Art. LVI.—Maori Nomenclature.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, 5th September, 1892.]
The subject to which I have presumed to invite your attention this evening, though interesting to myself and probably to others who have some acquaintance with the Maori language, is yet one which, I fear, I may not be able to treat in such a way as to make it interesting to a general audience. I will therefore anticipate failure by asking you beforehand to forgive me should I trespass unduly upon your patience while making the attempt. I propose, then, to say a few words on Maori names.
The subject seems to fall naturally under three heads—names of persons, names of places, and names of things.
With regard to names of persons: The first point which appears to me noticeable is that a Maori often bears a great many names in his lifetime. The principal name is, however, given at birth, or, rather, in the case of a male, at the ceremony which is performed soon after by the priest or tohunga.
In after-life the birth-name is often dropped, and a fresh one is assumed, often bearing reference to some important contemporaneous event. Sometimes on the decease of a relative the name of the deceased is assumed by the survivor. Often, also, a circumstance or occurrence associated with the sickness or death of a relative furnishes names for those who were about him at the time of his decease.
I do not think there is any rule observed with regard to names of chiefs or persons of rank. At the same time there are distinctions in names—there are aristocratic names and plebeian names. The “Rangi's” and the “Tu's” generally, when at the beginning of the name, belong to the former, and such names as etymologically suggest relations to common every-day affairs are generally borne by persons of low degree. This cannot, however, be laid down as a rule. Some of the highest-born and most renowned chiefs have borne names of by no means exalted significance. It may be that the names of many of the men who gained renown as warriors and otherwise were not their birth-names, but merely the names by which they were known during the time they were winning fame by their exploits, and therefore the names by which they chose to be known and spoken of.
The Maoris did not generally distinguish sex by names. With certain exceptions, any name may be borne by either sex. The exceptions are that names beginning with “Hine” or “Pare” will belong to females, and names compounded with “Tama” or “Tu” would be those of males only.
The definitive “Te” put before a name adds dignity, and is used as a mark of respect. In metamorphosing pakehas' names into Maori it is usual to put the “Te” before them, where it is probably equivalent to our “Mr.” To omit the “Te” in speaking of or addressing a respectable pakeha would show lack of respect, though in familiarly addressing him it may be omitted, and the name itself even may be abbreviated without disrespect. In the case of their own names, those which are preceded by the “Te” certainly mark higher rank in the bearer than those not so preceded. I remember a chief of high rank in the Lake district whose name was Te Kirikau, and in the same place was a little schoolgirl named Kirikau. The distinction, though seemingly trifling, was not really so, the names having different significations. It was quite sufficient to prevent any mistake or confusion in their use.
There is a word sometimes used in greeting a person hold in high estimation for his genial and good qualities—“Tauwa.” It expresses at once admiration and respect for the person so accosted, also pleasure at meeting.
In addressing any person, by name or otherwise, the vocative “E” is always used. This has led to many mistakes of
pakehas in using Maori names. Hearing persons addressed, they have taken the preceding “E” to be part of the name. The chief Te Puni, of Wellington, was always known by the European settlers as “E Puni.” A great many similar instances might be given.
There are no family names among the Maoris. Every child has his own name given soon after birth, which is retained through life, though not always used. A person may take many names. The so-called Maori King, Potatau, was known as “Te Wherowhero” in the early days of the colony. The name of the head of the family, however, comes into use by his descendants as the name of a hapu or tribe, generally by adding the prefix “Ngaati” or “Ngai”—Ngatiwhakaue, at Rotorua—the family or descendants of Whakaue; Ngai Te Rangihouhiri, in the Bay of Plenty—the descendants of Te Rangihouhiri: both of these prefixes meaning the same—i.e., progeny. In some cases the singular form is used, as “Te Atiawa” instead of “Ngatiawa;” and other forms also are used, as “Te Whanau o,” “The family of”—Te Whanau o Apanui, on the East Coast—or, “Te Uri o,” “Te Aitanga a,” “The offspring of”—Te Uri o Hau, Kaipara; Te Aitanga a Whare, Poverty Bay, &c.
It is not meant to assert that the names of tribes and hapus are invariably, or even generally, those of ancestors; but in many cases it is so, and the use of these prefixes would always be understood as indicating the family of the name so prefixed. Families of some of the early missionaries, which have multiplied and reached to the third and fourth generations, are often so designated.
In speaking of Maori names, of course the names given in Christian baptism are excluded.
There is a remarkable Maori custom, which in bygone days used to be very strictly observed. If a chief changed his name, as in the cases above referred to, and took as a name a word in common use having any connection with food, some other word was forthwith substituted for the word so appropriated, which thereafter ceased to be used. I recollect instances of this in the Bay of Plenty. A chief took the name of Te Wai Atua (Spirit-water), and forthwith the word “ngongi” was substituted for “wai,” which was dropped, both words meaning water. In another case the word “kai” (food) formed part of the names assumed by chiefs—Korokai and Nga Kai. The use of the word “kai” for food ceased in consequence, and the words “kame” and “tami” were used instead.
