Friday, September 18, 2009

The ‘H’ Debacle – Where Will it End?

So the bureaucrats of the NZ Geographic Board have, entirely predictably, decided to change the name of the city of Wanganui. Never mind that the residents of Wanganui overwhelmingly don’t want it changed and the historical case for change is, at best, speculative. They’ve done the politically correct thing and will ensure the city and its businesses incur hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in cost changing everything from street signs to letterheads.

So what is next? Will Petone have to be changed to “Pito-one”, Porirua to “Pari-rua”, and Otago to “Otakou”?

The Maori language is not immutable. Maori themselves have adapted their language to modern times, adding a huge number of new words to the language (such as “kawhe” for coffee) and adapting others where necessary. They have adapted many English words and names for their own use (as such “Poneke” for Port Nicholson). And it is not as if Maori, particularly young Maori, are paragons of usage and pronunciation when it comes to English (yes, it’s “youse bros” I’m talking about).

So, it is a little rich when they come over all indignant and high-handed about a Maori place name has changed marginally over time through common usage, which may be the case with Wanganui (or it simply may be, as I have heard at least one Maori language scholar state, that the word was always pronounced with a “w” sound, not a “wh”).

As other bloggers have been quick to point out, there are far more important problems for Maori to be concerned about such as family violence, criminal offending rates, health and educational achievement.

1 comment:

Opinionated Mummy said...

Well said.

It will be interesting to see what Maurice Williamson decides to do. My guess is he will go with the Geographic Board decision.

And then we will all hang our heads in shame, because we will see that the 'h' results in a sudden plummet in Maori unemployment, child abuse and murder rates. Tariana sees this happening - I believe she had a little cry yesterday when this was announced.

In fact, so astounded will we all be by the startling reversal because of the h, we will resolve all NZ's ills by changing other names. Welcome to Ahuckland and Whellington. Christchurch is on to it. Other letters won't have the same effect, though.