While taking a vaguely nationalistic bent and watching “Coast – New Zealand” on the Teev, this evening – and in particular listening to the way Scottish born presenter Neil Oliver says “New Zealand” I found myself recalling a theory expounded by an old English teacher from my school days.
He reckoned the way New Zealanders pronounce the name of the country – “Nu Zillun” – was derived from Peter Fraser, Prime Minister 1940-49.
Fraser was born in Scotland. This teacher – himself of Scottish heritage and a pillar of the local Presbyterian Church – had a theory Fraser’s diction was picked up and copied by New Zealanders.
It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Fraser was the wartime Prime Minister and that first Labour government was an extremely enthusiastic user of the publicity techniques of the time which included radio and of course newsreels.
It was the first government in New Zealand’s history to use such publicity mechanisms in quite such an aggressive way.
My old teacher’s theory came back to me this evening as I watched the Scottish presenterof “Coast: New Zealand” talk about the country and yes, pronounce it ‘Nu Zillun’.