Other peculiar uses of names were the tapatapa and tukutuku. To tapa anything was to give the name of a person to it, the effect of which was to put it, figuratively, into the keep-
ing of the person named, after which any other person taking a liberty with it would be regarded as offering insult to the person whose name had been so used. The object was to associate the person named with the owner or claimant in defending or maintaining possession of the thing “tapa”-ed. To resort to this mode of proceeding was regarded as a gross insult to the rival claimant, who was thus baulked in any attempt to possess himself of the property in dispute, and it often led to reprisals in some shape. The form of tapatapa was, “Waiho te mea ko Mea”—“Let the thing be So-and-so.” It was throwing down the gauntlet—not your own glove, but that of some other person. Another use of a name was in time of war, threatened or actual: a chief of high rank nearly connected with both belligerents, if desirous of preventing or ending strife, would sometimes name a war-path his backbone, “Iwi tuaroa,” and if, after his having done so, either side used the path with hostile purpose, it would be regarded as a mortal offence, to be wiped out only in blood.
Other peculiar uses of names of persons, and Maori customs connected with them, might be noticed, but, with your permission, I will pass on to Maori names of places, as the part of my subject to which I propose to devote the larger portion of the time allotted to me.
In entering upon this branch of my subject I would take the opportunity of expressing my regret that we colonists, having adopted Maoriland as our country, professing our wish and intention to occupy it together and upon equal terms with those who were here before us—its original possessors—should have allowed so many of the native names of places to fall into disuse—should consent to let them be lost or forgotten. We have built cities, and we were right to give them names. Our houses, our streets, our roads—everything which we have brought into being—we were warranted in naming. But the mountains, the bays, the rivers, lakes, forests, the grand natural features of these Islands, had names before we came here, and why should they not be preserved? Is it well or creditable to our sentiment that they should pass into oblivion?
It has been said that Maori words are so difficult of pronunciation. I quite fail to understand how it can have come to pass that Maori words or names should be thought difficult to pronounce. It appears to me that the sounds of the Maori language are so few and so simple that, if two or three plain rules are observed, no name or word need present any serious difficulty. If only it be borne in mind that the language is dissyllabic;—that the vowels have the Continental sound; that every syllable ends with a vowel—in fact, consists of a single consonant followed by a vowel, or of a so-
called single vowel which can be uttered by the voice as a single sound capable of being prolonged indefinitely;—that names having many syllables are compound words, and may be broken up, as it were, into their component parts, which may be dealt with separately, as a preliminary process;—I believe that any difficulty apparent on first sight will vanish. Simplicity is the main characteristic of the Maori language—indeed, I cannot conceive of anything more simple, so far as the mere pronunciation of the words is concerned. Its words are formed from dissyllabic roots, each syllable being compounded of a consonant qualified by a vowel, which is required to make it utterable. The consonant sound at the end of a word, found in other languages, is—excepting only in the case of the sibilant—incapable of being dwelt on or prolonged, and the fact that all Maori words and syllables end with a vowel (which may be so prolonged) makes the language remarkably adapted for singing.
I may here say that I differ from some of the recognised authorities on the question of the sounds which go to make Maori words as spoken by the Maori, and which are represented by fifteen letters or signs—five vowels, with eight single and two double consonants.
The Maori language was, as we all know, reduced to writing by the early missionaries, who caught, as it were, the utterances of Maori speakers, and endeavoured to reproduce them by using these English letters, and it is remarkable how well adapted and suitable for the purpose they prove. Still, as equivalents for the Maori sounds they are not perfect. Among the consonants the English “r” approximates only to the sound of the correctly-pronounced Maori word spelt with that letter. That sound might be described as a compound or compromise between “d,” “l,” and “r,” partaking of, or approaching to, the sound of all and each. (It may be observed here that English-speaking people pronounce the “r” in different ways.) In an early attempt to reduce the Maori language to writing made by Professor Lee in the year 1820, these three letters were given as used by the Maoris, and instances are given in his vocabulary of the use of the “d” in words which are now spelt with the “r” only. The fact is that none of these letters give exactly the proper sound. As caught by the ear of the careful listener, with the vowels “a,” “o,” and generally with “e,” the sound is like our “r,” as in ra, rangi; repo, rere; roro, raro. With the vowel “i,” it often sounds like “l”—ringa-ringa, almost linga-linga. With the vowel “u,” it is more like “d”—rua, runga, almost dua, dunga. The name of a noted chief in the Bay of Islands, which we now spell with “r,” was in the early days spelt and pronounced “Duatara.”
The sound represented by the letter “t” is something between “t” and “th”—a “t” pronounced thickly.
