Social Development Minister Paula Bennett

'Zip it, sweetie' voted best quote of 2012

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s three-word put-down “Zip it, sweetie” to Labour MP Jacinda Ardern was the clear winner in Massey University’s 2012 Quote of the Year competition. The quip beat out all comers by attracting an impressive 57 per cent of the total vote.

Dr Heather Kavan, a speech-writing specialist at Massey University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing and the competition organiser, says the quote’s win was no surprise.

“There’s something almost primal about two women fighting, and the line seemed completely unscripted,” Dr Kavan says.

“As far as jibes go, it wasn’t outrageously cruel – Jacinda Ardern laughed it off, by tweeting, ‘Kids sitting in the gallery could be forgiven for thinking they were watching a Hairspray revival.’”

Dr Kavan says “Zip it, sweetie” is also pleasing to the ear because it has nice rhyming syllables, and it is a quote that can be repeated in different contexts.

“This is already happening – for example Marcus Lush teased Hilary Barry on RadioLive that he was going to tell her to ‘Zip it, sweetie’.”

Finance Minister Bill English came a distant second in the competition with his quote estimating the value of selling state assets: “I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess, it's just a guess.”

Dr Kavan says politicians feature so prominently on the list because they get a lot of publicity, and the Finance Minister’s quote is appealing because of its unintentional humour.

“With some of the quotes, especially the Bill English one, there’s also an element of schadenfreude – the pleasure of seeing someone in a superior position say something that makes them look stupid,” she says.

Dr Kavan said many of the nominations for the Quote of the Year reflected New Zealanders’ interests (rugby, food) and concerns (earthquakes and having enough money to live), and all had the essential characteristic of being memorable.

“We can recognise a good quote immediately because we want to say it ourselves, or put it to music. The best lines are usually brief and witty, and they also need to be original.”

Dr Kavan and her judging panel, which also included Massey’s Vice-Chancellor and former politician Steve Maharey, narrowed down several dozen entries nominated by Massey students and the general public to a top 10. The shortlist was then put to a public vote to find the winner.

The Top 10 quotes of 2012, in order of number of votes are:


  1. Zip it, sweetie.  (Paula Bennett to Jacinda Ardern in Parliament.)
  2. I just want to emphasise that it is not our best guess, it's just a guess.  (Bill English estimating the financial value of selling state assets.)
  3. Oh f...k!  I can’t afford that.  (Ewen Gilmour after his doctor told him he was going to live for another 40 years.)
  4. I don't remember. (John Banks’ response when asked about his helicopter ride to Dotcom's mansion.)
  5. You think I came up the river on a cabbage boat.  (John Banks responding to media questions about Dotcom.) 
  6. Who needs to be able to quote Shakespeare if you can play rugby?  (17-year-old Joshua Iosefo on Campbell Live giving his Mt Roskill Grammar School speech.)
  7. Nonu, Nonu, Nonu, boom! (Actor Byron Coll as an overly familiar fan greeting Ma’a Nonu in the Mastercard All Blacks advertisement.)
  8. New Zealand’s got some great brains out there and most of them are kids.  (Luke Nola accepting the New Zealand Television Award for Best Children’s/Youth programme.)
  9. Your dish was a car crash but all of the occupants survived.  (Josh Emett judging on Masterchef New Zealand.) 
  10. I come to Wellington and I'm scared to be here.  (Bob Parker speaking to an emergency management conference in Wellington about the state of Wellington buildings.)

Related articles

‘They are us’ voted New Zealand’s quote of 2019
Mosque shootings dominate 2019 Quote of the Year
Nominations open for 2019 Quote of the Year
Simon Bridges’ slip of the tongue wins 2018 Quote of the Year

More related articles