Art. XLVII.—A Plea for the Scientific Study of Maori Names.
[Read before the Wanganui Philosophical Society, 12th August, 1912.]
The subject of Maori names is one that has been dealt with many times in the past; but, so far as I know, no systematic or thorough inquiry has ever been made into the principles which guided the Maoris in their nomenclature.
In speaking of Maori names I have in view chiefly place-names; but for the purposes of investigation it will be necessary to say something also about personal names, names of trees, birds, and fish, and a little about the names of some ordinary objects.
Before coming to the names themselves, it may be well to make a remark about the structure of the language. It is well known that the Maori alphabet contains but ten consonants and five vowels, and that all syllables are open—that is, all end with a vowel; or, in other words, two consonants cannot come together. This means that the Maoris have only fifty-five possible syllables, by the permutations of which all words have to be formed. The full effect of this fact is often lost sight of, and it is not readily appreciated till a comparison is made with the English language. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that we have in English only five vowels, we have a far wider range of consonants; we admit combinations of these consonants in twos, and even in threes, and, further, allow syllables to end with a consonant or combination of consonants. This wealth of material provides us with no less than three hundred open syllables and twenty-eight thousand closed syllables, which would make ample provision for an entirely monosyllabic language far beyond the range of vocabulary found necessary for most ordinary speakers of English. And these numbers will be largely increased if account be taken of the full number of vowel-sounds actually existing in English.
Returning, then, to Maori, with its fifty-five syllables (of which in practice four are never used), we can see that the very frequent recurrence of the syllables produces that sense of similiarity in Maori names which is so confusing to the English ear, and we can understand that variety in the names may require the use of a number of syllables which seems unnecessary to the hurrying civilization of Europeans.
The advent of the white man brought into the world of the Maori a number of new objects for which names had to be found. In some cases he took the name he heard applied to an object, and made such alteration as his defective alphabet demanded; but where left to himself he varied from the strict transliteration which would have been followed by a European. For instance, he made “horse” into hoiho, “carpenter” into kamura, “publichouse” into paparakauta, and “needle” into ngira. In the last case the initial “ng” is no doubt by way of compensation for the inability to reproduce the consonantal sound of “dl” in the second syllable. Some of the Maori transliterations are a pointed criticism of our slovenly methods of pronunciation: had we uttered pure vowel-sounds the Maori could hardly have made tupeka do duty for “tobacco,” or paera for “boiler.” But not infrequently the Maori ingeniously found an appellative with a thoroughly Native ring about it for some new acquirement. Iron he
designates by rino, maitai, or piauau. The latter is also the name of a hard stone used formerly for making axe-heads. Rino might be supposed to bean anagram from “iron,” but this origin must be dismissed. Maitai is a true Polynesian word, meaning “good.” It was in use in the north of this Island a hundred years ago, and is still current in Tahiti and elsewhere. There can be very little doubt that Tupaea, Cook's Tahitian interpreter, in bartering nails with the Maoris, referred to them as maitai (good), and the Maoris, unfamiliar with the word, assumed that it was the name of this new treasure.
The potato has been thoroughly adopted by the Maori, who, while there was nothing to prevent him from pronouncing “potato,” has preferred to designate the same by parete, parareka, riwai, hiwai, taewa, kapana, or popoia. The first of these is no doubt “praty”; the second may have a reference to the para tuber formerly eaten by the Maoris; but the rest seem to have been simply inventions to meet the necessity.* These are general names for potatoes; and when the question of varieties is entered upon, the Maori tongue is as prolific of names as a seedsman's catalogue.