Words usually spelt with the aspirate “h” are differently pronounced in different parts of New Zealand. In the North it is almost a sibilant. The Ngapuhi Maori says “E hoa,” &c. (not “soa,” or “shoa,” but between these two). In old books names now spelt with “H” are spelt with “Sh”—“Shungee” for Hongi, “Shukianga” for Hokianga. In the South, among the Whanganui tribes, the place of the aspirate is taken by a sort of jerk of the voice. The Whanganui man does not say “E hoa!” but “E'oa!” “'aere mai!” “'o mai.” Hence many persons have fallen into the error of writing the name Whanganui without the “h”—Wanganui. The Whanganui Maori does not, however, simply drop the “h”—he substitutes for it the jerk of the voice: he does not say, for he hara (an offence), e ara (arise), but 'e'ara; not omai instead of homai, but 'omai.
The nasal sound indicated by the letters “ng” is by some persons found difficult to master. The difficulty is, I think, more apparent than real. It is merely putting to the beginning of a word the nasal or ringing sound with which we are familiar at the end of a word, as in “singing,” “speaking,” &c. The child who sings “Ringa ringa rosie,” twice gives the sound of the “ng,” with the vowel “a”—“nga.” It is equally easy to get the sound of “ng” in combination with the other vowels, thus: “Flowing e ver,” “bringing o ver,” “spreading oo ze.” (Not, however, with the hard “g” sound—e.g., we must not say “flowing-gever,” “bringing-gover.”) In these words the “ng” occurs four times. If they are repeated slowly, and the nasal sound is prolonged each time it occurs, so as to blend with the vowel which follows it, you cannot help getting the sound of the “ng” in combination with the vowels “e,” “i,” “o,” and “u.”
With respect to the vowels, I believe I stand almost alone in the opinion that “a” has but one sound—as in the English words “far,” “father.” Archdeacon (afterwards Bishop) Williams, in his dictionary, gives a second sound—as in “water.” Dr. Maunsell gives two sounds—as in “fall,” and as in “fat.” It is a question of ear. If my ear has been true to me, there is no such sound in Maori as we give to the “a” in “water,” to the “a” in “fall,” or to the “a” in “fat.” It is that of the “a” in “father” or “far,” and that only. The ear is liable to be misled in noting the difference of sound in words in which the “a” is long from that in words where it is short—as in “matenga,” the head, and “mátenga,” dying. The “a” in the latter word is often pronounced by pakehas as in the words “matter,” “scatter,” &c. This is wrong. An unsophisticated Maori does not so pronounce it, though I have
heard a Maori imitate the pakeha pronunciation in this and in other words. We have comparatively few English words where the “a” is pronounced as in “aroma,” “marvellous,” and so many where it is sounded as in “rat,” “cat,” “bat,” &c., that the error is one easily fallen into. But let it be tested by prolonging the vowel sounds, as is often done in a Maori song. If you prolong the “a” sound of the syllable “ma” in “mate,” as we give it in “cat,” “fat,” &c., I think it will be at once perceived that the sound is not Maori at all.
The “e” has the simple French or Continental sound, and that only. The Maori “u” is pronounced like the “oo” in the English words “fool,” “pool,” “ooze,” &c.
I also repudiate the doctrine that there are diphthongs in Maori. The combinations of vowels which are called diphthongs are simply dissyllables. Each vowel has its own perfect proper sound. There is no coalescing or blending of sound. Ae is as much a dissyllable as ate; ai as ahi, ati, api; ao as amo, aro, apo; ei (in nei) as emi; au as ahu, aru, atu, aku. In every case the vowels are, both in sound and inform, as perfect dissyllables as when standing in the same position relatively, with a consonant between them, and the terminal vowel sound is capable of being prolonged indefinitely. The written vowels which learners are told to pronounce long are really dissyllables, which, strictly speaking, should be spelt with the vowel letter doubled. A (to drive) should be spelt aa.
To illustrate my meaning I will take a word—păpă. This is a dissyllabic root-word containing the idea of flatness or extension of surface, which appears in many of its compounds—as, haupapa, kopapa, tipapa, paparahi, paparite, all carrying the idea contained in the root. Papa or papaa, is another word, signifying to crackle, or explode with noise, usually spelt, however, with the same letters as the first word. Papa, or paapaa, is a third word, also usually spelt with the same letters, the meaning of which is “father.” In the second and third words the root is pa or paa, which is a root having more than one meaning—papa, to explode; papa, to meet in conflict, containing the idea of touch, or contact. “Kuapapa”—“The parties have met in conflict”—have joined battle.” In the word papa—father—the root pa, to touch, suggests the idea of touch or connection in the paternal relationship—pa-kuha, connections by marriage.
Reverting to the question of the proper pronunciation of Maori names, I repeat that in my opinion no insurmountable obstacle stands in the way of any one desiring to acquire the art—or accomplishment.
