Friday, April 13, 2007


Reading an article in the New Zealand news today, I came across an awesome illustration of how common Maori words have become in New Zealand English.

Speaking of a recently restored waka (traditional canoe) that had just been stolen, the custodian of it said:

"I koha-ed it to the hapu and it was looking magnificent. What do you do? Bugger it, you get wild with these thieves.

"You just don't touch those things and people have told me to makutu them. If they put it back, the tapu will be lifted."

Now the guy may be maximising his use of these words for a deliberate effect, but the point is that New Zealand newspapers no longer gloss them (except for makutu "curse", which was glossed in its first use at the beginning of the article), because they are all in frequent enough use in NZ English that almost all readers would understand them. And I think that is awesome.

(Here's the link to the story, but knowing this news site, it will go down in a day or two.)


Lyn said...

Thanks for pointing out this article. And you're right, we knew exactly what was being said. The events and Tony Ireland were immediately real. As an e-learning facilitator I am always on the lookout for interesting and different news stories to discuss with the teachers I work with. The idea is to get them using the Internet to provide more engaging learning activities for their students. This story will provide good discussion on a number of levels.

StyleyGeek said...

Do you have a blog, lyn? I'd love to read about the life and times of an e-learning facilitator!

kermitthefrog said...

How about a translation for the foreigners among us?

StyleyGeek said...

Sorry :)

koha = gift, give

makutu = curse

hapu = sort of a sub-tribe, or extended family

tapu = hard to sum up in a simple translation. Something that is tapu is sacred, has certain restrictions associated with it. Burial places, holy places, etc are automatically tapu. Your head is tapu. Certain ceremonies can lift a tapu and make the thing or place normal again (although not, I believe, with heads!).

Recently two state highways in New Zealand were sprayed with river water from one end to the other to lift the tapu incurred by all the car crashes that have occurred there over the years.

There are also different levels of tapu. Everyone has their own inherent tapu, but that of chiefs is greater than others. Waka (canoes) have an inherent tapu, but presumably the theft of it, and the subsequent curse raises the level of tapu to a higher level, so that by "lifting" the tapu, it will go back to its original degree of tapu and not be dangerous any more.

(Incidentally, "tapu" is the source of our English word "taboo".)

(If any of this information is wrong, please let me know: I'm going by what I have picked up over the years from school, from friends and from books, and my sources might not have been the most reliable.)