Brian Edwards Media

New Zealand media invent new word, but stick with same old journalism standards

A new word has entered the English language courtesy of the New Zealand media. The word is “urinator” and it doesn’t appear in any dictionary in my bookshelf, which is full of dictionaries. Spellcheck hasn’t heard of it either, but then Spellcheck hasn’t heard of “spellcheck”.

So what is a “urinator”? Presumably someone who passes urine, which includes every man, woman and child on the planet and – I may be corrected on this – all animals.

What distinguished Michael Aitken from most urniators was that he urinated in the aisle of an aeroplane, spraying himself and other passengers. He was drunk and out of it and has no real memory of the event.

Is this news? Well, it probably is.   

Michael is also the son of Silver Ferns coach, Ruth Aitken. Is that news? I don’t think so. Michael is beyond the age when his parents can be publicly held responsible for his actions. And being told who the urinator’s parents are adds nothing to our knowledge or understanding of the event. It is a gratuitous invasion of the Aitken family’s privacy, arising solely from the fact that Michael’s mother is a famous person. Hence the headlines in the tabloid press:

NZ Herald – “Ruth Aitken: Son’s Jetstar pee ‘beyond belief’”

ODT – “Jetstar urninator son of netball coach Ruth Aitken”

Dominion Post – “Coach’s son in trouble”

Most New Zealand media carried the story.

As one might expect from this calm, considered but very strong personality, Ruth Aitken handled this intrusion  into her family’s privacy at the start of the Netball World Championships in a matter-of-fact and  straightforward way. She was of course “upset”, “embarrassed”, “hugely disappointed and hugely distressed”.

But she also had this to say:

“I’ve been trying to process it and prepare for the first game today and it’s been quite a challenging day. Unfortunately, you can’t take your parenting hat off when you’ve got your national coaching hat on. Parenting is the good with the bad so we absolutely love him, but we do not condone what he’s supposed to have done as well.”

If, by that statement,  Ruth intended to suggest that taking “the good with the bad” must include answering to the media for your adult children’s midair behaviour on international flights, then I’d say that was generosity to a fault. It might not be the best media advice, but my natural instinct would have been to tell these vultures to “make love elsewhere”.

More restrained options might have been to politely decline to answer any questions or to suggest that these splendid representatives of the Fourth Estate take the matter up with the “urinator” himself.

Meanwhile, the media seemed less inclined to pursue Jetstar with some genuinely important questions including:

-       Was the passenger drunk when he got on the plane and, if he was, why was he allowed to board at all?

-       If the passenger was not drunk when he boarded the aircraft, did Jetstar supply him with enough booze to get paralytic during the flight?

-       Why is no action taken against a Jetstar passenger who pees on other passengers and himself, when the police are called to deal with a passenger for criticising the airline?

But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, their handling of this particular episode serves as just one more reminder of why journalists regularly feature with politicians, estate agents  and used-car-dealers as being among the least trusted or respected professions.

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  1. On a recent trip with an airline not Jetstar, the young man seated next to me all the way from Dubai to Bancock, was supplied with alcohol as fast as he could guzzle it. I pretended sleep to avoid his growing strong language as he described his violent background to the unfortunate sitting on his other side. I only discovered later that he had spilled a bottle of red wine onto my white canvas bag. As a parting gift the stewardess gave him a further 4 little bottles of wine in a little bag.
    My complaint was how come the staff could keep up such a constant oversupply to a young red headed Irishman? And was Jetstar guilty of the same oversupply?

  2. Actually a “urinator” once referred to an underwater diver. Now obsolete. A bit like much of the media …

  3. @ ianmac.
    I could make uncharitable comments on our host’s homeland and its inhabitants although I doubt it is any different to his adopted homeland :), but I take your point, having seen people on several occasions drunk to the point I thought there was no way they would be flying but were allowed to board, and then were allowed to carry on drinking on board.

