Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Point of Order: More Māori words make it into the OED...

....and polytech boss (with rules on words like “students”) is promoting the use of others

New Zealand Education Minister Jan Tinetti is hosting the inaugural Conference of Pacific Education Ministers for three days from today, welcoming Education Ministers and senior officials from 18 Pacific Island countries and territories, and from Australia.

Here’s hoping they have brought translators with them – or packed the latest edition of the OED. The publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary last week announced the OED has deepened its coverage of New Zealand English by adding 47 new entries.

The new words include Kiwiness (1967), a noun signifying the quality or fact of being from New Zealand and to characteristics regarded as typical of New Zealand or New Zealanders.

However, most of the words in this latest update are borrowings from Māori – or te reo – one of New Zealand’s official languages. The Māori renaissance that began in the 1970s has seen Māori language and culture moving from the margins to the centre of national life in New Zealand, and this is reflected in the substantial number of Māori words that have become part of the vocabulary of both Māori and Pakeha (non-Māori) speakers of English, several of which are now making it into the OED for the first time.

But visitors to the education conference will find Jan Tinetti is fluent in the patois of academics and the Beehive, spicing their rhetoric and writing with te reo words that do not yet appear in the OED. If these words are parroted often enough, the OED’s publishers will be able to add them to the English dictionary.

Keep an eye on what happens to ākonga, for example. Tinetti and other educators love to use it, although it does not appear to have qualified – yet – for inclusion in the OED.

If our visitors consult, on the other hand, they might not be too sure where they are.

Tinetti favours Aotearoa and says the conference is being held in Tāmaki Makaurau but refers to a country called New Zealand and to a major city called Auckland.

Oh – and Aotearoa is mentioned in the press statement from the Oxford University Press. It says:

In its latest update, the OED is putting the spotlight on the country that its first inhabitants, the Māori people, originally called Aotearoa—the land of the long white cloud—as the dictionary deepens its coverage of New Zealand English by adding 47 new entries.

An article in Newsroom in September 2020 took a different stance.

At that time, the Māori Party had prompted debate around whether New Zealand should be officially named Aotearoa.

Professor Kerry Howe, described as internationally regarded for his 11 books on aspects of the prehistory, history and cultures of New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, examined common usage and understanding of the word.

He wrote:

Māori appear not to have had a name for what is now called New Zealand. The North Island was Te Ika a Maui – the fish of Maui – and the South Island Tewaipounamu, or the rivers of greenstone. The latter also had other names in legend, including Te waka a Maui, or Maui’s canoe, from which he hauled up his great fish.

The origins of Aotearoa are obscure. George Grey’s Polynesian Mythology, 1855 is sometimes credited with the first written use of the term when he recounted the legends of Maui, saying that the “greater part of his descendants remained in Hawaiki, but a few of them came here to Aotearoa… (or in these islands)”.

But there are now long recognised problems with accepting at face value early European interpolations of tribal ‘traditions’.

The words Aotea, or Aotearoa, were sometimes used, but not in the sense they are commonly used today, Howe wrote.

For example, it is revealing that the Māori Declaration of Independence of 1835 which asserted the authority of the ‘Independent Tribes of New Zealand’ has both Māori and English versions. The Māori version of New Zealand is ‘Nu Tereni’, a Māori pronunciation of the English name. Aotearoa is not used.

The English version of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi has several references to the ‘Tribes of New Zealand’, ‘Chiefs of New Zealand’, ‘Natives of New Zealand’. The Māori version, it might be expected, would use the word Aotearoa, if it was in common usage. Instead it translates ‘New Zealand’ as ‘nu tirani’.

William Williams’ Māori dictionary, first published in 1844, has no entry for Aotearoa.

None of that is likely to trouble Tinetti.

Her press statement says –

Education Ministers from across the Pacific will gather in Tāmaki Makaurau this week to share their collective knowledge and strategic vision, for the benefit of ākonga across the region.

