The Language of The Survivors

The Survivors series is set in modern New Zealand. New Zealand is a small island country in the South Pacific, that consists of two large landmasses and an assortment of smaller islands. The official languages are New Zealand English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language. Although New Zealand English has its roots in British English, the spoken sub-dialect is significantly different from the written version, and even the written version includes large numbers of local words and words introduced from other languages (particularly Maori) that are considered an integral part of New Zealand’s day-to-day culture.

In order to keep the setting of The Survivors as authentic as possible, and to keep the heroine’s voice true to her nature, The Survivors is told using primarily New Zealand English. I have attempted to include descriptions or explanations wherever possible in order to make the book as accessible as possible to non-New Zealanders, but this is not always possible.

The below translation guide is provided as a quick reference for concepts and words presented in the novels. If you come across anything that has you stumped, please feel free to use the Comments feature below to ask questions, and I will endeavour to answer them to the best of my ability.

Please note that this translation guide does not include small variations between British and American English, such as “tyre” and “tire” or “colour” and “color”.


 

Kiwiana Word
Description/Translation
Aotearoa The Maori name for New Zealand, literally “The Land Of The Long White Cloud”.
Bush Specifically, “native bush”. This term refers to an area of native forest, which is characterised by a particularly thick shrub layer dominated by indigenous ferns and bushes – hence the colloquialism. Native bush is often very thick and dark, and can be very difficult to travel through as a result.
Cark it To die.  Example: “We were half-way to Tauranga when the car carked it.”
G’day Colloquial version of “Good day”.
Hongi Maori culture, the pressing together of the nose and forehead in a greeting. Used in a similar fashion to the handshake in Western culture. Symbolises the mixing of the breath of life integral to Maori folklore.
Kai Maori, “Food”.
Kia Ora Maori, “Hello”.
Kumara A sweet potato.
Maori Relating to the original peoples of New Zeland. May be used to refer to their cultural traits (e.g. “she tried to live by the traditional Maori ways.”), language (e.g. “he spoke Maori.”) or ethnicity (e.g. “my grandmother was Maori”). The Maori people evolved from Polynesian migrants that arrived in New Zealand around 1,000 years ago. If you would like to learn more about the Maori people, we recommend http://www.maori.org.nz/.
Mate A contextually sensitive word that is usually used in place of the word “friend”. Can be used sarcastically or in threat just as readily as being used in a friendly fashion, e.g. “You’re going to regret that, mate.”
Rēwena Maori, literally “ferment/rise”. In terms of bread, it refers to a traditional Maori potato bread.