(First published in The Dominion Post, January 10.)
I’M NOT ONE for New Year resolutions, but I’ve made one for 2014. I’ve decided this will be the year when I make an effort to pronounce Maori names correctly.Having been brought up, like most of my generation, using lazy, Anglicised pronunciations of Maori place names, I have no delusions about how difficult this will be. It’s hard to shake off the habits of a lifetime.
Friends look at me strangely, as if I’ve been seized by a sudden attack of political correctness, when I attempt the proper pronunciation of a name like Kuratau, where I holidayed last summer. But if we insist that the English language be treated with respect, then it’s only fair that we apply the same standard to Maori.Consider the town I grew up in: Waipukurau. We always pronounced it why-pucker-row, with an emphasis on the last syllable, which we pronounced to rhyme with “how”.
In fact the stress should be placed on the second syllable – the “puk” bit – and it should be pronounced as puku, not “pucker”. The last syllable should rhyme with “go” rather than “how” and the letter “r” should have that unique Maori sound that almost resembles a soft “d”.The name of the town of my birth, Pahiatua, deserves greater respect too. As long ago as the 1950s my mother objected to people pronouncing it as pie-out-ooer, rather than sounding out each syllable correctly. But I suspect she was a minority of one.
Wanganui is another place name that has been serially abused. Many locals pronounce “Wanga” as they do “longer”, with a hard “ng” sound, then add insult to injury by pronouncing the last two syllables with a “ew” sound, so that it comes out as “newy” rather than “nooey”.Not that I’m trying to sound holier than thou here. I’m as guilty as anyone of mangling Maori names to make them easier for Anglo-Saxon tongues to get around.
Will my New Year’s resolution mean I’ll become more tolerant of newsreaders and reporters on TV and radio making torturous efforts to pronounce Maori words correctly while brazenly committing atrocities with English? Not on your life.* * *
THE LAST few months of 2013 were bad ones for the police. There was the Roast Busters sexual abuse saga, which they admitted mishandling (and misleading the public about).
They were found to have behaved unlawfully in the so-called Urewera terror raids of 2007 and to have used excessive force breaking up a teenage party in Khandallah.They were embarrassed by the “Black Widow” murder case, which they treated as a suicide until a coroner intervened. And they were exposed as behaving arrogantly in the case of an innocent man savaged by a police dog.
The police are a human institution. They are bound to make mistakes. What is more worrying is the public perception of arrogance, resistance to outside scrutiny and reluctance to apologise when they get things wrong.Police Commissioner Peter Marshall is due to retire soon. It may be time to consider appointing someone from outside – someone not steeped in police culture.
It has happened before, in 1955. Police Minister Anne Tolley should consider doing it again.* * *
I TRY TO BE polite with cold callers, whether they’re at the door or on the phone. What I mean is that I always remember to say “thank you” before hanging up or slamming the door on them. But I admit I put on a bit of Basil Fawlty act a couple of days ago.The knock on the door came while I was in the middle of replacing the paper in my printer, but it wasn’t the interruption that pushed my Basil button.
After identifying himself as representing an energy company, the visitor made the mistake of asking me how my day was going.
Even if he’d had any prospect of signing me up, which he didn’t, he would have lost me at that point.First, how my day was going was no business of his. Second, he didn’t give a stuff anyway. My wife could have run off with the local dog control officer, leaving me with six wailing children and an incontinent mother-in-law to look after, for all he cared.
Why, I wonder, do marketers insist on trying to ingratiate themselves with prospective customers by asking patently insincere questions about how their day’s going? I bet it’s lost them far more business than it’s gained.There is no one, but no one, who is not irritated by the practice. But some marketing guru obviously thought it was a good idea and put it in a textbook, and now it seems we’re stuck with it.
Nonetheless, to the startled Indian gentleman who hastily retreated when I gave him a burst on my front porch, my apologies.