Chups or Chips? Deciphering Australian and New Zealand English

As a New Zealander traveling the globe, it must be frustrating and tiresome to constantly hear the question “which part of Australia are you from?” To those who can’t call the great country ‘down under’ or the ‘land of the long white cloud’ home, the difference between an Australian and a New Zealand accent is almost indistinguishable. But to those familiar with the rivalry between the two countries on either side of ‘the ditch’, there isn’t much worse than being from one and being labeled the other.

It is true, however, that Australian English and New Zealand English are very similar, helped in no small part by the close ties between the two countries, with more Australian tourists going to NZ every year than to any other country, and vice versa. The most noticeable difference, although surely to be disputed by almost all from outside the two countries, lies in the accent.

Australian English language speakers tend to position their tongue higher and more forward than their neighbors when producing the sound /I/. New Zealand English speakers, on the other hand, have a higher tongue position when producing /e/ or /æ/ sounds.

New Zealanders tend to lengthen the ‘e’ or /i/ sound in words, so while an Australian would say check, a New Zealander would say cheeck. The classic test to distinguish between the two accents has long been the pronunciation of ‘fish and chips’, as New Zealand English speakers substitute the ‘I’ or /I/ for a schwa, or /?/, leading to fish becoming fush and chips becoming chups. Another old favorite is that Australian would say ‘peck the pack of pickles,’ whereas their neighbors would say ‘pick the peck of puckles.’

Although both sides of the Tasman Sea share the majority of words, there are some lexical differences between the two. Those warm, summer days would likely see New Zealanders walking around in their jandals, whereas those in Australia would be off to the beach in their thongs (not what you think, although probably best not to Google it surrounded by people). While an Australian would consider doing a bit of bushwacking this weekend, a New Zealander would strap on their boots to go tramping. And finally, ask an Englishman how they are and they’re likely to reply ‘very well, thanks’, whereas an Australian may give you a ‘bonzer, mate’ and a New Zealander would probably confuse you a little, telling you everything is ‘a box of birds’. Things can get a little stir-crazy down there, at the very end of the world.

So next time you go to ask someone you’re sure is Australian which part of the country they’re from, ask them first what the most popular seafood takeaway is in their native land, and the next time a New Zealander asks for a ‘pin’, save yourself some searching time and just hand them a pen.

About the Author

Andrew Dunn is a professional blogger who in into travel, language and culture. He sometimes blogs about English language translation services.

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