A second-hand treasure

Finding classic ethnography in second-hand bookstores or charity shops is one of my great pleasures. This weekend I rumbled a copy of Te Rangi Hiroa Sir Peter Buck’s “The Coming of the Maori” for the bargain sum of £2.50.

It’s a bit mildew-spotted on the outside but in great condition inside.



I wonder who Barbara was to get such a scholarly and interesting present from her Dad in 1958? (That’s my bookstamp there, yes, isn’t it great? I like ferns. A gift from my ever-thoughtful sweetheart.)



One of the plates at that back: a collection of woven flax kits (kete). I remember trying to do even the most basic weaving as a kid and being astonished at the fine detail that skilled weavers can produce. The middle-left is particularly lovely.

Te Rangi Hiroa was an amazing man – an anthropologist, politician, doctor, health campaigner, and served in the armed forces – and all this at a time when discrimination against Māori people in public life was routine in New Zealand. The article linked here mentions the epilogue from “Vikings of the Sunrise” where Te Rangi Hiroa considers the passing of a traditional Polynesian way of life:

“The old net is full of holes, its meshes have rotted, and it has been laid aside.

What new net goes afishing?”

I had not realised before that this was where Witi Ihimaera took the title of his book of short stories “The New Net Goes Fishing”. Those stories were classic high-school reading when I was growing up, and I can see how the stories resonated with Te Rangi Hiroa’s theme.

on dialects of english

My friend J once described something as being “kitty-corner” from a person in a restaurant, and I seriously thought she was making up random feline-words because she’s such a sucker for cats.

It turned out that kitty-corner (or catty-corner) is some Yankee slang for “diagonally opposite” – who knew?

I just thought of this as I was in a waiting room this morning with its attendant collection of rubbish magazines, one of which was the Reader’s Digest. Ah, the Digest, with its moralising stories of real-life bravery and unceasingly good clean jokes. When I was a kid and fancied myself the cleverest, I used to like those “Word Power” quizzes where you had to know the meaning of some tricky vocabulary word. Sometimes, however, they were completely beyond my ken, not ‘cos I wasn’t smrt, but because I wasn’t North American.

I am still fascinated and will yabber on boringly to people here, even after five years, about dialect differences. “Oh, we call it a such-and-such,” I say, and go on to make people’s eyes glaze over with the myriad ways in which sweets differ from candies differ from lollies (my term) which differ from ice lollies which are actually iceblocks, not popsicles. My fairly international set of friends provide hours of fun for my dialectical (haha) observations.

Wiki sez:

On New Zealand English.
Some NZ vocab words. Up the Boohai!
On Maori influence on NZ English, including some of my favourite phrases to use that result in blank stares:
taihoa: hold on a second, wait up
puku: belly, esp. when full
half-pai: pai = good. I had always thought this was half-pie, denoting something half-done or unfinished, but this makes much more sense.
Am suprised porangi is not on there, but maybe only the kids I grew up with delighted in using “crazy” as an insult.

Another guide to Kiwi slang, which is making me yearn to have a blog called “Waikikamukau Dispatches”.