The names applied to the local flora and fauna afford illustrations of the methods adopted by the Maori in fixing his nomenclature. It is not surprising to find many instances of words generic in their scope which the Maori uses in common with other Polynesian dialects. But numerous examples might be given where specific names with a range over a large part of Polynesia are still current in New Zealand. It will be found that the Maori colonist acted very much as later European ones have done, and applied names generally to similar or allied plants and birds, but was not tied by any strict rules, and so occasionally transferred the name to something widely different from that to which it had been applied in the past. A few names in each group must suffice us. The karaka is stated in some of the ancient legends to have been brought here by the Maoris when they came; but it is not found outside New Zealand and the Chatham Islands, the name elsewhere being applied to a different tree. The hibiscus (fau or hau in the Pacific) supplied the name whau for the Entelea arborescens. The kava (Piper methysticum), well known throughout Polynesia, appears here as kawakawa (Piper excelsum), another species of the same genus. Kiekie (the Maori name for Freycinetia, Banksii) is in some of the islands the name for other species of the Freycinetia, and in some for the pandanus; while fara, (the name for the pandanus in others of the islands) supplies the Maori name for the edible bracts of the kiekie, which are called tawhara. A large number of plants and trees have names which cannot be traced in other islands, but which must originally have had a signification which made them appropriate to the plants to which they have been applied.
It is somewhat difficult from the dictionaries available to identify the fishes which are mentioned. It will be sufficient, therefore, to record that a large number of the fish-names are easily recognizable as Polynesian in their origin, and that some of those are applied to fish which are identical with or similar to those in other parts of the Pacific.
With birds identification is much simpler. Some six hundred names have been recorded for the 120 birds we have here. The distribution of the names is very unequal. For some sea-birds no Maori name has been
[Footnote] * Some light may be thrown on taewa by a note in Kendall and Lee (p. 107), that Taiwa, or Stivers, was “a man who is said to have visited the Bay of Islands before Captain Cook.”
obtained. A few names, like torea, torea, and titi, are applied somewhat loosely to several different birds. One or two birds, like the huia, kotare (kingfisher), kaka (parrot), kotuku (white heron), and weka (woodhen), are everywhere known by those names, though they may have other appellatives of local application. On the other hand, the fantail rejoices in a choice of nineteen names, while the bell-bird has no less than twenty-six. But there is this difference between the two cases: the names of the fantail all bear close resemblance to one another and would probably be recognized anywhere, while those for the bell-bird differ very materially, and are many of them very local. Of the bird-names, some were certainly imported, some are onomatopoetic, and the origin of the majority must remain a matter of conjecture. Of the imported names, we may mention kotare (kingfisher), which is stated in the Tahitian dictionary to be a bird like a woodpecker. Ruru (the morepork) appears in many of the islands as lulu, some species of owl. Matuku (bittern, or sea-heron) and kotuku (white heron) are found as names for similar birds in not a few of the islands. Toroa (albatross) in some islands is applied to a species of duck. Kohoperoa and koekoea (names for the long-tailed cuckoo) are known in a number of the islands. Peho and koukou are supposed to represent the cry of the morepork; while honga and honge are applied to the kokako, as taken from its cry. Then, the nineteen names for the fan-tail (hirairaka, pitakataka, tiwaiwaka, with numerous variants of these) are said to denote the little bird's restless, fidgety habit. The name for the shining cuckoo (pipiwharauroa) offers an interesting opportunity for speculation. Pipi is a word applied to the young of birds; wharau is at present seldom, if ever, used in Maori apart from the term whare-wharau, a temporary booth or shelter of branches. The meaning of the word has been lost by the Maoris, but in a number of the Polynesian dialects it survives in the word folau, where it means a journey or voyage. Roa, of course, means “long.” The question arises then, did the Maoris formerly recognize the pipiwharauroa as a migrant (“the bird of the long journey”), and preserve the fact in the name long after they had invented myths to account for the cuckoo's disappearance in the winter?
