that will ever happen.

      • I call it ‘reverse lower class elitism’. Where in England you have a class society where majority in society are considered lower class and are instructed by ruling upper class to see themselves as inferior, in New Zealand, a country that even as early as when they were an English colony saw themselves as being superior to English rule, they then quickly developed this national identity that they were simply better than everybody and they can do what they like. It is this superior grandiose sense of self that is common in most Kiwi’s that creates the sort of friction and conflict that you’ve described in your post. Again I don’t what to say it guys but I will – this place is pathetic … 😦

        • Johnny Ray,

          New Zealanders certainly regarded themselves as superior to all those ex cons and the working class immigrants in Australia, that’s why they refused to join the Australian Federation. It’s probably the biggest mistake the country ever made, too late now.

        • As an observation, New Zealand IS an English colony, and is ultimately STILL under English rule. This is why it is necessary to have a representative of the British Crown present in the form of the Governor General. The position of Governor General may be largely ceremonial, and the Crown doesn’t take an active role in the governing of New Zealand, but the political ties are definitely still there.

          • NZrs are delusional and in denial. They will ALWAYS be a British colony, and their laws will always be similar to those of Great Britain respectively or at least be influenced by them. Australia is like NZ’s older brother/sister, NZ usually follows in their footsteps when it comes to laws/legislation. A good majority of businesses/brands in NZ are Australian owned, and Australia has purchased many locally owned NZ businesses (i.e. Bunnings (benchmark), EziBuy) etc. Australia practically owns NZ unofficially and this is one reason why NZers resent Australians so much. If it was not for sports, many people in the world would still think NZ was part of Australia even though it was never was. I still get asked this question by people overseas from time to time.

    • …I totally agree! My neighbour somewhere in a place just outside Wellington, is a heavy metal era piece of scum who shouts as a form of speaking and plays heavy metal day and night… Well, he did until, every time he started up this mindless excuse for music, I began playing Maria Callas arias at full volume… and sang along with her… he stopped his shenanigans and sometimes acts like a human being now instead of a 26 year old going on 16…

  2. Too much over-emphasis is put on accents IMHO. The main focus should be on trying to communicate clearly in a way that is easily understood politely and respectfully. Nobody intentionally tries to mispronounce the name of a place to deliberately offend people. Having a non-English mother tongue will influence how you will pronounce many English words due to the differences in alphabet, vowels and other sounds etc. Peoples accents change sometimes. I don’t even know what accent I have as I’m a world citizen. Kiwis are very quick to try and detect any hint of foreign accent in even a predominantly Kiwi accent. Most of the world is generally familiar with a British or American accent but even Britain and America have a diverse range of accents among their respective regions. Different tribes and regions have different dialects. All you can do is try and if you can’t pronounce it correctly, don’t worry about it. The world has bigger problems than people’s accents and pronounciation/mispronunciation of words, LOL.

    • Yes agreed ,emphasis should be on communicating clearly,it’s virtually impossible to understand a N.Z accent unless you already know the topic being discussed ,a lot of mumbling goes on and incomplete words are used as the listener is supposed to anticipate the complete word which the orator was to lazy to vocalise! When I first visited California I thought it was strange how they pronounced almost every letter and syllable in a word however it actually makes for very clear communication and avoids the annoying habit people have here of asking one another to repeat a question ,Kiwis really don’t even understand each other’s poor diction.

      • I find most of it ok but despite my length of time here I still get confused by words, “Do you like my new beard?” I am thinking you look like you have had a shave then realise we are talking about a bed. I find I prefer the accent of older New Zealanders. Many younger Kiwis seems to have some kind of hybrid Gangster American/Kiwi accent which irritates me. “Yo, Dood, Bro, wassup, Do you like my new beard”.

  3. I watched that arrogant creepy young woman again and to be honest ,I think I’ll challenge her to speak English correctly ,when she has accomplished speaking English with clarity and understandable diction she can begin to lecture people about pronounciation in other languages ,she has a long long way to go before she speaks intelligible English so here’s wishing her the best ,oim gonna tell you heow angri oiw get when peple doing bofer to spek Maori Noimes properly ,yep go ahead fool.

    • Exactly, to complain about someone not pronouncing Maori words properly because they speak with an accent is kind of like making an issue of not pronouncing English words properly, for the same reason.

      This woman might want to remember this, when she: goes to a rhugby mutch, visits her local liquor store for a sux pack of beer, or buys her fush and chups.

  4. Accent’s not relevant here. What is relevant is that Maori is taught in primary schools as a token gesture only, and only in secondary schools if taken as a specific subject. The only people who speak it conversationally are Maori.
    When I’m in France – and I don’t speak French, I don’t say “Paree”, I say Paris! And French people don’t correct me. I don’t even try to pronounce Bordeaux with the French inflections because I’d sound stupid. When I’m in Germany (don’t speak that either) I don’t say “Munchen”, I say Munich! So please please tell me why I should say a Maori place name with the pronounication of a language I don’t speak?
    This whole placename pronounciation drive has been simmering for years in NZ (TVNZ etc has had a lot to do with it) and whilst I think it’s great to try to keep the language alive, this is more about points scoring than a genuine attempt at education. If I did speak Maori then comments to correct my mis-pronounciation should be taken gracefully as they’re intended to help. Not this, though. This is different.