As exemplifying the mode in which a Maori name of several syllables may be dealt with, I will take one in connection with
which it is said one of our eminent legislators, having to refer to a block of land known by this name, found a difficulty in the pronunciation, and negotiated it in a somewhat summary fashion. He wished to say something about the Kaukapakapa Block, and, having got as far as “Kau,” he disposed of the rest of the name by adding “and all the rest of it”: “Kau—and all the rest of it.” It cannot be denied that much more formidable-looking words are met with by those who have to do with Maori names. In this case there are but three dissyllables, the third being a repetition of the second. “Kaukapakapa,” one would think, is scarcely a word to be frightened at. We will take a more difficult—or apparently difficult—word, “Ngati-uenuku-kopako,” which is the name of one of the Rotorua hapus, or sections of a tribe. This word is divisible into six portions, which—excepting the first and fifth—are certainly dissyllables. With the first two there is no difficulty. They are separable from the rest of the word as a prefix common to names of tribes. The remaining four form the name of the ancestor from whom the tribe takes its name, and may also be separated into two parts, “Uenuku” and “Kopako.” If each of these pairs of dissyllables be taken separately—making a dissyllable of “Ko,” in “Kopako,” and following the simple rules previously referred to—there ought to be no great difficulty when they are brought together. The small difficulty, of course, is to know how the word should be divided; but a little familiarity with Maori names, and observation of their construction, will obviate this.
I have heard of an objection to Maori names on the ground that many of them are the reverse of euphonious. This objection is, I think, partly met by what has been said about pronunciation of Maori words. I must admit, however, that the redundancy of the “k” in Maori does not conduce to euphony. In the South, more especially, is this noticeable, as there the nasal “ng” is converted into a “k,” giving a somewhat jerky, harsh character to the Maori vernacular there. In the North, however, I cannot agree that Maori names are ill-sounding when pronounced properly. When incorrectly pronounced, they may be open to the objection.
In some cases our English names of places have been adopted by the Maori, with such alteration as is necessary to make them easily pronounced by Maori organs of speech. New-Zealanders have long spoken of “Peowhairangi,” Bay of Islands; “Akarana,” Auckland; “Niu Tirani,” New Zealand, &c. Their attempts to render English names put to shame those of the pakeha of the olden time to render Maori names into English.
The Maori has proved himself an apt scholar in appropriating English names and words. An amusing anecdote
illustrating the exercise of this faculty is told in connection with a name given to a house. Two Europeans had been employed to build the house, and on its completion a name for it had to be found. A meeting was convened, the matter was discussed, and one of the Europeans was asked to name the house. He called to his mate, sitting on the roof of the new structure, “What name shall it be, Jack?” The reply was a very coarse expression, which I will not repeat. The assembled Maoris catching the sound of the words and taking a fancy to it, they were put into Maori shape as a single word, and adopted as the name by which the house was thereafter called. In course of time the surveyors came, made their survey of the land, marking the site and getting the name of the house, which was carefully put upon their plan, where it now remains, and awaits the future New Zealand antiquary and philologist, who, if successful in tracing its origin and signification, may sympathize with Mr. Pickwick in his experience in connection with the Cobham inscription.
In murdering the Queen's English, however, the Maori is not so great an offender as is, or has been, the pakeha in murdering Maori. In the early days of the colony the Wairarapa Valley was called “Wy-drop” by the Wellington settlers. Any one calling it by the proper name would have been laughed at as a prig. On the West Coast, between Manawatu and Otaki, may be seen the site of the pa to which the chief Rangihaeata retired after the disturbances in 1846. The locality is known to the settlers near as “Bully Taffer,” its proper name being Poroutawhao. Not far from there is a place which I had heard spoken of as “Jacky Town,” and, being curious to find out the origin of this name, I made inquiries, with the result that I found the name was a Maori one—was, in fact, Eke-tahuna. Instances of this kind could be multiplied indefinitely. A place the Maori name of which was Te Urukapana, was known to Europeans as “The Woolly Carpenters.”
The advantage of preserving native names as clues for the historian of the future is obvious to us all, and need not be dwelt upon here, but it is very desirable that these names be preserved in their correct form. A very great deal of carelessness has been shown in the past with reference to this point. Names have been taken carelessly, wrongly spelt, and otherwise faulty. A glaring instance of this is the name “Otago.” There was no Otago in New Zealand until we invented that name. It is not a Maori word at all; it is only a specimen of murder perpetrated on Maori. It was the form which the name Otakou took in the mouths of the whalers and sealers who were the first pakehas resident in that locality. To come nearer home, we have a recently-opened cemetery not
far from Auckland which we have called “Waikomiti,” the proper Maori name being Waikumete (Water in a wooden vessel). We wrongly call the lake across the water “Takapuna,” its proper name being Pupuke. No doubt more attention has been paid of late to getting Maori names properly spelt, but there is room for improvement. Maori names are constantly incorrectly spelt in our newspapers, and worse pronounced by those who read them. I remember the struggles which took place with the name Ngaruawahia (“The Ruas of Wahia,” or “The Ruas broken into”), at the junction of the Waipa and Waikato Rivers, also with Hokitika, on the west coast of the Middle Island, before the correct spelling was authoritatively fixed by the Government.