Before leaving the department of natural history it may be well to call attention to a peculiarity that will be observed in these names. The most superficial observer must be aware of the fondness of the Maoris for dissyllabic reduplication. In general this reduplication denotes some slight differentiation of the meaning—in verbs it may betoken frequency of action, in adjectives a lessening of intensity, and so on; but in the names with which we have been dealing reduplication may remove a name from the list of birds to that of fish, or even from the animal to the vegetable kingdom. For instance, kotare is a kingfisher, but kotaretare is a species of eel; kotuku is the celebrated and rare white heron, while kotukutuku is the native fuchsia. It is well to bear these facts in mind, as otherwise much confusion may result. It has, in fact, been stated in a work upon Maori names* that the name makotuku may perhaps be more correctly makotukutuku, meaning in both cases “the stream of the white heron”—an interpretation which can be given only to the former name. Then, too, the Maoris had other ways of varying their names which produced unexpected resemblances. The word papauma is the name of a fish and of a shrub; in the former case it is a contraction from papaki-uma, in the latter from paraparauma.
[Footnote] * “Nomenclature,” by W: Colenso.
Some such process as this may account for the large number of cases in which the same word has to do duty as a name in two or even three of the groups—birds, fishes, or plants.
When we turn to personal names we find an entirely different set of conditions operating. It is hardly necessary to remark that in the past the Maori had no surname, but considerations of convenience are causing the rapid spread of the system. If an additional name was required for the purposes of identification, the father's or husband's name would sometimes be added, but more frequently the exact relationship would be expressed in full. Now that they are adopting the surname, we sometimes detect a quaint ingenuity displayed in the process of evolution. I knew a young Maori by the name of Wakana Kiniha—a son of one Hape Kiniha—and was not a little amused to discover that the latter was the father's full baptismal name, being nothing more or less than the transliteration of Hopkins. Kiniha makes a quite serviceable surname if you once lose sight of the fact that it is only “kins.” The younger Maori of the present day assumes the name of some well-known ancestor as his surname, and before another generation has passed the system will be thoroughly established. Sundry ceremonies attended the naming of a child, but the description of those ceremonies is outside our present subject. What concerns us is the principle which guided the parents in the selection of a name. In general, the name was to commemorate some event; and not infrequently the event commemorated seems to European minds wholly trivial, or at best but remotely connected with the person on whom the name is conferred. One of the most frequent sources of names was the death of a relative, or some disaster. And the most unlikely details in connection with the death might be pressed into the service to provide the name. A girl was named Te Ao-mihia (the day welcomed) in memory of her grandfather, because he had discussed and welcomed overnight the indications of a fine day for a fishing excursion, on which expedition he was murdered. The story of her brother's name is more complicated. One Tu-moana-kotore died, and was duly wrapped up, and carried off to be deposited in a puriri tree until his bones should be ready for the process of scraping, after which they would be laid in the family burial-cave. The two men detailed for the work were just returning from the tree when they heard a voice. They listened and recognized the voice of the dead chief calling from the tree; they at once removed the wrappings, and found that the old chief had recovered from the trance which they had mistaken for death. The boy who was born soon after was thereupon called Tu-moana-kotore-i-whakairia-oratia—that is, “Tumoana-kotore was hung up in the tree while he was yet alive.” This euphonious and handy name, my Maori informant naively tells me, was shortened in practice into Tuwkakairiora, which has been still further curtailed into Tuwhaka, which will by familiars be clipped into Tu. The Maori who told me this story, himself rejoiced in the name of Te Karu-harare (the sealing-wax eye), a name which came about as follows: Ngati-porou had made a raid into the Bay of Plenty, and suffered defeat at the picturesque pa of Wharekura, where a chief, Te Pori, was killed. Following the strict rules of etiquette, Te Pori's head was duly dried, and the sunken eye-sockets filled with sealing-wax, a commodity but lately acquired by the Maori. A short time after this, Te Rangiipaea, wife of the famous Pomare, came from the Bay of Plenty to visit her friends on the Waiapu River. My friend, a nameless infant almost able to crawl, was at once utilized as the recording tablet on which to register the indignity inflicted upon the head of the chief, and so received