    • Maori is a dead language that has been resurrected and forced on the children in primary school (and adults in various other places) in an effort to keep the natives happy. Sadly, outside of New Zealand, learning Maori is a complete waste of time; you are better off learning Latin. Many students in New Zealand know this, which creates a deep resentment towards the language.

      The other side of this is that the teaching of Maori has also lowered the standards of the English that is taught. Many students are now coming out of the system with little knowledge of basic English aspects such as the correct use of punctuation, the basic components of a sentence, or sentence structure. It’s pretty sad when a student with 13 years of NZ education doesn’t even know what a noun is.

      • Xavier,

        Yes, that’s not confined to NZ. As a general observation, it’s better to let dying languages die. New Zealanders would be better off learning Mandarin, Japanese or Indonesian. It’s the responsibility of native speakers to keep their minority languages alive, not the government.

  5. English is the best language to communicate in nowadays however it’s not spoken in many places ,N.Z English is so poor that 25 years ago nobody understood a word I said on either phone or face to face conversation ,my interactions have taught me to speak clearly ,American English is the best,we all watch American T.V and understand what is said,sorry to you purest English .I have

    learned to speak Spanish although not 100% fluently ,it’s not difficult although impossible for most Kiwis who struggle with English,Maori is a nice language if you intend to live in N.Z and suck up to people for your entire life.basically a waste of time though unless your brain is so big you have room.

  6. I beg to disagree with some comments. There is proper English. It is called Queen’s English. Quote” The Queen’s English refers to grammatically correct and coherent speaking and writing in English language. It does not refer to a specific accent, intonation or regional variation of the spoken language.”
    Kiwi English is millions years away from Queen’s English. It is a mess and is getting worse. (Yossarian’s example is good). A quick look at the comments on Botha’s video also confirms it. Here is the irony – people who can’t speak and write properly in one of the NZ’s official languages are so worried that non-Maori don’t pronounce some towns’ Maori names “correctly”.

    I did Budgeting Adviser’s course some 10 years ago (before the current government scraped the program) and volunteered as a Budget adviser for more than a year. During this time I met quite a lot Maori families. Their English dialect is totally different from that of the majority of Kiwis.

    I appreciate that Maori want to preserve their cultural identity and that is fine in my book. But their culture should amalgamate with the other cultures to form the base for us to grow as nation! Sadly, this is not the case. Corrupt politicians are using Maori to advance their political agenda and to separate us, provoking racism and fighting. There is an old saying: “Divide and conquer/rule.”

    In my opinion, Hanna Botha doesn’t have ground to make such statement. It’s Ok that non-Maori don’t pronounce Maori words the way Maori people do. It is Ok that Maori speak English with specific for them accent, as do Americans, Canadians, Australians, Irish e.t.c. Accents shouldn’t be an issue and shouldn’t separate people. As for Botha – her post is designed to collect FB “likes” and to promote her. Some Facebookers would do anything to be popular on FB, because is feeds their ego.

    • perhaps the site management should open a section on Kiwi English. Both for a bit of amusement, but also so new immigrants can be aware of what to expect.

  7. Well to show the grandstanding of all matters regarding Race in this country,sir what’s his name aka The mad Butcher has been accused of racism for a casual comment on Waiheke Island .apparently he advised a young Maori woman and her friends not to drink drive ,the young woman responded no worries I’m Tangatuwhenua( I’m sure that’s not how that’s spelt) anyway ,he said yes but this place is a white peoples island (meaning yeah ,you’re Maori but you’ll get busted anyway).Next thing she’s crying all over Facebook and the matter makes national news .
    This is one of the few countries in the world which has places off limits to people based on race,Maori Land ,Marae’s ,Lakes ,Beaches only for Maori use and she gets upset because she chooses to misconstru a friendly comment knowing the man has celebrity status in N.Z .Give us a break.Try putting Whites only signs up at a beach and see what happens,white land no access,white landcorp,whites only fisheries.I know who the true racists are and that was a cheap shot and very destructive to the man.

  8. A part of the problem seems to be that the Kiwis were not clever enough to use the English letters that most closely approximated the Maori pronunciation. For example, why not use an F or Ph for Whangarei?

    I certainly favour using the correct pronunciation for Maori words. However, her rant appears to be one of these meritless badges of distinction that the pseudointellectuals use as a means for trying to affirm their superiority.

    I think New Zealanders should start by learning English correctly, building adequate housing, or ensuring a reasonable level of public safety. They should only move on to the more trivial issues such as this or the new flag once they have overcome the more pressing concerns.

  9. Interesting to note the number of kiwis who now pluralise the likes of “New Year” into “New Years” (as the speaker does). Do we now wish people a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years?

