Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More Maori-English

Last week I quoted a paragraph from Joan Metge's book, Tuamaka.

Here's another, longer quote, in which she discusses some of the wordplay that's occurred as a result of interchange between NZ English and Maori.

While it was Maori wordsmiths who coined mana-gobbling and mana-munching, Maori and non-Maori alike gleefully use these words to skewer the pretensions of those who seek to increase their own mana by eating that of others; at the same time, they approve other actions as mana-enhancing. A Maori politician describes a Waitangi Tribunal report as 'another step on the mana whenua ladder' for his people. When a Maori lecturer renames stress leave as 'mana restoration leave,' a Pakeha colleague files it away for her own future use.

I have already referred to the proliferation of different kinds of hui; recent additions to the list include ratification hui, cyber hui, 'annual general hui, commemoration hui, crime hui, queer youth hui, regional consultation hui, summer hui, workshop hui, and youth hui.' Hui-hopping, hui fatigue and 'too much hui too little dooey' may have been coined in the first place by Maori impatient of demands on their time, but they have long since passed into such general currency that it is impossible to pinpoint their origins. New variations on this theme continually surface. I chuckled over the headline 'Hui hooey' cropping up in a Business Herald article written by a Pakeha columnist. I have since heard reference to a 'hui bluey', playing on the slang term blue referring to a mistake.

Compounds of Maori and English words are used to express both approval and disdain, often to humorous effect. Describing projects and services as iwi-initiated, iwi-led and even iwi-driven generally conveys admiration, but insistence on the iwi as the only valid form of Maori organisation is mocked as iwi fundamentalism and iwi-isation by both Maori and Pakeha. The South Island iwi Ngai Tahu named its superannuation scheme IwiSaver, adapting the name of the national scheme KiwiSaver. Kaumatua flat is a widely used synonym for pensioner housing generally, but dial-a-kaumatua and rent-a-powhiri rebuke the practice of calling in elderly experts just to perfom rituals for show. A golden handshake is made at home in New Zealand as a golden koha. As Maori make creative use of new technologies, compounds such as reo-texting and reo-phobes appear in their blogs and reports, and the Maori Language Commission signs a memorandum of understanding with Air New Zealand to provide 'te reo expertise' for cabin staff.

To these examples I cannot resist adding compounds incorporating words I have not discussed here. Waka are canoes that range from 5 to 36 meters in length and are crewed by up to 80 paddlers. Knowing this, New Zealanders are wryly amused by the phrases waka jumping (to describe Members of Parliament changing party allegiance mid-term), a waka paddlepast (the prime Minister inspecting a fleet of waka at Waitangi aboard double-hulled waka Te Aurere) and a waka-themed playground planned for central Auckland. The admonition 'Catch the waka before it gets too far from the shore' is a fresh take on more than existing aphorism. Students interested in the combination of music and dance know what it is to be bitten with the haka bug or to experiment with haka boogie, and tall poppies are transmuted into tall ponga (tree ferns).

From pages 97-8. References included in the original text have been ommitted.

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