Māori Language Week with The Civilian

tepapafeatureKia ora, Aotearoa.

It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio.

As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others.

Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the week, opting not to go with the literal translation tō meho, or “Stuff you!” Instead, they went for puna, which literally means to well up and flow, like some kind of awful cyst or boil. We applaud the honesty.

Here at The Civilian, we love cultural celebration, and so we’ll be joining in this wonderful tradition, and changing our name to a more appropriate Māori analogue.

Upon our own investigation, it seems that there is technically no word in the Māori dictionary for civilian, likely because Māori didn’t spend a good portion of their history calculating how many was an acceptable number.

So when choosing a Māori translation for our site’s name, we had to dig deep, and think long and hard about what The Civilian means to us, and more importantly, what it means to you, Aotearoa.

So this week, The Civilian will be known as Te Papa.

Now, a common question we and other media outlets receive at this time of year is “I’m white, can I speak Māori?”

The answer is no, you can’t. You’ll have to learn it first.

But while you’re learning, we want to explore some ways that you can use te reo to enrich your own language.

English has many things it can learn from te reo Māori, chief amongst them being the macron. In English, we don’t use the macron, because it sounds French and we worry that if we give letters the right to wear hats, what will they ask for next? But it’s actually an incredibly useful tool.

The macron can be used to make vowels longer, creating entirely new words with sometimes very different meanings.

That’s why we propose adding the macron to as many English words as you can, and see what cross-cultural wonders you can create in your own home.

Here are some of examples of how macrons can change the meaning of even English words:

Cār, meaning long car, or limousine.

Trūck, meaning long truck, or train.

Slēēp, meaning long sleep.

Slēep, meaning long sleep, but not that long.

Wīnded, meaning Winston Peters

Really the possibilities are endless, except with the word endless, which can’t be made any longer than it is.

So get out there, Aotearoa, and make your Māori Language Week a lōng one.

Noho ora mai,
Te Papa