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A New Dictionary for New Zealanders

A New Dictionary for New Zealanders

Living in the wop-wops, going for a Warrant of Fitness, confronting a curly problem, taking the Fendalton tractor on a tiki tour, going blackwater rafting at mates’ rates, attending a pōwhiri, dissing the dibbly-dobbler – all these 'New Zealandisms' and more are in The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary to be launched this week.

The Dictionary, a joint venture between Oxford University Press (OUP) and Victoria University's New Zealand Dictionary Centre, will be launched at Parliament tomorrow (Wednesday November 17) at 5.30pm. Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, will host the launch.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said keeping track of the distinctive features of New Zealand English had been a long-standing academic tradition at Victoria for more than 60 years and has been focused in the New Zealand Dictionary Centre since its establishment in 1997. "Notable lexicographers to come from Victoria include Dr Harry Orsman, who edited the flagship Dictionary of New Zealand English, and Dr Robert Burchfield, who became editor-in-chief of the great Oxford English Dictionary. That our relationship with OUP has allowed The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary to be completed is a sign of the strength of research in linguistics at the University."

OUP's Australia and New Zealand Chief Executive Marek Palka said OUP was proud to publish this landmark dictionary.

"Oxford University Press has an unrivalled reputation for publishing dictionaries of authority and excellence throughout the English speaking world, including the Oxford English Dictionary and Harry Orsman's magnum opus The Dictionary of New Zealand English. "The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary joins this prestigious family of outstanding dictionaries and rightly puts New Zealand English on the world map as one of the major varieties of contemporary English."

Co-edited by Dictionary Centre Senior Editor Tony Deverson and Emeritus Professor Graeme Kennedy, the new dictionary contains more than 10,000 New Zealand entries and part-entries in addition to 100,000 words drawn from The Oxford English Reference Dictionary and The Australian Oxford Dictionary.

"The project, which took four years to complete, has been a journey into both the Māori and Pākehā history of New Zealand and its literature, economics, politics, botany, zoology and almost every other realm of the country's life and endeavour,” they said.

"One of the striking characteristics of New Zealand English is the increasingly strong influence of the Māori language. About six words in every 1,000 in spoken and written English are of Māori origin. A large proportion of these are plants and animals such as kauri, tōtara, kākāpō and weta, and place and personal names," they said.

"There are also many examples of words and concepts borrowed from Māori culture and society that have become more widely familiar to New Zealanders in the last 20 years, such as hikoi, hongi, hui, kaumātua, kōhanga reo, whānau and tangata whenua."

Graeme Kennedy said New Zealand English has also developed new ways of referring to concepts for which terms already exist in other varieties of English.

"So words such as gladwrap, capping, chips, glide time, section and hot-water cupboard coexist with British English words such as cling film, graduation, crisps, flexitime, lot and airing cupboard."

Tony Deverson said that many new words or new meanings for old words have come from the rural sector and others from factories, the sports field or reflect particular aspects of social, cultural or political life in New Zealand.

These words include: afghan; bach; backblocks; Beehive; biddy-bid; cheerio; dunger; dwang; fa'afafine; farmstay; fastpost; greasies; gumboot; gutbuster; half-g; housie; jandal; jetboat; munted; overstayer; plonk; scarfie; Swanndri; and tinny.

As part of international English, New Zealand English had not been immune from the rapidly expanding nature of the language. Ongoing developments in the field of electronic communication had seen the arrival of words such as cybercafe, dotcom; ISP, mouse, chatroom and text message.

Like many contemporary dictionaries, The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary, is 'encyclopedic' in that as well as general entries for words, it also includes more than 10,000 entries about the world. Of those, more than 2,000 entries are about New Zealand and cover a broad spectrum of Māori and Pākehā men and women as well as a full range of place names, public and private organisations, major historical events and locations, items of Kiwiana and names from Māori mythology.

Twenty extensive appendices contain significant statistical information about New Zealand and its history, along with lists of important geographical features, centres of population, notable citizens, the English and Māori versions of the national anthem and the Treaty of Waitangi, and the conventional guides to grammar and punctuation.

Media are welcome to attend the launch on Wednesday, November 17 at 5.30pm in the Banquet Hall at the Beehive.

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