    Long haul I wouldn’t consider drinking not becase of a fear of getting paralytic but rather not wanting to have to disturb people usually trying to sleep by continued bladder emptying.

    As to Brian’s substantive point, I agree. While to some degree you can understand the ” sins of the father..” it is dificult to understand how the sins of an adult son can be sheeted back to the parents.

    I struggle with alcohol bans in public places such as the Three Kings reserve on a beautiful Saturday afternoon while having a picnic, but I would be in favour of alcohol bans on planes in much the same way cigarettes are banned in enclosed environments, something as a smoker I hated but have come to support and to extend a ban in my own house at some incovenience to me.

  4. Agree re the more important question of how Jetstar handled this – and why the drunk oik was allowed to fly in the first place. Maybe also we should consider how Jetstar have behaved since – the passenger in the Herald today only got a call and some compensatory offer after he talked to the media. Is that status quo at Jetstar? Why yes, yes it does seem to be the case.
    Having been a victim of this shonky outfit in the past (ash cloud my ass), I have revised my future travel plans and will be opting for any other airline flying the route I need to use…

  5. Im inclined to think “the other story”is of more interest to me.

  6. “Dog bites man” = “not news”.

    “Man bites dog” = “news”.

    “Drunk man pees on plane” = “not news”.

    “Ruth Aitken’s adult son pees on plane”. = news.

    This is all done by the noble “fourth estate” in the “Public Interest”.

    What a load of chattering class navel gazing.

    Is there nothing else occurring on this planet?

    And the media expect us to take them seriously?

    The media have become junk mail.

  7. BE:“The word is “urinator” and it doesn’t appear in any dictionary in my bookshelf, which is full of dictionaries”.

    “Urinator” is a ‘portmanteau’ word. I’d say, the journos were (‘scuse the pun) taking the piss outta this drunken drongo, by the linguistic morphing of “urine” with Arnie’s movie character, “The Terminator”.

    BE: I’ve deleted the rest of your comment, Merv. The language and tone are entirely unacceptable. If you continue to send this sort of comment, I will ban you from the site.

  8. Man bites dog is not only news but also a favourite movie.

  9. If I were a passenger on that plane I would want my fare refunded. If I was peed on I would expect my clothes etc replaced at the airline’s expense. And were I one of thsoe passengers I would find his mother’s hope that he ‘learns a lesson” (TVOne news) really annoying. He should have learned a few lessons, like, ‘don’t get drunk, and pee on fellow passengers’ before he was turned loose on the world. Although it’s hard to know what she could say. It’s a bit unfair to target her, perhaps it’s people who remember those annoying sports fiend schoolteachers enjoying some schadenfreude.

  10. ‘Urinator’ is a postmanteau of urine and terminator, like ‘governator’ other examples are words like ‘gerrymander’ or ‘wikipedia’.

    Brian the problem with ‘consulting all your dictionaries in your bookshelf’ is they don’t get regular updates and English is a living language, new words and new uses for words are invented on a daily basis.

    Try and keep up old man!

  11. For incidents of this nature I automatically consult ‘wikileaks’ and I note that the “urbandictionary’ defines a urinator.
    urinator n. A person [usually male] who pees into bottles, drinking cups and other assorted containers rather than walking down the hall to use the toilet.
    This means this incident could have been far more serious and the passengers should also consider themselves fortunate the flight was free of turbulence if not flatulence.
    Jetstar is carving a unique place in aviation history. Not only does it openly advertise itself as a ‘one star’ airline but it provides entertainment most airlines haven’t yet considered. You have a good chance of being assaulted at check in, piddled on in flight, and maybe witness an arrest on landing. Who needs a movie.

  12. Our old doctor served in bombers during World War 11. He said there were no toilet facilities on board so they took bottles of beer with them, and as one was emptied it took over as intra-urinetoree or piss pot. Must have taken a funnel with him?

  13. Urinator. Being a portmanteau still doesn’t make it clever and had the identity of the offender been known earlier it would probably have been called Aitkengate.
    Rinse, wash, repeat, yawn.