In speaking of the signification of Maori names I fear that I may disappoint your expectation. Many Maori experts have essayed the task of analysing a Maori name, separating supposed constituent parts, assigning a meaning to each, and summing up with a result highly satisfactory, no doubt, to the operator, as evincing a superior sagacity, skill, and knowledge; wanting only the element of certainty to make it valuable, or anything more than a guess. A little ingenuity and a great deal of imagination are the only requisites to enable any one to turn out a great deal of work of this kind. It is not, however, a part of my programme to add to the number of guesses, or guessers, in this department of literature. I am rather disposed to criticize some of the achievements of others in this line, with the results to which I have ventured to refer as guesses. No doubt the meanings of many Maori names are obvious—apparent on the surface. It may be safely accepted that where the word “maunga” forms part of the name a mountain or considerable elevation is indicated; “manga,” a branch, as of a river; “puke” (generally, not always) means a hill or eminence; “tara,” a peak; “whanga,” a bay or large expanse, mostly of water. When such words form part of a name the meaning may not be difficult to get at.
I will give two or three instances in which I am satisfied the meaning or signification of the name has been missed, and will not weary you by adding to the list.
The name “Onehunga” is one which has been subjected to the analysis to which I have referred, the result arrived at being that the word means “light soil,” “One” being taken as the root of a word meaning soil, or earth, and “hunga” as the root of words meaning light, as fur, hair, &c.
A similar treatment is applied to the name “Otahuhu.” Again we have, apparently, two dissyllables, “Ota” and “huhu.” “Ota” means to eat anything uncooked; “huhu” is the name of a large grub which is eaten by the Maoris both raw and cooked. Here, apparently, there was a meaning
easily found. No doubt the name was given to a place where some one had had a feast of raw “huhu” grubs. Unfortunately, however, for our theory, the accent in the name “Otahuhu,” as pronounced by the Maori, was on the second syllable, “tā,” which would not be the case with the words “Ota” and “huhu” (raw-huhu-eating).
In the name “Onehunga,” also, the accent is on the second syllable. Moreover, when we come to think of it, there are hosts of names beginning with “O” and with the accent on the syllable following it. A new light dawns, and we see that O-ne hunga and O-ta huhu is the more likely to be the correct analysis, “nehunga” being the present participle of the verb “nehu,” to bury, and “tahuhu,” meaning the ridge-pole of a house.
Again, the name “Rotorua” was supposed to signify Two lakes, and in support of this theory the fact that the two lakes, Rotorua and Te Rotoiti, are connected by a stream was adduced. A more careful inquiry among the natives themselves elicited their opinion that the name signified the “rua” shaped lake, “rua” meaning a hole or hollow scooped out of the ground, generally circular, which is the shape of the Rotorua Lake; “Te Rotoiti” meaning the Narrow lake.
Once more: the name of the lake “Wai-ata-rua”—called St. John's College Lake—has been the subject of ingenious speculation, some making of it “Waiata-rua,” double song; others “Wai-atarua,” water of double shadow, or doubleimaged water.
These instances may suffice to show that very great uncertainty must attend attempts to fix the real significance of Maori names.
Reverting to the names “Otahuhu” and “Onehunga,” which I would render as “Tahuhu's place,” “Nehunga's place,” I would draw attention to the fact that a very large percentage of Maori names begin with “O” followed by an accented syllable. In our own neighbourhood, besides the two just named, we have Okahu, Orakei, Owairaka, Orewa, Omaha, Ohinemuri, Ohaupo. In the North, Oruawharo, Otamatea, Okaihau, Omapere, Opua. In the Bay of Plenty, Ohinemutu, Otumoetai, Ohiwa, Otamarakau, Opotiki; and on the West Coast, Ohau (Hau's River), Otaki. We have also names where “te” follows the “O”—Otepopo, for instance. Looking at these names a presumption arises, which in my mind amounts almost to a certainty, that the part in these names which comes after the “O” is a proper name, the name of a person; that such names are similar to those we give to localities known principally as the dwelling-places of persons who are well known as residents in such localities. One instance among many may be quoted—“Bulls,” at Rangi-
tikei, which, I am sorry to say, is the name which has displaced a much more euphonious Maori one—“Te Arataumaihi.” In support of this theory I would mention that I have heard the “Nga” used in many of these names instead of the “O” I have heard Otamarakau, between Maketu and Te Matata, called Ngatamarakau, and the same variation in many other names beginning with “O” If correct, this theory provides a step towards finding the signification of the names of many localities.
