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'Nek minnit' turns skater into national star

Published: 2:23PM Sunday December 18, 2011 Source: ONE News

A throw away comment and a 10 second YouTube clip became one of the most searched terms on Google by New Zealanders this year.

The phrase "nek minnit" has become part of many Kiwis' everyday vocabulary and made number six in the list of search terms that have seen the largest increase this year according to Google.

The only search terms that saw a bigger increase in popularity were Adele, Pippa Middleton, iPhone 5, Japan Earthquake and Rugby World Cup.

The phrase was born from a YouTube video clip that went viral. It features skateboarder Levi Hawken and the remains of his scooter which appears to have been destroyed while he was in a dairy.

"Left my scooter outside the dairy, nek minnit," he says in a heavily accented voice as the camera pans down to the flattened remains of his ride.

One version of the clip on YouTube has had more than 1.5 million views and spawned many dozens of imitations.

The phrase's popularity seems to stem from its potentially limitless application into many different circumstances.

Recent examples on Twitter include one from the New Zealand Drug Foundation: "In 2009 we conducted research into NZ drug driving habits, nek minnit we kicked off our driving high info project."

It has spawned a tribute single, which has proved a lesser YouTube hit, and was even used by the Conservative Party during its General Election campaign.

"Nek minnit, Conservatives" one of their billboards claimed.

The scene was originally filmed for a skateboarding video based in Dunedin and reached its peak of popularity at the start of September. Since then it has enjoyed two other bursts of notoriety, but almost entirely in New Zealand.

The other intriguing element of the clip is Hawken's appearance. He is stripped to the waist with a shaven head and many viewers have commented on his missing teeth.

His look stems from a rare genetic disorder called ectodermal dysplasia. Only 7000 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the condition.

Hawken spoke frankly about the condition and the effect it had had on his life during an interview with TV 2's 20/20 in June.

"When I was a kid I had white fluffy hair and my teeth were sharp and I had very under-developed sweat glands so I hardly sweat at all."

He said he endured constant bullying and had to have anger management to stop him lashing out at his classmates.

Even today, he said, people still give him strange looks in the street.

"I do get sick of it but that's why I think it's important to be as strong as you can be and as good as you can be because you only feel ugly in the eyes of the unfortunate and cruel."

Hawken, 35, is renowned within the skateboarding community for his expertise in the dangerous pursuit of "bombing" - skateboarding down extremely steep roads at high speeds.

He has also recently shown artwork at his own exhibition and helped set up skate boarding workshops for children in Dunedin.

But of course it will be through a nine second clip on YouTube that Hawken is best known, with his place in the popular psyche secured just behind Pippa Middleton's bottom.

He just appeared in a viral video on YouTube and nek minnit...