The New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary (review)
- Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
- Dictionary Society of North America
- Number 8, 1986
- pp. 317-326
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Reviews3 1 7 The New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary. Robert W. Burchfield. Auckland: Oxford UP, 1986. xxvi + 901 pp. $NZ 21.95. A dictionary described as "pocket" cannot often be the subject of a review of more than a few lines. In the case of The New Zealand Pocket Oxford Dictionary [NZPOD], however, there are reasons for a more extended treatment. It is edited by the Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, who has this year brought to completion its four-volume Supplement. Himself a New Zealander, Burchfield is one of a number of New Zealand scholars in and around Oxford and its Londonbased University Press, who are sometimes jocularly referred to, even by themselves, as the New Zealand Mafia (cf. s.v. mafia—sometimes spelt pseudo-Maoriwise mawhia). Recent editions of the Concise Oxford and Pocket Oxford did give increased attention to the English of the Antipodes, but it is just in the last few years that New Zealand has begun to acquire dictionaries of its own. In 1979 H. W. Orsman of Victoria University, Wellington, produced the Heinemann New Zealand Dictionary, which claimed justly to be "the first dictionary of New Zealand English and New Zealand pronunciation [reviewed in Dictionaries 6 (1984): 293-95. Ed.]." Though its number of headwords is considerably less than those of NZPOD, it is certainly commendable for its extremely lucid presentation and pronunciation system, both of which must have helped some readers old and young who in the past often experienced bewilderment as they made their way through the dense bush of "concise" dictionaries for which the chief consideration was the total number of words to be contained between the covers. It is also notable for its "grey pages," with their uncluttered presentation and tolerant refusal to be prescriptive. Under the comparison of the adjectives unique and perfect we are gently told, "Some people believe that certain adjectives cannot be qualified in this way," a policy that guides the timid without raising the hackles of the radical. (NZPOD's D for "disputed usage" has a similar aim, but does bring in a more argumentative tone.) A little later came The New Collins Concise Dictionary ofthe English Language, New Zealand Edition. This work, which is a 3 1 8 Reviews full-scale "concise," did muddy the waters somewhat by being a combined Australian and New Zealand dictionary. In itself that would not have been a bad thing were it not for the implication that the two were separate works. In fact their separateness consisted of their having individual introductions, the New Zealand one containing an excellent introductory article on New Zealand English, including its pronunciation, by Ian A. Gordon (who had been Burchfield's Professor of English at Victoria University, Wellington). Collins has also produced The Collins New Zealand Compact English Dictionary, Ian A. Gordon (Auckland: Collins, 1984), which is itself noteworthy and in which some former confusions between Australian and New Zealand usages were rectified. And so to NZPOD itself. New Zealanders themselves seem somewhat mystified (possibly significantly) by the existence of something called "New Zealand English" and appear to expect the chief aim of a dictionary devoted to it to be the production of a work that will recognize, and perhaps countenance, the colloquial and slang areas of the country's speech and popular writing. Titles given to reviews by sub-editors illustrate this attitude; they include "Godzone English" (Listener), "Slang'll be right" (N. Z. Herald), and "Beaut: the oil [sc. accurate information] on our English" (Listener), and "Our very own Kiwi dictionary" (Zealandia). This is not hard to understand. For it is only after traveling or closely questioning visitors to New Zealand that a New Zealander becomes aware what the particularly New Zealand lexical items actually are. By contrast, however, one quickly becomes aware that certain expressions, favored by peers but probably disapproved of by parents and teachers, are at the least not Standard English and probably "wrong" as well. It is not difficult for an unsophisticated speaker to merge these two areas unconsciously. Writers of fiction consciously seeking to establish a distinctively New Zealand idiom turn to account, not surprisingly, this colloquial field. Frank Sargeson is perhaps the best...