    It’s a bit like the woman at my place of work who was complaining that someone had taken her “gears”. Had she stripped her gearbox or something? No, it turned out she had mislaid her protective work gear…

    I personally believe it is not about posh accents or regional dialects but more about the slovenly way in which some people speak. Sadly many kiwis are very guilty of this and it adds to the already very unprofessional nature of the country.

  10. Since Norton is Irish he should be rather careful about ridiculing other people’s accents. The Irish and their accent have long been subject to mockery by the English, he should know better.
    There’s occasionally an undertone of racism in Norton’s show. The actress Jennifer Lawrence told a ‘funny’ story how she scratched her butt on some Polynesian sacred objects in Hawaii and dislodged one of them. Norton and some members of the audience thought that this was really amusing, the Hawaiians weren’t amused.

    I sometimes have trouble understanding New Zild, particularly if the New Zilder is on the phone, the clipped vowels seem to disappear. Although the Anglophone world is dominated by US English, every accent or dialect is ‘correct’ English in its context. So when people criticise others for not ‘speaking proper English’ what they really mean is that they’re not using their dialect.

  11. She makes some good points but loses ground based on attitude. She also doesn’t give any ground for others for whom languages are hard. I speak English and do try with Maori words but sometimes what I hear and then repeat is still different from the correct pronunciation.

    I’ve also had someone stop me in midsentence to correct my pronunciation and then make fun of my efforts. From Kiwis! Not helpful people!

    Learning any new language is hard as an adult and she would do well to show some compassion rather than just rant.

  12. Each time I am wondering if I am speaking to a true Kiwi when the accent is so easily listened, it always turns out that the person is either from the U.K. or Canada! Don’t think I will change my RP but I will learn to distinguish the Kiwi accent.

  13. Yeah and here we have another classic case example of Kiwi attitude that people like me who have to live here can’t stop complaining about. People latching onto something popular just so they can feel separate or superior from everybody else. You know as much as I agree with her argument, the arogrance and the way she comes across is just what really gets me. The whole those that don’t agree with what I say aren’t worthy of discussion or debate because if you don’t agree with me then you are just automatically beneath me bullshit. It’s complete crap and shows you the sort of thing people who don’t fit into popular opinion have to put up with. It’s depressing.

    That and personally speaking as someone who’s part Maori through his Kiwi Father I am getting really tired of people here and their faux liberalism using Maori issues as personally leverage to talk themselves up, when we both know if they weren’t able to use it like they do, they wouldn’t give a shit about anyone. Seriously it’s just popular issue people like to bring up because makes them look cool. It’s not like they really care. They did then why don’t they extend argument and speak about other languages people talk here. Why not press for including other languages into everyday speech ? Especially alot of other Polynesian languages like Samoan or Tongan that is way more widely spoken here than what is still almost an officially dead language as academic from Dunedin once pointed out there are more people in New Zealand who can understand Latin or Ancient Greek than they do Maori. If not Polynesian languages then why not Hindi or Arabic or some of Asian languages like Chinese or Cantonese ? If you were really that concern about other people in society like she making out why not press for them to all be made official languages in this country like they should be instead of just English, Maori and Sign Language ? No we can’t do that ! We can’t include in this country because if we made everyone feel inclusive who would we have left to feel better about ? Like I keep saying, this place is pathetic. I can’t wait to get out of here … 😦

  14. Interesting maybe she is just another dummy attention seeker ,everything is so perfect in this country now all we need to do is focus on our pronounciation of Maori names and job done .We can then turn our attention to telling those pesky Jewish people how to run their country and continue to badmouthing Trump and the rest of the world.

  15. That time when i was told to catch the fairy over to Waikheke, and the black look i got when i burst out laughing. Pure gold.

  16. I com-plate-lay a-gray with this article and the stance against the murder of ‘Unglish’ in NZ. NZers can’t speak a first language properly so why bother with a second. ‘I was standing on the ‘beer’ land next to the ‘earport’ watching a ‘hallycopta’ ‘lend’ Awful. Deplorable.

  17. Dumb attention seeker, who’s “kiwi” English is atrocious. People like her and her supporters play big part New Zealand’s declining. They live in another country called “Aotearoa”. I don’t know another state with two names but NZ. A Fact which speaks volumes.

  18. How about her addressing something more important like how her fellow countrymen/’WOMAN’ (snigger) are incredibly racist to Asians etc?

    Mispronouncing Maori words is hardly something I’d ever give a shit about in my lifetime.

    • I just got a 30 day ban from the wonderful website that is Facebook, all because I stated some facts in regards to her post. So obviously a load of Maoris reported my post, but they are allowed to call me a ‘fukin fag’ and all sorts and get away with it.

      I’ve de-activated my account permanently. Sick of being censored by liberal PC neanderthals.

      Reverse racism is acceptable it seems. figures, doesn’t it?

      • Great stuff. Yes you are exactly right. I only kept my account to follow my interest pages and keep up to date and be informed.

        If you don’t follow the “I like this” moral code you will be vilified, ostracised and punished for it. They can stick their data mining website where the sun don’t shine 🙂

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