Other news on the Beehive website tell us –

A vital transport link for communities and local businesses has been restored following Cyclone Gabrielle with the reopening of State Highway 5 (SH5) between Napier and Taupō, Associate Minister of Transport Kiri Allan says.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta departs for China tomorrow, where she will meet with her counterpart, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in Beijing.

Internal Affairs Minister Barbara Edmonds has thanked generous New Zealanders who took part in the special Lotto draw for communities affected by Cyclone Gabrielle.

Tinetti said she was looking forward to the breadth of engagement opportunities the education conference will present for dialogue with her counterparts from the Pacific. .

“Collectively, we will be able to share our extensive education system and policy knowledge, engage in talanoa and learn from each other.”

Talanoa (to spare you the search) is “talk” or “discussion” in Fijian, Samoan and Tongan and

“… is a Pacific Island form of dialogue that brings people together to share opposing views without any predetermined expectations for agreement.

Tinetti went on to say the Pacific Education Ministers

“… will be meeting face-to-face, kanohi ki te kanohi, for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Tinetti will be joined by Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Minister for Pacific Peoples Barbara Edmonds, for elements of the conference.

With regard to her use of “ākonga” rather than “students”, by the way, perhaps she had consulted one Peter Winder, who apparently is aspiring to become a Kiwi Thomas Bowdler (11 July 1754 – 24 February 1825) in having his name incorporated in the English language.

Winder is the comparatively new chief executive of Te Pūkenga, the outfit which runs the country’s 16 polytechs and the country’s largest tertiary provider.

Bowdler was an English physician known for publishing an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare’s plays edited by his sister.

He lent his name to the English verb bowdlerise, which means ‘to remove words or sections from a book or other work that are considered unsuitable or offensive’

The derivative noun is bowdlerism.

Wikipedia provides some examples of alterations made by Bowdler’s edition:
  • In Hamlet, the death of Ophelia was called an accidental drowning, not a possibly intended suicide.
  • “God!” as an exclamation is replaced with “Heavens!”
  • In Henry IV, Part 2, the prostitute Doll Tearsheet is omitted outright, the slightly more reputable Mistress Quickly retained.
Winders signalled his comfort with bowlderism when a 30-page internal “style guide” was published in February to ensure “written and verbal communication is uniform” and “in line with Te Pūkenga values and reflects the needs of our priority audiences”.

The document was sent to Stuff after it reported that Winder had told all staff – including academics – they are “public servants” and must remain politically neutral ahead of this year’s general election.

Stuff shared some of the style guide’s language-crimping requirements:

Under the guidelines, the words “student” and “trainee” are discouraged, the “preferred terms” being “ākonga” (student) or “learners”.

The use of “employee” and “staff” should be limited unless “in a formal setting” or “required by legislation”.


“We refer to each other as kaimahi, colleagues, work friends, whānau, or Te Pūkenga people,” the document said.

Another guide section refers to teaching staff as “learning facilitators”.

Staff were told they should not refer to the organisation as a “megapolytech” or say “merge” – even though those terms describe how it was formed. “We always refer to ourselves as Te Pūkenga.”

The guide discourages gendered language, for example: “We also use: spouse or partner – not husband, wife”.

“Manmade” is out, with alternative options including machine-made, artificial or synthetic.

The document includes a section headed “words and acronyms we don’t use”.

Amongst them are “it’s early days” (“those were earlier, we’re in the here and now”) and Treaty of Waitangi.

“We use Te Tiriti o Waitangi or Te Tiriti,” staff were told.

Stuff notes that Treaty of Waitangi is used by numerous government departments, including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Because these guidelines have been issued on Peter Winder’s watch as CEO, it is tempting to think the language is being windered.

And those who countenance the use in tertiary institutions of rule-books which dictate speech and thought? Pompous winderbags, perhaps.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton


Robert Arthur said...

My understanding is that only the NZ editon of the OED is corrupted.

Anonymous said...

i wonder why OED added kai and tangata but forgot kaitangata!