the name “The Sealing-wax Eye”—Te Karu-harare. In another instance two chiefs had gone into the bush pigeon-shooting, and were caught by bad weather, which necessitated a four days' lodging under a very flimsy shelter made from the fronds of the wheki tree-fern (Dicksonia squarrosa). A niece was born to one of them about the time, and duly received the name Te-whare-wheki (the wheki hut). Another young woman has the nàme Nga-rangi-putiputi (the flower days), a romantic-sounding name, the beauty of which is seriously marred when it transpires that the flowers referred to were those placed about the corpse of a dead relative, and the name is nothing more than a reminder of the death—a sort of verbal funeral card. I had for years speculated as to how one old friend of mine came by the name of Wai-hopi (soapy water), and at last screwed up my courage to ask him. A sister of his had died, and the corpse had been washed with soap and water, a combination which had been lately introduced. But once in a way a name has a touch of true romance, as when a woman calls her son Tama-inu-po (son of the draught by night), to commemorate the fact that she had been wooed at the brink of the well, whither she had gone one night for a drink. A curious custom of the Maoris was that of changing their own or their children's names to commemorate some important event— generally, again, a disaster. A moribund chief is placed in a tent, and dies there, whereupon a friend adopts the name of Whare-taaka (house of duck —duck for canvas). Several persons are drowned by the upsetting of a canoe, and a whole crop of names recalls the event: Mate-moana (sea disaster), Waka-tahuri (canoe overturned), and so on—a large proportion of these names displacing, or attempting to displace, names which have been borne for years. One old Maori used generally to refer to his son by the name of Te-okanga (the incision), a name which I knew was not the youth's baptismal name; inquiry elicited the information that the lad's sister had succumbed after an operation, hence the name. Any one acquainted with Bible history will be struck by the similarity of the Maori customs in respect of names to those recorded of the ancient Semitic race, the inference being not that the Maoris are Semitic by descent, but that such customs are appropriate to a primitive people at a certain stage of their development.
We are now in a position to make a few inquiries into place-names. Few races have been so prodigal in the bestowal of local names. Every peak, saddle, knoll, and spur; every bend, rapid, and pool in a stream; every creek and bay, beach and headland, had its name, as well as every mountain-range, river, and sea. Pas and camping-grounds, battlefields and cultivations, fishing-grounds and landing-places, sites of eel-weirs or of bird-snares—all were well known by their own particular names; and it is much to be regretted that the vast mass of these names has been allowed to pass into oblivion, and that those which have been preserved have in many cases been ridiculously mutilated, while not a few have been transferred to localities far removed from those to which they belong. The mutilation of names is, naturally perhaps, more rampant in the South Island than in the North. Here we have frequent confusion between “i” and “e,” between “a” and “o”; and in this particular part of the North Island you have the example of the Natives in dropping an “h”: it is no more correct to write and say “Wanganui” for “Whanganui” than it would be to write and say” Ampstead Eath” and plead the example there of the natives. But in the South Island violent changes have been made. Temuka represents the Maori name Te-umu-kaha (the fiercely heated oven), while Tapanui does duty for the native form Te-tapuwae-o-Uenuku (the footprint of Uenuku). In the
case of Waitati, near Dunedin, a curious series of mistakes has operated: the real Maori name is Wai-tete (the two “e's” being long); the earliest settlers pronounced this somewhat loosely Waitayty, and wrote this in the form Waitati; later arrivals accepted this spelling, but, having a little knowledge of Maori orthography, pronounced it Waitatty.
But I am concerned in this paper with genuine Maori names. These names will fall into two main divisions—imported names, and names which have originated locally. But it must be laid down at the outset that it is not by any means easy to decide in every case in which category a name should be placed.