Many names of places are common to several localities. We have a Maketu and a Tauranga (Drury) near Auckland as well as in the Bay of Plenty. The “Wairoa” and “Wainui” are to be found everywhere. The place called Akaroa in Banks Peninsula is the same as Whangaroa in the North. The dropping of the aspirated “w,” and the change of the “ng” into “k,” have altered the appearance of the name, which, as pronounced by the Maoris themselves, is Hakaroa or Whakaroa. “Waitaki” is the same name as Waitangi in the North. Nelson is “Whangatu” changed to Whakatu.
In mutilating and distorting Maori names the settlers in the South are even greater offenders than we in the North. When travelling through the southern provinces of the Middle Island some years ago a Bradshaw which I carried afforded me a great deal of amusement when looking over the names of places supposed to be Maori names. The name in the book could with difficulty only be identified with that given by a Maori resident when I had an opportunity of comparison. I remember one place on a railway-line was called in the book Te Muka, which certainly looked so natural that the probability of error was almost precluded; but this name turned out to have been substituted for “Te Umukaha.” Several of the Union S.S. Company's steamers are named after the southern lakes—one after Te Anau Lake. Hearing the name as here pronounced, it did not sound to me like a Maori name. I was curious to find out how it was pronounced by the resident natives, and found that, instead of Te A-nau, it should be pronounced Te Ana-u, which altogether altered its character. There is another of these steamers similarly named. It is, I believe, generally called the “Monowai.” This name also excites my curiosity. A suggestion has been offered that the name is a combination of the Greek “monos” and the Maori “wai.” I am reluctant to accept this explanation, and meanwhile am in doubt as to whether to call the steamer “Te Monowai” as in “monotone,” having respect to the Greek element, or “Te Mono-wai” as in “most,” which would be the correct pronunciation if the word is really a Maori one.
Exception has also been taken to the retention of Maori names on the ground that the significations of some of them must be classed as unmentionable in refined society. It must be acknowledged that this is true, but I think it is scarcely of sufficient weight to require the relegation of the offending name to oblivion. We have sometimes to speak of matters in referring to which we find it convenient to drop the vernacular and resort to a dead language for words which may be used without offence to ears polite. We are in the daily habit of using words and names without conscious recognition of their derivation or original signification. Many of these offending Maori names also are still, and probably will continue to be, in use in happy ignorance, and furnish instances where “'tis folly to be wise.” In others, as in the case of the place called Marton, near Rangitikei, the original name has been banished in disgrace.
In any attempt to trace the origin of the Maori names of places in New Zealand fewer difficulties may be anticipated than would be met with in the case of most other countries. It may be regarded as certain that such names have been given by the Maoris themselves since their coming to these Islands, and are therefore (as names of places in New Zealand) not older than the period during which they have been here—about six hundred years.
Even if these Islands were inhabited by another race before the Maori made his appearance (a supposition which rests on very slight foundation), it is not probable that any of the belongings of such a race could have survived themselves without leaving some trace in Maori tradition. No such trace has been found, and if any older race ever existed their names must have been lost with themselves. The inquirer into the origin and signification of a genuine Maori name will not therefore be baffled by the presence of a foreign element such as would be met with in a similar investigation in the case of a European name.
Johnsonville, for instance: The first step is easy—Johnson's villa; second step, the villa of John's son: but, should we wish to go further, for “John” we must go to Palestine, for “son” to India, for “ville” to France or Rome.
It is more than probable that many of the names given by the Maori to New Zealand localities are those of places in a former home of the race. Others may have been given to preserve the memory of some important event or incident in the life of some person whose name, doings, or experiences are thus handed down to posterity. It was the practice of the Maori in the olden time to compose waiatas, or songs, which recited such events, and were sung at public gatherings. They often recounted the famous deeds of an ancestor. Some of
these songs were called “oriori,” or cradle-songs, supposed to be sung as a lullaby to an infant. One of these will be found at page 89 of Sir George Grey's book, “Poetry of the New Zealanders.” The infant girl is told the story of her ancestor's coming to this land: his name, “Hau”; his voyage in the canoe “Kurahaupo”; landing at Whenuakura, on the west coast of this Island, near Patea; of the building of his house Rangitawi; planting the kumara and sowing the karaka berries he had brought with him, near the sea-shore; then of his taking up a handful of earth, and, with the staff of Turoa in his hand, setting out on an exploring expedition southward, and naming the rivers as they were crossed by him on his journey, the names given to each having some reference personal to himself. Now, whether this song gives a true account of the origin of these names of rivers, &c., or whether the story is made to fit these names, who shall say? I confess myself unwilling to take the responsibility of deciding the question. All I can say is that I believe the waiata to recite an accepted tradition, and not a mere legend.
