Thursday, September 17, 2009

Andrei Wat its W(h)anganui -

No surprise here - the utterly politically correct New Zealand Geographic Board has decided that Wanganui is spelled Whanganui.

Government appointed nobodies exercising their power telling people how to spell things, particularly when they know their decision will get right up the noses of the majority of people who live in Wanganui.

What a crock

16 comment(s):

Lucia Maria said...

I agree. Couldn't believe it when I heard it on the radio.

ZenTiger said...

It's now up to John Key, who told Michael Laws on a radio interview it really should be a matter for the people of Wanganui to decide.

KG said...

I thought 19,000 of them already decided? They decided 'no change' if I remember correctly.

KG said...

Pigment trumps numbers, every time.

Sean said...

Michael Laws should just shut up and start being the mayor. Seems he is a bit of a one issue populist with a talkshow to massage his ego. Obviously he banged on about it so much there's no turning back.

It's not a passionate issue for me but I can't see the harm in getting it right. Surely no big deal to correct the spelling so slightly. Maybe a few letterheads to reprint.

The only point in favour of the status quo is that the majority of townsfolk want it that way and this is obviously an important point. A crucial one in fact. Maybe those who want the correction should have spent more time education and convincing the residents before going to the New Zealand Geographic Board. Seems a bit backdoor and this has probably got peoples backs up.

I'm in favour of a spelling for correction, and also a smack. Looks like Laws got one today but he won't stop squealing so maybe he needs some more.

ZenTiger said...

Personally, I don't really mind either way. I can see the point about correcting the name balanced against what has become common usage over many, many years.

There are countless words that have undergone changes via common usage. "Wanganui" now refers to a specific place, whereas Whanganui is simply Maori for describing a big harbour or something like that (isn't it?).

In such a situation, this to me seems to be a perfect candidate for a referendum.

It's an obvious YES/NO response. The only complication would be who gets to vote - ex Wanganuians, all Maori, locals only, all Kiwis?

Sean said...

I'm not sure of the history of the town. Whether there was originally a pa there, or maybe it was an empty space settled by Europeans. If the latter they should have chosen a boring English name like Nelson, Christchurch, or Wellington rather than a misspelt Maori name and then the problem today wouldn't exist.

Zen - haven't they already had a referendum? We know from as recent as August that referendums don't really mean much these days. Mind you, just because a majority agrees doesn't make it right. Abortion (while a matter in a completely different ballpark) is accepted by the majority in NZ, I personally don't feel it is right. And in my view the fact that the majority support the status quo on this issue, is not reason enough to maintain the status quo.

ZenTiger said...

I think they have at least had a formal survey, not sure what the percentage of responses over total inhabitants were though.

Mind you, just because a majority agrees doesn't make it right.

Very true, although this issue isn't one of morals and ethics, nor of life and death and therefore perhaps more reasonable to resign to the will of the majority?

Maybe we end up with two place names, like Mount Cook?

ZenTiger said...

If the latter they should have chosen a boring English name like Nelson, Christchurch, or Wellington rather than a misspelt Maori name and then the problem today wouldn't exist.

Misspelt? Technically, yes, but where did they get their written language from?

Maori Written Language

Sean said...

I agree the matter isn't one of morals and ethics which is why I mentioned that abortion was in a different ballpark. My point remians though.

Not sure the double-name stands up here since we're talking about the spelling of the same name rather than reintroducing a traditional Maori name. "Whanganui-Wanganui" is a bit silly and then the fight will then be about which spelling comes first!

You are correct that Maori did not have their language in written form, but the "wh" sound (like 'f' in English) is distinctly different than the much softer 'w'. Some settler must have been quite drunk to get that wrong back in the old days. He would have been more right phonetically with "Fanganui" or "Phanganui"!

ZenTiger said...

"Whanganui-Wanganui" is a bit silly and then the fight will then be about which spelling comes first!

Yep, which is why I like it. The first represents European good will in adopting a Maori name and shows some kind of cultural hybridisation or synthesis.

The second is Maori's fight to preserve their culture. Some might say, to the point of pendantry.

The issue is obviously important to some Maori, and I respect them for that.

Equally, the issue is important to many Pakeha who have every right to preserve their heritage - this synthesised version of the place name they grew up with, and there seems to be lesser respect shown for this sentiment. It's portrayed as anti-Maori rather than an acknowledgment of a shared history.

ZenTiger said...

Here's a fiery topic to discuss!

If Maori want to be stuck in the past, and approach this in grievance "I have been wronged" mode, then maybe they need to consider that Pakeha brought the gift of written language to them, handed it over without cost, royalty or expectation of payment for this taonga.

If a few inconsistencies have come out of this treasure, maybe they could just "let it go"?

Sean said...

You might be stretching the meaning of "goodwill" (referring to that time and place), but I take your point. Better to respect the incumbent locals than ignore them.

It might come across a bit pedantic, but the pronunciation seems a bit more different than simply inserting an extra letter. At then end of the day is it about just getting it right, and I see no big deal in this.

I guess if Pakeha wanted to preserve their heritage then wouldn't this apply more if they chose a European name? As it stands they chose a traditional local name, but regrettably misspelt it (or rather mispronounced it since I assume Maori wasn't in written form back then).

ZenTiger said...

I guess if Pakeha wanted to preserve their heritage

This is exactly my point, but with an important aspect - they are willing to preserve a synthesised heritage. They are not reacting with a "OK, if that's the way you want to play it, we'll call it Victoria (or something) and you can call it Whanganui."

Sean said...

"They are not reacting with a "OK, if that's the way you want to play it, we'll call it Victoria (or something) and you can call it Whanganui.""
- That would be an ever heavier lead balloon!!

Also I don't know about this "synthesised" approach you have. Seems a bit like Beltway-speak to me...!

Many are making it a race issue but this is just nonsense. I simply see it like a teacher correcting a pupil's spelling mistake. Just correct it and move on.

ZenTiger said...

Perhaps the point is moot, given that I've discovered the correct spelling is "Auckland" :-)

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