The imported names fall into five classes, which may in some cases have a not very clearly marked line of division. In the first class I would place names which are traditionally reported by the Maoris to have been brought with them. For example, we are told that as the party of new arrivals passed along the shores of the Bay of Plenty they gave names to striking spots, among others to the island of Motiti, which we are expressly told was after the Motiti in Hawaiki. Then, near the East Cape there is a place, Te Kawakawa, which might quite reasonably have been supposed to be a local name, were it not for the fact that the full name of the place is Te-kawa-kawa-mai-tawhiti (Te Kawakawa from abroad).* Farther down the coast, some sixteen miles from Gisborne, is the bay of Whangara, again in full Whangara-mai-tawhiti. The legend is that Paikea, travelling down the coast, was, on arriving here, so struck by the resemblance of the place to the Whangara that he knew that he named several features of the landscape after the similar ones in the original Whangara: among them Pakarae, a stream at the north of the bay; Rangitoto, a steep hill connected by a low saddle with a smaller hill, Pukehapopo, and Waiomoko, a stream immediately to the south. The only thing wrong, Paikea said, was that Wai-o-moko should have debouched to the north of Pukehapopo, présumably through the low saddle mentioned above. It is interesting to note, in connection with this incident, that Whangara, Pukehapopo, and several other names of the locality are still known as place-names in Rarotonga.
In the second class I would place names which occur in legends preserved by the Maoris of events prior to their coming over to New Zealand. As instances: Hikurangi occurs frequently in very early legends, reaching back to the period of myth, as the hill on which various persons have taken refuge from floods of excessive violence. One of the mythical ancestors of the Maoris, known variously as Whena, Wheta, or Tawheta, is said to have resided at Porangahau, a name which has been preserved on the coast of Hawke's Bay; and Reporua, a place a few miles south of the East Cape, is mentioned in legends dating from before the Maori immigration.
Again, we may find names in New Zealand which appear as place-names in other Polynesian islands in the Pacific. An instance of this has already been mentioned in the Whangara names; but there is still a large number of such names with regard to which the Maoris have preserved no tradition, or, perhaps more correctly, no tradition has been placed on record. For example, Waimea and Maunaloa are Hawaiian names, Matawai is Tahitian, and Fangaloa a Samoan name. All these names reappear in New Zealand, Maunaloa and Fangaloa becoming, of course, Maungaroa and Whangaroa.
[Footnote] * The postal name of this place—which has been adopted to avoid confusion—is Te Araroa (the long path), a name given by the Maoris to the residence of the missionary, who had a long path with a hedge from his gate to his front door.
The presumption is that the names are some of those which the Maoris brought with them.
Yet another class is that of names which are found in many different localities in New Zealand. Many of these will be names to which a meaning can be assigned which does not in every case seem to be appropriate—such names as Rangitoto, of which I know at least six instances in the North Island; Titirangi, another favourite hill-name; Wairoa, which is by no means confined, as would seem appropriate, to long rivers; Awanui, which is generally supposed to mean “large river,” but more probably refers, as a rule, to a channel in the rocks used as a landing-place for canoes. Another interesting example is Rangihoua, which was the name of the place in the Bay of Islands where the first missionaries settled: a pa of the same name stood on a hill at the south end of Poverty Bay, and another at Wairoa, in Hawke's Bay. Interchange was possible in the case of the last two, but most highly improbable between either of these districts and the members of the Ngapuhi Tribe in the north. Takapau is another very favourite name; but in a great number of cases the name was differentiated by the addition of another word, as, for example, Takapau-arero, in the Poverty Bay district. The most reasonable explanation of the frequent occurrence of these names is that they have been given by the different tribes in remembrance of some common prototype in far off Hawaiki.
The last group of these imported names is that which is illustrated by such names as Maketu, Nuhaka, and Mohaka. These names have quite a foreign ring about them when compared with indigenous names, and do not lend themselves to any interpretation, as do most of the more modern names. It may therefore be conjectured with some degree of certainty that they too have been imported.
