Quote of the Year 2017 finalists announced

Who said it best in 2017? You have one week to vote for your favourite quote.

From new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s pledge to tackle climate change, to a teenager’s spoken poetry and a Shortland Street cliff-hanger, 2017 has been a good year for the memorable Kiwi quip. The 10 shortlisted finalists in Massey University’s annual Quote of the Year competition have been announced and now the public has one week to vote for 2017’s best quote at: http://bit.ly/QOTY2017.

Competition organiser and co-judge Dr Heather Kavan says 2017’s nominated quotes were dominated, as you would expect, by this year’s general election.

“There were a lot of political insults and these made up one-quarter of the entries,” Dr Kavan says. Of the political jibes, she thinks Winston Peters’ “ravaged by a toothless sheep” line stands out and deserves its place in the top 10.

“Quotes mocking judgemental people are invariably popular, as are quotes with animal images, so it’s as if Peters instinctively knew what themes to capitalise on,” she says. “The line is a variation of former UK politician Denis Healey’s quip that an opponent’s criticism was like ‘being savaged by a dead sheep’, but seems funnier because of ‘toothless’ and New Zealand’s history of sheep jokes.” 

The quotes by Jacinda Ardern and Paula Bennett show the highs and lows of politics, and Paula Bennett’s quip that she’s embracing her “new feather duster status” is all the more meaningful in the light of the 2012 list of top quotes. That was the year she, as Minister of Social Development, won Quote of the Year by telling Jacinda Ardern to “Zip it sweetie”. 

Quote of the Year organiser and judge Dr Heatehr Kavan.

Brevity, wit and vividness of language

Dr Kavan says it’s notoriously difficult to predict a winner. “I expect the line from the Rainbow Youth’s advertisement – ‘It’s deeply disappointing, but it’s not gay’ – will do well because it was nominated twice within minutes of the competition opening. Even so, in previous years we’ve had votes pouring in for quotes that no one foresaw as winners.”

Another potential winner is the Shortland Street cliff-hanger “Please tell me that’s not your penis,” which United States star Alec Baldwin re-enacted with Jimmy Kimmel.

“The tone is light-hearted, and the story is about teenager Harry Warner photographing his genitals for his girlfriend. It’s also possible the quote’s appeal runs deeper than the amusement factor. No doubt many people have thought the same words during encounters with men with Harvey Weinstein tendencies,” Dr Kavan says.

Dr Kavan, who is a senior lecturer at Massey’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, started Quote of the Year seven years ago because she found her speech-writing students had trouble identifying memorable New Zealand lines. The judging criteria include brevity, wit and vividness of language.

She says two of the year’s influential quotes – Steven Joyce’s "$11.7 billion hole"and Metirea Turei’s benefit fraud confession – didn’t make the list because they’d lost their magnetism after being exhaustively critiqued. “People are unlikely to be thinking, ‘I wish I’d said that myself” or ‘I wish I could hear that one more time’,” she says.

While 2017’s top 10 list is full of strong contenders – Dr Kavan has one lingering disappointment. “If only Australia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce had provided us with a knock-out one-liner when he discovered his dual-citizenship with New Zealand!”

2017 Quote of the year finalists – in no particular order:

"It's deeply disappointing, but it's not gay." – Actor Jatinder Singh after ‘Nigel’ calls a dropped pie “gay” in Rainbow Youth's advertisement.

"Excuse me for laughing, but it's been a long time since I've been ravaged by a toothless sheep." – Winston Peters on Gareth Morgan.

“This is my generation's nuclear free moment.” – Jacinda Ardern on climate change.

“I’m embracing my new feather duster status.” – Paula Bennett, ending her tenure as Deputy Prime Minister.

“First ladyman? Who knows… Aiming for Michelle Obama, probably gonna be a little bit closer to Prince Philip.” – Clarke Gayford on his role as Jacinda Ardern’s partner.

“I am a different shade of brown." – Student Jai Selkirk of the Dilworth School team winning “Word – The Front Line Poetry Slam” competition. 

"Please tell me that's not your penis.” – Shortland Street’s Dr Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) confronting his son about a photo, in a cliff-hanger ending.

“If humour is common sense dancing, John Clarke was Nureyev.” – Musician Don McGlashan on the death of comedian John Clarke. 

“For overseas observers, in NZ elections, we all vote then take the ballots—chuck them out—and ask a man called Winston Peters who won.” – Writer Ali Ikram tweeting about the 2017 election.

"I've not seen the data about the risk factor of death by falling fatty; I'd imagine it's similar to the risk factor of death by Sharknado." – Fat activist and scholar Dr Cat Pause when asked if fat people are a hazard because they could fall on you.

Voting is now open at: http://bit.ly/QOTY2017

Voting closes at midday on Wednesday December 13 and the winner will be announced on Thursday December 15.

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