I will now give a short list of names of places where I think the old Maori name should have been retained rather than have substituted for it an English name. In doing so I will give the signification where it is plain, but refrain from taxing my imaginative powers and your credulity by offering a far-fetched interpretation. To begin with our own city. The principal elevations around Auckland are—Mount Eden, Maori name, Maungawhau, Mount of the Whau Tree; Mount Hobson, Remuwera, Burnt hem or fringe; Mount Albert, Owairaka, Wairaka's place; Three Kings, Te Tatua, Girdle or belt; Mount Smart, Rarotonga; Mount Wellington, Maungarei, Mount Tusk; One-tree Hill, Maungakiekie, Mount Kiekie; College Lake, Waiatarua. Rangitoto and Motutapu (Sacred Isle) have retained their names, as also Waiheke, Falling or moving water. Taurarua has been discarded for Judge's Bay; Mataharehare for St. George's Bay; Waiariki for Official Bay; Mechanics' Bay has displaced Waipapa; Horotiu or Te To (doubtful) is Freeman's Bay. Waitemata, though not lost as a name, has ceased to be appropriated solely to the estuary in which our harbour is situated; Te Waihou has had to give place to The Thames; The Great Barrier extinguishes Aotea; Cape Colville, Moehau; Mercury Island, Ahuahu; Mayor Island, Tuhua; White Island, Whakaari.
I will not take up your time further by adding names to a list which might be indefinitely extended.
I have heard that there is a song or lament which was composed to commemorate a very sanguinary conflict which took place somewhere in the neighbourhood of Whangaparaoa, and within view of the island of Rangitoto; that the name it now
bears was given on that occasion, and contains in its signification a reference to the result of the battle. I have not seen this song, and can offer no opinion on the matter. The word “Rangi” is the word for “sky,” also for “day,” and “toto” is the word for blood.
As before remarked, it appears fair to give our own names to our own creations—new settlements, townships, road districts, &c., we may properly name; but are we justified in discarding or changing those names which we found here, names which may be said to belong to the land we have come to occupy jointly with its original owners? I see no just cause for depriving Putauaki of its ancient name in order to name it Mount Edgecumbe, nor why hoary old Taranaki should forfeit his name, or exchange it for Mount Egmont. I think “Whanganui a Tara”—the wide bay of Tara—as good and as euphonious a name as Port Nicholson; Ahuriri or Heretaunga as good as Hawke's Bay or the Hutt. I see no sufficient reason for changing Wakaraupo to Port Cooper or Lyttelton, or for substituting Lake Ellesmere for Waihora, Spread-out water; Port Levy for Koukourarata, Tame owl; Stewart's Island for Rakiura; Chatham Island for Whare Kauri or Warekauri, and so on. If the right to give names to places is founded upon discovery, surely we are overstepping ours in changing or altering these names. Most of the mountain-ranges and rivers in the Middle Island have English names, which have superseded the old Maori ones—the Grey and Buller rivers, as instances, ousting Te Mawhera and Te Awatere.
As a means of preventing the old Maori names of places from being quite lost or forgotten, I should like to see an outline map or maps specially prepared upon which the original Maori names of places might be put, when accurately ascertained by careful inquiry, and the sites of old pas and other interesting objects associated with Maori history marked. Such a work might be undertaken under the auspices of the Government, and should not be difficult of accomplishment.
I will now ask your attention for a few moments to Maori names of things. The Maori vocabulary has been greatly enriched, or enlarged, since the advent of the pakeha to Maoriland. A very great many words have been adopted and metamorphosed into Maori shape, and are now used as freely and commonly as if they always belonged to the Maori language. The process of converting an English into a Maori word is not a mere haphazard one. It proceeds upon a fairly regular plan or rule. In turning an English word into a Maori one, very nearly the same shape would be given to it by every Maori who undertook the operation—that is, with very few variations. William would be “Wiremu” everywhere; Frederick would be “Pererika”; a letter “reta”; a boot “put”; a steamer
“tima”; number “nama,” &c.: “b's” would become “p's”; “l's” and “d's,” “r's.” The soft “c” and “s” would be represented by the aspirate, the soft “ch” by “t,” and so on. In writing a Maori-ised English word there is no attempt to spell it English fashion; the new word is adopted, assimilated, and treated in every way as a worthy member of the family of Maori words.
It could not reasonably be expected that the language of an uncivilised people should furnish equivalents for the words and names in use among civilised races, nor is it, in my opinion, wise or expedient to force new meanings upon old words—to use them, I mean, to convey ideas which are foreign to their original meaning. A new idea will, I think, be better embodied in a new word, of which the meaning may be taught or explained by the use of many other words. In introducing a new object to a stranger, its proper name should, I think, be introduced with it, in preference to seeking to fit it with a fresh one taken from the stranger's vocabulary. I think, by following such a rule in imparting to the New-Zealanders the knowledge which we, as a civilised race brought into close contact with them, were bound to place within their reach, the work would not have been rendered more difficult, and some inconveniences would have been avoided. The facility with which a Maori picks up and naturalises a foreign word favours the adoption of such a mode of dealing with the problems which arise in the attempt to present to the mind of the uncivilised man the information and thoughts which are the inheritance and possession of civilised men. In illustration of my meaning, I might refer to words and names used by the missionaries in teaching their converts the doctrines of Christianity.
The word taken as equivalent to that which we use as the name of the Supreme Being is “Atua,” which in its original meaning is used to designate malevolent beings with supernatural powers, to whose agency were attributed all the ills and misfortunes which afflict human beings, whose powers were invoked only to injure an enemy, who hated mankind, and who were ever on the watch for opportunities of wreaking vengeance upon the unfortunate mortal who wittingly or unwittingly gave them umbrage. Their powers were restrained, controlled, and directed by tohungas, by means of incantations, some more and some less potent or efficacious.
Again, the words taken for worship, spirit, heaven, hell, hope, conscience, baptism, and others, are words which, until the new significations with which they are arbitrarily invested are learned and become familiar, certainly do not signify the same things as do the words for which, as equivalents, they have been used.
With respect to the word “atua,” I do not, of course, refer to the atuas of Maori mythology, which may, I think, be regarded as mere fanciful personifications of the manifestations which we call natural phenomena, and not as the names of sentient beings who are concerned with human affairs, or anything more than the objects appearing and forces operating in the visible world. Some are names given to mere abstractions—vacancy, darkness, light, &c.; others, inanimate objects—sun, wind, storm, &c. The atua known to the Maoris as having present personal relations with human beings was a malignant being. In the case of His Satanic Majesty the other mode has been adopted: the word “Devil,” Rewera, and the name “Satan,” Hatana, have been naturalised in Maoridom, and are as well known throughout New Zealand as any word of purely Maori origin.
The Maori scholar is often puzzled by coming across a word which looks like a Maori word, but which is an utter stranger to him. Its meaning is sought by examining it critically and comparing it with other words apparently similar. Nothing beyond a guess can be arrived at. At last he finds out that the word is an old acquaintance unrecognised in its Maori dress. For example, I once heard some natives using the word “koroa” in reference to sudden deaths which had occurred. I could not think what the word was till one of the natives said I ought to know, as it was a pakeha word and then I found it was our word “cholera,” which they had heard used by Europeans, and supposed to be the cause of these deaths. I could give many other instances of Maoriised English words which on first appearance proved very puzzling.
It must not be supposed, however, that the Maori language is deficient or lacking in respect of words to designate with clearness and precision the things which appertained to the life and surroundings of the aboriginal New-Zealander in his somewhat circumscribed world. He had words for each of the twenty-nine days of the lunar month, for the seasons, the heavenly bodies, birds, beasts, fishes, plants, social relations, passions, sentiments, rude art. Everything, in fact, coming within the scope of his intelligent observation had an appropriate word by which it was designated.
The nicest distinctions were marked by different words which in translation are generally rendered by the same English word. The Maori has as many (or more) names for the head as we have, and each embodying a different idea. “Upoko” is the principal word used as the name of the head, but the idea is very different from that conveyed by the use of another word, “mahunga,” also meaning head. “Upoko” is used charily—the idea of the tapu or sacredness is present
when it is used. In common with our word “head,” it is used to express supremacy, prime authority. In the word “mahunga” these ideas are absent, the main idea here is of hair—the poll, in fact. “Matenga” is another word also meaning head, and is used more frequently than “upoko” when speaking of another person's head. The idea attached to this word is not the same as that of either of the two other words. There are several other words for the head—“angaanga,” equivalent to our “skull,” “pane” or “panepane,” “pareho,” “uru”; and there are others answering to our jocular names —“takataka,” “noddle,” &c. The mouth has also several names, but each differing in signification. One Maori word for mouth is “mangai,” but here the presence of the dissyllabic root “ngai,” which is also found in the word “whangai” (to feed), suggests the idea of the mouth as an eating-organ. Another word for mouth is “waha,” which is also the root of words signifying a door or opening, and carries with it the idea of, and is appropriate as, designating the passage for words. Hence, a “wahangu” is a dumb person, out of whose mouth no words come. The Maori word for speech is “korero,” and for the tongue “arero.” “Reo” is the voice. The head of the taiaha (Maori weapon), which is a protruding tongue, is said to “purero,” or protrude, as the tongue. “Purero” is also to appear above the surface of water—to float after submersion. “Korero” is thus seen to be a word cognate with the other words “arero,” “reo,” and “purero,” and to carry the idea of that organ of speech which is also protruded as a defiance from the mouth, and from the head of the taiaha.
Once more: The word for leg and for foot is “waewae.” Wawae is to divide, kowae also. Waenga, or waenganui, is the middle, or midway, between divided portions. Kauwae is the lower jaw, where the face is divided. The root “wae,” present in all these words, shows that the idea of division is common to all, and that the idea in “waewae” is really the parting or division of the body into two limbs.
I fear that the remarks to which you have so kindly listened this evening have been of such a discursive and desultory character that I may have exhausted your patience without exhausting or even doing justice to my subject. I will therefore now close them with an apology for shortcomings, and sincere thanks for your kind indulgence while permitting me to occupy so much of your time and attention.