This branch of the inquiry into Maori names is, if not the most interesting, certainly the most important. It is much to be desired that no time should be lost in placing on record as many of the Maori names as possible, that residents in the other Polynesian islands should be urged to do the same for their respective localities, and that all the lists should be carefully collated. Something of this sort has been done in the matter of genealogies, but, as far as I know, little or nothing has been done to extend the process, with any degree of thoroughness, to place-names.
We now come to the names which are, or appear to be, of local origin. A considerable number of these are taken from trees, as Te Kowhai, Te Karaka, Puriri, Totara-roa, Te Rimu-roa, and so on—names of this class supplying another group of repeated names, which does not, however, seem to point to the importation of the name. Then, an exceedingly large number are drawn from physical features in the landscape. To this group belong all those beginning with Puke (hill), Manga or Ma (stream), Maunga (mountain), Roto (lake), and the very large group with Wai as the leading syllable. The last-named would seem to monopolize more than its share of the Native nomenclature. The Post Office Guide may be taken as a fair indication of the proportion in which names occur, and I find there 150 names beginning with Wai. These names, of course, apply to both streams and lakes. Another very frequent initial factor in names is Pa; this would certainly be a feature in the landscape, as the pa was almost invariably well placed to command the surrounding country, but was not, of course, a natural feature.
Some of the names carried their meaning clearly in their form, as Pohaturoa (the tall rock), a conspicuous hill near Atiamuri; Waerenga-a-Hika
(Hika's clearing); Te Pahi-o-Te-Rangi-tuanui (the camping-place of Te Rangi-tuanui); Taumata-whakatangihanga-koanau-a-Tamatea-ki-tana-tahu (the brow of the hill where Tamatea played the nose-flute to his lady love). But in the vast majority of cases, while it might be quite possible to translate the name, it would still remain inexplicable unless the circumstances were known in which the name was given; in fact, without that knowledge it is exceedingly unlikely that the translation given would be correct. As in the case of the personal names, the incidents commemorated will in many cases appear to us trivial or irrelevant. The Kaingaroa (long feeding) plains are said in Maori tradition to take their name from the fact that a body of travellers was delayed one morning in starting from the place by one of the party, a lady named Haungaroa, taking rather long over her breakfast. A place near the East Cape is called Kamokamo (winking) because a celebrated chief, Porourangi,* was murdered there, his companions adopting the highly original device of winking to one another as a signal that a suitable opportunity for setting upon him had occurred. Tahu-tukua (ridgepole let down) marks the site of an old whare-puni in which during the great epidemic of rewha-rewha a century or more ago some thirty persons died in the night. Their friends, horror-stricken, chopped the main posts, and let the ridge-pole fall, carrying the roof with it, and that was their burial. We get a glimpse of the genial manners of the ancient Maori in some of the names. In the East Coast district, as not infrequently happened, there was a feud between a clan living on a hill and their neighbours in the valley below. In one of the skirmishes the latter were badly beaten, and a chief of the name of Roia slain. As it was a stiff climb homewards, Roia was quartered and served out to carriers, but, unfortunately, near the top one of the carriers let go a hind-quarter, which rolled down the hill-side: the place was accordingly named Te Takanga-o-te-huwha-o-Roia, (the place where Roia's thigh rolled down). A similar name comes from the Urewera country, where a party was returning home with the body of an enemy named Piki, and, wearying of the job, rolled him down a hill with a steep homeward grade. The hill is now Te Whaka-takanga-o-Piki (the place where Piki was rolled down).
