Willow-Jean Prime adopts the Beehive practice of mixing two languages – and the effect (dare we say?) is bumfuzzling
Point of Order has engaged in a hasty bit of linguistic research on hearing – or rather, reading – the opening sentence of a speech delivered by Associate Health Minister Willow-Jean Prime.
As has become common practice in the Beehive, this sentence was crafted to combine te reo and English.
The objective of Beehive communicators nowadays – it seems – is to use ministerial speaking opportunities not to simply communicate what the government wants the public to know, but to condition us to accept a Treaty-based argot in the name of preserving te reo.
Our writers could confound our readers, here at Point of Order, by writing (for example) that
We were bumfuzzled by what the minister said…
At least some readers (we imagine) would have to go and find what that means, and they would learn it means we were confused by the minister’s choice of words.
That would be a triumph for our helping to expand the vocabularies of those readers, but it would make us smart-arsed rather than good communicators.
We could take another approach (as the minister did) and provide a translation:
We were bumfuzzled (confused) by what the minister said…
But good communication in our book calls for our abandoning “bumfuzzled” and simply saying we were confused.
The minister’s language challenge can be found on the government’s official website with just one other new announcement.
Latest from the Beehive
Accessible healthcare will be the focus of a new hauora van in Auckland, protecting hāpu māma (pregnant mothers), their pēpi (babies) and tamariki from preventable diseases.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today announced the appointment of Naomi Kyriacopoulos as Aotearoa New Zealand’s next High Commissioner to Tuvalu.
Willow-Jean Prime’s speech takes it for granted we all know what a “hauora van” might do.
No, we don’t, except that it will emit climate-unfriendly gases unless it can be peddled (unlikely) or is battery-driven.
But if you read on, you will find the protection of pregnant mothers is being provided by health workers armed with vaccines.
And let’s acknowledge that Prime is capable of speaking in simple English, because she said:
“It’s so important that health providers work in different ways to reach communities, and this van allows vaccinators to park outside a home, so they can be right where needed, without intruding inside.”
“Antenatal vaccination is incredibly effective at protecting mothers and newborn babies against serious illnesses like whooping cough and flu. Yet not enough women, especially Māori and Pacific women, know about this or are able to get vaccinated.
“Today’s launch is a further example of how the Government is investing in primary and community care.
“This is key to reducing pressure on hospital services and providing the care people need when and where they need it.”
Well done, Minister.
But to return to the more complex opening sentence, and her need to provide translations:
Accessible healthcare will be the focus of a new hauora van in Auckland, protecting hāpu māma (pregnant mothers), their pēpi (babies) and tamariki from preventable diseases…
The written statement shows that Prime is talking about “māma”, not “mama”.
We didn’t hear how she pronounced it.
But the distinction is important, as the Te Aka Maori Dictionary shows:
- (verb) to ooze through small apertures.
- (noun) kidney.
1. (loan) (noun) mother, mum.
It’s a loan word borrowed from whom?
As for pēpi, this is not to be confused with peepee. But let’s not go there…
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton