Editorial: Rounding up the strays

So the Wellington muster's on again.

A party at the Beehive wouldn't normally be a matter for which people hereabouts hold particular enthusiasm. But the Southland shindig to be held there on July 25 there is, on balance, more a matter of heart than hedonism.

It's good for both sides - them there and us here - if southerners who have strayed are reminded, and vividly, of who they are and where they're from. There aren't that many of us that we should lose track of one another.

When Invercargill MP Eric Roy called it also an opportunity for former Southlanders to "network" he can be forgiven the city slickness of that term. Southlanders don't network; they catch up. You might argue the effect is much the same, but the connections are stronger when they happen organically. And from all accounts those parties tend to be pretty organic.

The event, which ran for 15 years before an unfortunate eight-year hiatus, and is now staged every second year, has trappings that could be called cliched, though they're really classically themed.

Oysters, cheese rolls and swedes will be abundant but what will truly distinguish the event will be the yarns and, of course, the way they're told - with all necessary letters of the alphabet present and accounted for, thank you very much.

Southlanders are lucky that they tend to have an accent that heads home. It's not really a rolled R, but a rhotic one; the difference between a whirring tongue and a sound that simply holds on to the R sound long enough to savour it a moment.

By contrast, shiftless northerners speak with accents of their own - one which is inclined to disregard an R (which they call "ah") unless it's right there at the front of a word.

All too often don't make the sound at all; they just pin a promissory note to the nearest vowel ("IOU one ah") without quite getting around to delivering it. So a store in Gore becomes a staw in Gaw.

As accents go, ours is a thorough, diligent way of talking compared to the listless and forgetful manner favoured further north.

In the babble influences that assail us in these days of telecommunication, regional accents do tend to fade. Our Wellingtonians are perhaps due for their tune-up. You have to worry about our Aucklanders.

The Southland Times