The enduring ubiquity of "Naur," Gen Z's favorite quibble (2023)

"Naur" is everywhere, but a recent tweet claims that it has reached a particularly remarkable level of ubiquity. "Gen Z won't like it if I say that... but 'naurrrr' and 'saurrr gut' are just the new 'ermahgerd,'" he said, referring to the 2012 internet meme.

Sure, there are definite similarities. Both "r" where "ermahgerd" stretches the mouth horizontally and "naur" stretches it vertically. And just as you can "speak" in ermahgerd ("Twitter is a hellhole" would be, for example, "Twerter is a herrhoe"), you can speak in "naur"... it's called speaking with an Australian accent.

Online, Americans have come up with new spellings of words to indicate they're pronounced with an accent, changing a phrase like "Koalas are so cute" to "koalarrs ah saurr cute."

The tweet may have been deleted.(opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new window)

But while ermahgerd was born out of the early Internet lightheartedness to express nerdy emotion, "naur" has much more complicated roots and uses. We break them down below with the help of Australian voice and dialect coach Amy Hume, who teaches voice at the University of Melbourne's Victorian College of the Arts.

What does "naur" mean and how is it used?

"Naur" is "no" with an Australian accent. More specifically, it's "no" written with an Australian accent.sounds like for americans. "If you tell an Australian there's an 'r' in the way we pronounce 'no,' he'll say 'Hmm... no, there isn't,'" says Hume.

This is because the Australian accent is not rhotic, so an "r" is not pronounced unless it comes before a vowel. The American accent is rhotic, so if a word is spelled with an "r", a "strong r" is used. When Americans apply their pronunciation to Australian "no", the result is the phonetic spelling of "naur". (To an Australian, "naur" seems to be pronounced "naw.")

"Naur" has a varied and flexible usage, changing with capitalization and the suffixes a, u, and r.

It can be a softer and more playful "no":

Sam: My day was going great, but I doused myself with hot tea on the subway :(
Alex: omg naurrr

It can be used instead of "wait" or "await":

@Sam on Twitter Naur why Zendaya and Tom Holland are so cute

"Naur" exists because "no", "nö" and "nah" no longer fit together. In the last four years alone, we have witnessed the collapse of American politics, the catastrophes of global warming, and the COVID-19 pandemic. There are only a limited number of times you can express fear or disapproval by saying "no" before it loses meaning. In a post-no society, "Naur" is the next iteration of that sentiment.

Sam: So there's a new strain of COVID-19 and it's spreading super fast in big cities.
Alex: No
Sam: I just heard they're doing a room too.fantastic beasts and where to find themMovie
Alex: No
Sam: And J.K. rowling is directing

Like "no", "naur" has an almost infinite number of meanings when spoken out loud. It can be quickly chewed or stretched and, depending on pronunciation, can be expanded to include up to four vowels and three consonants in a single syllable. The meaning of "Naur" changes depending on the context, which means that it can mean whatever you want.

How do you pronounce "naur"?

Hume says that to learn an accent, one must master the "oral posture" of that accent: the tensing of the muscles when they have achieved an accent."

"The attitude of a typical Aussie speaker is probably kind of puckered corners and the lips don't really move much," he says. "There's not much activity in the cheeks either and the tongue is pretty deep in the mouth. In a general American setting, there's a little more lift in the cheeks, more movement in the upper lip, and the tongue sits higher in the mouth."

To pronounce "naur," Hume says, take it easy. “Your tongue needs to relax and sink back. Imagine sticking out your tongue like a sun lounger by a really nice pool. Your tongue is so cold. And then you have to close your lips. [In Australia] we say 'Keep the flies out.'" The Australian pronunciation of the "no" ending ends with a sound more like a "w" than an "r", like "na-oooo-wuh" .

All that musculature makes it much harder for Americans to pick up convincing Australian accents than it is for Australians to speak an American, says Hume. "The Australian language is so relaxed that once you train it, you can elevate it and [achieve] different American accents. Although it is more difficult for Americans to lower the tongue." Just last week, Australian Netflix actor Felix Mallardginny y georgiaaddressed his approach to switching between his Native American and American accent, including the placement of the tongue and the difficulty of getting the correct "r" in each word.

Also, Australians' facial expression skills may be better due to their lifelong exposure to American culture. In Australia, "you can't go an hour without an American accent because of a TV show or an online ad or whatever," Hume explains, "whereas an American can spot those key events [if it's] an Australian accent ".

Don't you get it at all? Don't worry, it takes some time to get used to a whole new sound, says Hume, "and you create a whole new neural pathway to make that sound."

Where does "Naur" come from?

Even though you know your memeFoundation 2021(Opens in a new window)When the "Naur" revolution started, it probably started earlier, around 2018. In September of this year, a tweet reading "Aussies be like... naur" received more than 17,000 likes.