A good many of these names have reference to the doings of mythical or semi-mythical heroes. Paoa, who came from the Waiapu district and thence moved to several other parts of the North Island, accounts for quite a number of these: more than one Waipaoa, or Waipawa, commemorates his name. Then there was a gentleman named Rongokako who left a number of footprints about—one near the Kidnappers, one at the Mahia, another near Gisborne, another some twelve miles farther on, and yet another near the East Cape. These are in some cases Tapuwae (footprints) and in others Te Tapuwae-o-Rongokako (Rongokako's footprint). Of course, it does not follow that he did not put his foot to the ground between these points; but we need not be surprised should we find that it was so when we are informed that a friend of his, wishing to set a trap (tawhiti) for him, placed the trap on the hill Tawhiti, at Waipiro Bay, and stuck the wand used as a spring (whana) for the trap in a mountain Arowhana, inland from Tokomaru Bay, some twenty-five miles distant as the crow flies.
There is another very large group of place-names—those beginning with “O”—which requires more investigation than has hitherto been given to it. I need hardly give instances of these names, as they are exceedingly
[Footnote] * The grandfather of Te Ao-mihia mentioned above.
common—in fact, in the Post Office Guide they occupy the same amount of space as the Wai names. It has in the past, I believe, generally been assumed that this “O” is simply the sign of the possessive case, and the remainder of the name in each instance a proper name, the meaning being that the place is So-and-so's pa, or place of residence. But there is quite a large proportion of these names to which this explanation will not apply. For example, we are told by the Maoris in their traditions that a place known as Opura was so called because Tamatea there got dust or some other irritant into his eye, the Maori word indicating this trouble being pura. Again, one of their heroes saw a bird flying, skirting a belt of trees (taku-wao), and accordingly the place was called O-taku-wao.
I have referred in several instances to the traditions of the Maoris with regard to the origin of names, and the question may be raised as to how far we can safely place any dependence upon these traditions. In some cases I would do so with diffidence, particularly if the account should take the form of a string of names each with its explanatory incident. And there are instances in which divergent accounts are given, in which case we may be safe in discarding one at any rate, or possibly both. One account of the origin of the Manu-kau is that the early Maoris saw there a “single bird”; and another makes it mean that the “Tainui” canoe, which they dragged over the isthmus with much difficulty, at last “floated freely,” which might be rendered by Manukau; but, unfortunately, in this case the first “a” should be long, and not short as it actually is in the name. Again, when we are told that one of these old-time personages travelled along the coast, and left a name here and a name there—as one old fellow, with his dog, on the north coast of Hawke's Bay called one river Wai-hua (stream of the fish's roe) because his dog there ate a porcupine-fish, but left the roe; and another Wai-kari (water of digging) because the dog dug in the sand—when we hear the story told thus we are not justified in assuming that he then and there dubbed the places in question Waihua and Waikari, but that he possibly had occasion later to refer to these places, and did so as “the stream where my dog did so-and-so,” and in time the names became established, and probably much shortened in the process of establishment.
In not a few cases students of names are trapped into confidence in explaining a name, where a further investigation tends largely to undermine the confidence. Two examples will explain my meaning: We hear a great deal about Waikare-moana as a tourist resort, and much has been written about the “Sea of rippling waters”; but it must be borne in mind that, while this sounds like a quite satisfactory translation of the name, it is by no means above criticism. In point of fact, Waikare is first and foremost a name; it may—probably does—mean “rippling water,” but it is the name also of a raging torrent running out of the lake, to which “rippling water” is hardly appropriate—this is Waikare-taheke; and yet further is applied to a district (Waikare-whenua), the last half of the name in each case being an explanatory term—lake, torrent, territory, as the case may be. Another instance of the same sort is that of Tarawera. After the disastrous eruption of 1886, people said, “Oh, yes, Tara-wera, of course—‘burnt peak'’: that shows that the Maori had traditional knowledge of its volcanic nature.” Which had not otherwise been at all evident. But in fact the name Tarawera applies equally to the lake and the river, and i is not at all certain to which it most properly belongs. They are respectively Tarawera-maunga, -moana, and -awa, if the distinction is desired.
