The language of Kiwi modesty: incomprehensible elsewhere?

Peter Calveley is a Kiwi fight-sequence choreographer and actor. But he has an interesting hobby: "United States patents".

In 2005 Calveley challenged the mighty [tag]Amazon[/tag] over their patents for the famous [tag]one-click[/tag] technology — and won. The US Patents and Trademarks Office rejected all but five of the company's 26 patent claims after a 17-month investigation.

What interests me is the language used by Calveley in the interview.

"I just thought it was very, very cheeky. [...] I don't have anything against them really. But if I see someone doing something stupid like that they need a slapping round. [...] Neither I nor the contributors were like the opposition that have their own space programme, so it was a bit harder for us than it was for them."

"A bit harder"?

Let's hope Flight of the Conchords has sensitised some people in the U.S. to the [tag]Kiwi vernacular[/tag] and our habit of understatement. In one sense, Calveley says much, much less than he has a right to say. Heaven forbid that other Kiwis might think he was skiting.

But such excessive modesty can be taken literally by those from a different culture. We risk being underestimated when we think we are just being polite. Tough call, isn't it?

Skiting and other N.Z. words
The story of Calveley vs. Amazon
The DomPost tells the story


Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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