  14. The most puzzling thing about this whole shabby incident is the apparent acquiescence of everyone on board. I’m not a violent man, but is someone pissed on me during a flight I’d give him a good shoeing.

  15. Maybe the media was just taking the piss.

  16. “…Our old doctor served in bombers during World War 11…”

    What? There was a World War Eleven? I knew about WWI and WWII – who won all the others?

    But I digress.

    The thing that intrigues me about this whole saga is that the Herald and HoS saw fit between them to dedicate something like five leading stories and an editorial to a drunk man pissing in an aeroplane. Five stories and an editorial. Unbelievable.

    The Herald clearly knew from day one who the “mysterious” perp was and that combined with an unaccountably desire to highlight every possible bad story about Jetstar at every opportunity made this one a no-brainer for over the top coverage.

    Let’s get real here. 99.999% of Jetstar passengers have a perfectly ordinary and unremarkable experience using them, as long as they follow the rules that budget airlines everywhere apply, not that you would know that from the Herald’s biased coverage.

    One can only assume that the PR team at Air New Zealand make sure key Herald’s employees get an array of sweet deals for as long as they can have all the Herald’s reporters numbers on their speed dial.

  17. Just to set the record straight:
    The full OED online makes it quite plain that, all sniggers aside, the obsolete word urinator meaning a diver and the word urine meaning piss are unrelated. Entry below. (I love “His Majesty’s urinator”). That said, Brian, I cannot see any objection to the coining of the word “urinator” to describe someone who pisses. Can you explain what the problem is here?

    urine, n.1
    View as: Outline |Full entryQuotations: Show all |Hide all
    Pronunciation: /ˈjʊərɪn/ /ˈjʊəraɪn/
    Forms: α. ME vryne, ME–15 uryne, ME–16 vrine, ME– urine; ME ureyne, ME vreyne. β. ME–15 vryn… (Show More)
    Etymology: < Old French urine (12th cent.), < Latin ūrīna (whence Italian urina, orina, Provençal urina, Portuguese urina, ourina, Spanish orina, Old French orine, Dutch urine, German, Danish, Swedish urin), related to Greek οὖρον.(Show Less)

    Etymology: < Latin ūrīnātor, agent-noun < ūrīnārī to dive.
    Thesaurus »

    One who dives under water; = diver n. 1.
    In frequent use from c1655 to c1685.

    1648 Bp. J. Wilkins Math. Magick ii. v. 183 It is observed, that a barrell or cap‥will not serve a Urinator or Diver for respiration.
    1682 Beale Let. in Boyle Wks. (1772) VI. 446 His majesty's urinator, Mr. Curtis, published in the Gazette, how he had practised.
    1682 Beale Let. in Boyle Wks. (1772) VI. 446 Which minds me how easy it were‥for our merchants, in all their voyages, to be furnished with such urinators.
    1692 J. Ray Wisdom of God (ed. 2) i. 73 All those Relations of Urinators belong only to those places where they have dived.

  18. When the story first broke I misinterpreted it and assumed the coach’s son was in fact the urinatee.

  19. If,in the unlikely event that I would use the backpackers airline,to wit,Jetstar,and some drunken oaf of a teenager peed on me,I can assure everyone that he would sleep,unintentionally,for the rest of the flight!

  20. “The media have become junk mail.”



    As for the media itself… I’m no longer surprised at what paseses for “news” these days.

    Wellington’s local “rag” is now… a “rag”. It is a gutted version of the old “Dominion” and “Evening Post”, and I very rarely buy it’s current incarnation.

    TV1 news – mostly crime reporting; a disaster or two chucked in; and at least 5 minutes of sporting news (before the Sports section actually comes on).

    National Programme – perhaps the only remaining quality news and current affairs media remaining in this country.

    This is what the “McDonalisation” of the media has resulted in: “The media have become junk mail.”

    And I suspect we have not hit rock-bottom yet.