I think I have made it clear from what has been said that the analysis of a Maori name cannot be assumed to be that which appears at first sight
—that, even when the elements have been correctly ascertained, we are not necessarily thereby in possession of the clue to the real meaning of the name. This warning is not a mere haphazard one, as will be seen by consulting the works of two gentlemen who had a very close acquaintance with the Maori language. The late Rev. W. Colenso published in 1883 a paper entitled “Nomenclature,” which he had read before the Hawke's Bay Institute. In this he deals at some length with a few Maori names. I need not detail all the wild and astonishing speculations of that paper, but will refer to one or two. The hill Kahu-ranaki, in Hawke's Bay, he prefers to spell Kahu-raanake, writing more suo “aa” for a long “a”; he then divides the word Ka-hura-anake, which he interprets as “the great and only revealer,” which we may assert with confidence that the name does not mean. Kohinu-rakau, he says, means “choice fat of the woods, including Maori game—birds and delicious wood-rats, fruits, and pure water,” wilfully ignoring the fact that rakau is “wood” only in the sense of “timber,” which destroys his whole theory. A little later in the paper, after making very merry over a speculation by the Rev. R. Taylor with regard to Tongariro, he goes on to explain the name as derived “from the snow often deposited by the south wind upon it, tonga being also commonly used by them for biting cold, hence for snow—the cause for the effect; and then owing to the heat arising from the crater the fallen snow remained but a very short time on the cone or peak, and thus became riro (gone). So different in this respect from the neighbouring crest, which also bears the highly appropriate name of Para-te-tai-tonga* (dirt or dregs from the southern sea).”
John White, in his six volumes of “The Ancient History of the Maori,” explains every name, as it occurs, by the simple process of chopping it into lengths and giving each piece a meaning. He makes Pǎarae (karae being a bird-name) into paǎka-rae, and translates it “dry headland,” in defiance of Maori grammar (vol. iii, 34). He comes across Pu-marangai (from form and context obviously a wind-name) in its southern form Pu-marakai, and explains it—“pu, the great climax; mara-kai, plot of cultivated kumara” (i, 18): again doing violence to the language by substituting a long “a” in the first syllable of mara for the short “a” in the original. Kahutia-te-rangi, he says in one passage (i, 22), means “the heaven pulled up,” and in another (iii, 9) “the garment of heaven.” He twists Takahia-pu-poka into “how many cuts made” (i, 27); and Rangi-whitiki-ora into “day of life putting the belt on” (i, 31). But with regard to Hawaiki he surpasses himself, giving in one paragraph no less than four explanations: “Ha-wai-ki, ‘water of breath filled’'; Hawa-i-ki, ‘chipped and filled’'; Ha-wai-ki (iti), ‘water of small breath’'; Hawa-iki (iti), ‘broken small’”' (i, 174). All this—and hundreds of examples might be added—is just so much solemn fooling on the part of these learned gentlemen, and is, as a contribution to the investigation of Maori names, as valuable as the schoolboy's rendering of the name William into Latin by Voluntas-ego-sum.
It is not that inquiry into Maori names is futile—far from it; but it must be conducted on scientific lines. I have said that there is immediate need for the patient and diligent collecting and recording of Maori names. There is need, further, of obtaining, before it is too late, from living Maoris all that they know of the traditions relating to those names. Lastly, all the matter must be patiently and laboriously sifted. And then we may hope to know something of the subject. But in all this there is no room
[Footnote] * Two other forms of this name are current among the Maori—Pare-te-tai-tonga and Pare-tai-tonga.
for wild and fanciful theories as to the origin of the names, built up upon illegitimate and ridiculous guesses at their meaning. It is in matters of this sort that the branches of the New Zealand Institute have one of the most inviting outlets for their energies, and a fruitful opportunity of doing some really valuable work.
Note.—It is gratifying to learn that steps are being taken to deal with the names in and around Wellington. It is to be hoped that this may encourage others to do likewise in their own districts. Much mutual support will be obtained if investigators can get into touch with one another, and the Institute seems to offer the most suitable means for establishing the necessary communication.