A Post With a Language List

It’s a bracing day here in the capital city. Gale force winds, sideways rains, that sort of thing. And I’m pottering at the computer doing nothing in particular while Travis and Petra spend some time being mall rats at the Porirua Mall. Petra particularly likes it there because there’s a store with lots of balls to play with and a playground as well as the usual bookshops and junk food emporiums.

Disasters and traumas bring with them their own terminology and jargon and I’ve been meaning to make a list of some of the more common terms for a while. So, here are a few of the words and phrases I’d rather not have heard over the past year or so, but which have been depressingly ubiquitous.

1) Munted – an unlovely piece of NZ slang formerly meaning drunk or irrevocably broken (as in “we all got really munted last night.” or “that car is munted.”), used only in very informal speech. It’s now a common term to describe things in Christchurch post-earthquakes used by all ages and styles of people and has even made it into the local media.

2) Liquefaction – the process by which wet soil turns to liquid mud during an earthquake. Parts of Christchurch have been covered in layers of bubbling mud three or four times because they were built on unsuitable land.

3) Unreinforced masonry – a style of building “where load bearing walls, non-load bearing walls or other structures, such as chimneys are made of brick, cinderblock, tiles, adobe or other masonry material, that is not braced by reinforcing beams.” This was a pretty common method around the turn of the last century when much of New Zealand was built. And it means that walls of many commercial buildings all over New Zealand are prone to collapse in an earthquake. Many people were killed in Christchurch when building frontages toppled onto the streets and chimneys and cornices came crashing down.

4) Salvors – a lovely word this, to describe the people who undertake the very not lovely task of salvaging a ship and its cargo after a shipwreck. I started hearing it when the Rena ran aground off the coast of the North Island last year and began leaking oil and shedding containers into the surrounding ocean.

5) Pike River Mine – a tiny place on the West Coast of the South Island now famous as the place where a methane gas explosion took the lives of 29 miners in late 2010.

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