To people who love following the twisting, squirming course of Australian English, there are some pronunciations which hit the ear-drum like a fire cracker.
And none is more surprising, nor more fast-spreading, than the stray Ks being plonked at the end of perfectly usable words.
Nothink, somethink, everythink. Or, even worse: nuffink, sumpfink and everyfink.
Most of us noted one or two kids at school who dropped their Gs and lobbed in a passing K by way of compensation.
To tell the truth, I used to think (with a K) that they were people who would have trouble looking at a Disney comic without chaffing their lips.
I always used to tell my kids to be careful when they opened their mouths, as they were revealing more than just a couple of thousand dollars in dental work. When we speak, we pass on so much more than just words.
We inform people where we come from, our ease with the English language, our levels of education (to a degree … excuse the pun) and our ability to understand spelling, to use correct pronunciation and acceptable sentence construction. We can also demonstrate our sense of humour, an ability to muck about with words creatively and whether we are interesting people or quite boring.
I used to tell them that it’d be much more difficult, for example, to get a job in a book store if you said: Airyer gowan? Watcher lookin for? Like. Dude.
A waiter who answered a query about the best plate of the day with: “Dunno. Sorl good” would certainly get a tip – get another job and quickly.
So it used to be with the word-ending K. Surely a marker of someone who just wasn’t paying attention in year seven English. Akin to those who dropped their Gs entirely and were doin nothin about anythin at all.
But not now, dear reader. I have to inform you that hardly a day goes past without noting this phenomenon in all walks of life. You see quite smart and presentable people being interviewed on TV yabbering on about anythink at all, or nothink at all, and not being remotely embarrassed about it.
For reasons I cannot now remember, I like watching Parliamentary Question Time on the ABC and this past week I heard one of our elected MPs – not even slightly a silly person – waxing on with a couple of passing “anythinks”. To me it was like a shotgun blast at 10 centimetres. To the MP, it was quite normal.
An ABC news presenter used it this week. Where did this come from and why is it spreading into usually more erudite parts of our community?
It seems the replacement of a silent G with a spoken K is – at this stage – more strongly noted in Australia, New Zealand and some south-eastern parts of the UK. But I cannot find many suggested reasons.
One language website thought it might be that some people do pronounce the G, so that “nothing” becomes “nothinG”. It has appeared also in some eastern US regions where they would pronounce Long Island as “Lawn Guyland”, and “singer” would rhyme with “finger”. The way we form this hard G is very close to the way we form the K sound, and it is thought that some of those using the stray K don’t even hear it. It all sounds the same to them.
Australian English is always shifting, and it’s likely that plonking a K on the end of an –ing word will one day be so common it will be acceptable. But I’ll be moulderink in my grave by then. Just sayink.