The tweet may have been deleted.(opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new window)

That same year, the global growth of K-pop coincided with the debut of Australian idols in big groups, notably Stray Kids' Bang Chan and Felix and later ENHYPEN's Jake, who joined Blackpink's Rosé as part of the "Australian line" of the industry. "Fan-made YouTube compilations of English-language moments, interviews and live streams from the linegot millions of views(Opens in a new window), but Bang Chan and Felix have proven to be their country's most vocal evangelists. They regularly exchange "g'day companions", extolling Vegemite's virtues and reveling in its unique pronunciation.

When fans edited videos of "Aussie Line" moments, they spelled out each syllable on screen like the idol while listening to the idol pronounce it, lengthening "nice" to "noice" and "no" to "naur," for example. Fans started using "naur" on Stan's Twitter.

2019 Australian TV Show ClipsH2O just add waterwith the characters yelling "Cleo, no!" in rich Australian accents became increasingly popular on TikTok, as did impersonations of those lines.

A quick Google search reveals that the phrase really took off in May 2021, when it was taken over by the Twitter mainstream and users imagined phrases replacing "no" with "naur" and other Australian words like "saur" (for "then"). so prevalent that brands have jumped into the fray with NetflixPost a TikTok Ranking(Opens in a new window)of the best "nauros".H2O just add waterin November 2022.

The tweet may have been deleted.(opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new window)

Why do we like to say "naur"?

Hume knows how much non-Australians like to imitate Australian accents. "I have a lot of American friends, and every time I say 'no,' they repeat it. So it's a sound they've always noticed."

It is also a way of processing the world around us. That's why kids in the US havepicked up the British accent from Peppa Pig(Opens in a new window)and talk about eating "brekky" after watching an Australian children's cartoonBluisha Disney Plus.

Mimicking an accent is also a major factor in going unnoticed, especially for children. “If someone moves [to another] country as a child, it is very likely that their accent will change [unconsciously]. Language research shows that after the age of 11 it's more of a conscious choice."

The tweet may have been deleted.(opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new window)
The tweet may have been deleted.(opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new window)

Of course, "naur" also feels good.

"There are mouth positions we can adopt for fun," says Hume. For example, "warned". When you say it out loud, she explains, "You pull your lips to the side a little bit, hold your tongue in a certain position, and make a face. It feels like a live-action emoji, really, doesn't it? It's like, "I have a face and I have words to say to it. So he feels quite satisfying," and Naur is just as delicious in all her guises.

What do Australians think of "naur"?

A friend who recently traveled to Canada and Cincinnati told Hume how widespread "Naur" has become, saying that in the last four weeks she has done about 20 radio interviews about the worldwide interest in the word. "What struck me is how little Australians know about how we speak," says Hume, noting that the most common response to the "Naur" phenomenon is "Tell us more about our accent!"[Editor's note: I can confirm. I don't know which is funnier or more fascinating: watching Americans nail our accent to perfection, or watching them try and hear absolute dog brekky pouring out of jumbled cockney vowels. The latter is like a child who draws a picture of his family: he is funny because he is bad at it, kind because he is loving, and it can also be humiliating because he emphasizes certain traits. — Caitlin Welsh, Australia editor]

In general, says Hume, "there is an overwhelming group consciousness that comes with the pronunciation of the word." Australian entertainers adopted a standardized Australian accent as did American celebrities and newscasters adopted the transatlantic accent in the first half of the 20th century. This has led to a bit of embarrassment.

“We have this thing in Australia calledculture tingle(Opens in a new window); we move away from how we sound or how we look,” Hume explains. “There is a discomfort with our own culture that, for me, goes back to colonization. It's about UK aspirations... When I go to the theater or see an Australian movie and people talk [with a standard Australian accent], I cringe because I don't talk like that.

The tweet may have been deleted.(opens in a new tab)(Opens in a new window)

And Hume says it's still normal for Australian actors to be asked to drop their accent entirely. "It's expected that if [an American production] is filmed [in Australia], you have to go audition and sound American, so I do a lot of work training Australian actors with American accents."

But the non-standard, vowel-laden "no" never really went away. "Australians have been talking like this since the country was colonized. It's been around for 200 years," says Hume. Now it is thriving because TikTok has given ordinary people a platform that is unaffected by standardization. "Someone from a remote part of Australia is recording her voice and her accent hasn't been manipulated at all."H2O just add water, a point of origin of the "Naur" meme: "That was a kids' TV show where there were young people who hadn't been to drama school, so their natural voices are on the screen. It's a suburban show , and it was just about dressing locally."

After noting the recent rise of "Naur", Hume changed the subject of his master's thesis to focus on how the Australian accent was portrayed on stage. "My hypothesis is that the standardization of accents contributed to [Australians] not knowing their accent," he says. 'Naur' may be an American and internet phenomenon, but its biggest impact may be on Australians themselves. "Your accent is part of your identity," says Hume, and chewing "naur" can help Australians learn more about themselves.

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