I once bought a kiwi-flavoured gelato in Italy. Excitedly, and in very bad Italian, I tried to explain to the gelato seller that I too was a Kiwi. He clearly thought I was mad.
Fair enough, too. In Italy, ‘kiwi’ means ‘kiwifruit’, not ‘New Zealander’. I may as well have tried to equate myself to a Sicilian orange or a slice of pizza Napoli.
Cross-cultural translation is just one way you can confuse ‘Kiwi’ with ‘kiwi’. The other difference — as you’ve probably guessed — is in the capitalisation.
A ‘Kiwi’ with a capital ‘K’ is a New Zealander. We capitalise this word because we’re using it as the name of a nationality. We capitalise all nationalities.
We keep the capital even when using the nationality to describe something else.
A good old Kiwi barbecue
Delicious French bread
An American hot dog
A traditional Samoan umu
Dainty English high tea
A dozen Danish pastries
A ‘kiwi’ with a lower case ‘k’ is a native New Zealand bird. We don’t capitalise it because it’s a noun (a word that identifies a thing, like ‘apple’, ‘bicycle’, or ‘cheese’).
Our most iconic bird, the kiwi, is mostly nocturnal.
As described above, some countries use the word ‘kiwi’ (lower case ‘k’) to mean ‘kiwifruit’. They’re delicious wherever in the world you eat them, and they’re very good for you.
Because ‘kiwi’ (meaning the bird) is a Māori word, we don’t add an ‘s’ to show when there’s more than one. (Te reo Māori doesn’t form plurals that way.) Instead, we use the context to show whether the word is plural.
The kiwi is settling into its new environment.
The kiwi are in the nocturnal house with our three tuatara.
Because ‘Kiwi’ (meaning New Zealander) is a newer use of this word and adopted into everyday New Zealand English, it’s become acceptable to add an ‘s’ when the word is plural.
Many Kiwis think pavlova is the perfect summer dessert.