Bunk, wag or play hookey?

21:45, Dec 30 2012

Today pupils say they "bunk" school, but 50 years ago they would have been playing "hookey".

This is just one example of how New Zealand's dialect has evolved over the years.

University of Canterbury linguistics lecturer Kevin Watson has surveyed 1000 Kiwis on commonly used words to discover more about New Zealand's dialect.

Watson said he wanted to research how words varied around the country, to understand more about words that are distinctly Kiwi.

In an online survey, completed by people aged between 16 and 70, Watson asked how they described popular places or activities.

The three most common words used for sneaking a day off school were hookey, wagging and bunking.


The older generation knew it as hookey, but the younger groups hardly used that word at all, Watson said.

Wagging was top for those under 40, but bunking has been adopted by those between 16 and 30. Another interesting one was the place you go to watch a film, Watson said.

"Some people 40 and over said they go to the pictures. But younger people said they went to the movies."

Watson said this might look like an Americanism, which some people might get irritated by, but some respondents also reported that they made a distinction between a movie as a thing to watch and the cinema as the place people went to watch it.

The Press