Or-Taki? Don’t you mean Owe-tacky?
It's wilful ignorance, and they're wearing it as a badge of honour, to show they don't belong to that "politically correct" crowd.
Or-Taki? Don’t you mean Owe-tacky? Or are you one of those politically correct jokers? Maybe it’s because I’m a middle-aged white man that other middle-aged white men seem automatically to assume that I’ll mispronounce Ma¯ori names.
Of course, often I do. But at least I try not to. And it always annoys me that other people – mostly white men of about my age – don’t even make the effort, because to make the effort would be to admit they’ve been getting it wrong all these years.
If simple ignorance were behind it, I’d find it easier to understand and to accept. But it’s not – it’s wilful ignorance, and they’re wearing it as a badge of honour, to show they don’t belong to that ‘‘politically correct’’ crowd.
Well, neither do I. But I don’t see it in terms of being ‘‘politically’’ correct; it’s simply a matter of being correct.
When I first came to New Zealand some 30 years ago, te reo was totally unfamiliar to me, and that was all the more reason to find out how to pronounce it, particularly all those mysterious place names.
I would try to sound them out, slowly and phonetically, but would often be met with blank looks.
I can remember asking at work soon after I arrived, ‘‘So where’s Tay Koe-fa-ta?’’ Nobody answered for a while until at last the penny dropped. ‘‘Oh, you mean Tee Kawotta,’’ a colleague said. Well, no: he might have meant Tee Kawotta, but I didn’t.
In those days, it wasn’t common to hear much te reo, except on niche programmes on the radio or TV. But in 2001, when I came back to New Zealand after about a decade away, I went to live near taki, where I’d frequently hear people in the shops and in the street speaking Ma¯ori. And it was common to hear the town called taki, not Owe-tacky, so I did too.
And now I live in Paraparaumu, I try to pronounce that properly too, rather than calling it Paraparam or, worse, just Pram.
If all this makes me sound horribly smug, I should admit being hopelessly inconsistent, as I suspect many others are. I still struggle to call it Toe-por, even though I know I should, or Roemati. And as for Ohau, I’ve never heard it called anything other than Owe-how.
I’ve made a vow to try harder, though, because it’s actually not that difficult. It’s just a question of ditching a few bad habits. Some might argue – particularly old white guys – that it’s too late to change the habits of a lifetime now.
But what have they got to lose? The worst that could happen is that some of their dumber mates might laugh at them for saying Or-taki – and that can’t be so bad, can it?
Originally from the UK, Patrick Piercy lives in Paraparaumu and works for Stuff. As part of Te Wiki o te reo Ma¯ori, Ma¯ori Language Week, we’re taking a look at why so many of us mispronounce Kiwi place names.
Do you live in Or-taki or Owe-tacky?