Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The witless on the pitiless

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  • Islander, in reply to TracyMac,

    Understand the irritation TraceyMac- in my rohe, we use tauiwi for ‘foreigner’
    (not for people of European or other descent who’ve been born here – like yourself: they’re Pakeha.) It *isnt* meant in a neutral way – in my rohe- to say “non-Maori”: it emphatically means the person doesnt have any standing in these motu.

    I understand originally it was used for a person/group nobody knew anything about – really foreign, really strange. At least, this is what I learned from my olds-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    The killing of Bin Laden and reference to the SEAL team's ROE made me think of the poor Brazilian guy killed on the Tube.
    Defense officials claimed that the team was specifically told to assume OBL was wearing a suicide vest and therefore unless they found him stark bollocking he was always going to be shot as they couldn't confirm no threat. Not so much an extra-judicial killing as an OTT ROE that had no other likely outcome.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    And I hearby patent OTTER (OTT Engagement Rules) for reference to a great deal of counter terrorist activity...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Islander,

    likewise, have always associated tauiwi with "foreigners", say south africans or chinese, while pa:keha: is old english settler stock like my people.

    on a side note, a linguist described the etymology of pa:keha: to me as "has different feeling", and is conceptually related to mauri.

    early settlers just had a weird vibe about them, apparently.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    I find it fascinating how the written maori language is developing all sorts of extra ad ons which I assume (?) is to assist in the pronounciation. Me not being linguist 'n all.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Ross Mason,

    As you proably know, the written Maori language is less than 2 centuries old.
    Being way more vowel-rich than English, with a much more limited word hoard, we are making sure the words are clear for non-speakers.

    Another matter: in the far South, we never called Pakeha - Pakeha. We called them takata-pora...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    It occurs to me, and not for the first time, that the voices and opinions expressed in this thread and others (you beautiful, curious, intelligent, articulate bastards) is everything that's missing from our dominant media outlets.

    Which is just as well or PA would have little need to exist. Makes me wonder how much would we need to collectively contribute - as per other thread - to buy the six o'clock spot and take it to the people.

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • chris,

    No, about their culture. He would have despised it, for the reasons I noted. Do you seriously think he’d have embraced a culture in which music plays such a part? In which carvings, and whole houses, are imbued with the wairua of ancestors?

    I no longer have the inside word on genocidal maniacs' thought processes, but I'd venture that OBL was no more true to his espoused religious bent than GWB was to Christ.

    For Bin Laden, idolatry was one of the greatest evils. He would presumably have burst a blood vessel at the sight of a well-hewn whare nui. And he regarded music as such an abomination that he stopped attending horse racing events in Khartoum to avoid having to hear “the flute of the Devil”. So, like, don’t be welcoming him with any waiata.

    There is a great deal of faith expressed in this paragraph.

    Mawkland • Since Jan 2010 • 1302 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to HORansome,

    in my role as a teacher of critical thinking,

    If we're trading roles, I'm a corpus linguist with published papers describing observed spelling variation in New Zealand English. As I've stated from the beginning, the macron (or some close functional equivalent where the macron is not easily used) is vital within te reo Māori (which is the limit of the Māori Language Commission's purview). Within English, I would go so far personally as to agree that diacritic markers are "nice to have"; but as a linguist, I have to say my own research findings show that they are actually used only occasionally, and therefore cannot be said to be generally enforced -- so any pronouncement about "spelling errors" under such conditions is, at best, unsupported by data.
    It astounds me that you seem to think data about actual edited published writing is irrelevant to this question.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1942 posts Report Reply

  • R A Hurley, in reply to chris,

    I no longer have the inside word on genocidal maniacs' thought processes, but I'd venture that OBL was no more true to his espoused religious bent than GWB was to Christ.

    Nobody is claiming access to Bin Laden's inner thoughts here. He was hardly a shy and retiring wallflower about expressing his political and religious views (although there wasn't really much daylight between the two). It is not unreasonable to suggest that his pronouncements in that regard were expressions of his thought processes. And if they weren't, that would make him a liar and manipulator of the sincere beliefs of others. Which would be even worse.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to linger,

    You’re conflating responses by both Tom and myself (Tom was the one who disagreed with your claim that diacritical marks are dropping out of use in English) and you’re conflating two senses of authority. I’m talking about an argument based upon reference to the authority of the maintainers and preservers of te reo; they have said we should use the macron. I’m not making any argument about what users of New Zealand English think is the case (the appeal to popular wisdom) because what New Zealand English speakers think about the spelling of te reo words is not relevant in this instance.

    So I’m not dismissing published work, unless you want to point me to published work that says we shouldn’t use macrons in te reo and/or work that says this word “Maori” is now an English word that has replaced its te reo equivalent.

    My second point is this; we’re talking here about the proper noun of the indigenous people of this place; we should spell it correctly.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Islander,

    Being way more vowel-rich than English

    I found when I was learning Bahasa (Melayu / Indonesia depending on which side of the 1820 UK drawn boundary I found myself on) it was easier if I treated the vowels as if they were Māori (or Maori if you so wish). There was a clear linguistic link between the two - the vowels are voiced identically, and they share things like the ng sound which so confuse most non-NZ English speakers. Those years studying Te Reo in school and university made speaking the SEA tongue fairly straight forward.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • R A Hurley, in reply to chris,

    I'd venture that OBL was no more true to his espoused religious bent than GWB was to Christ.

    People from many faiths have done terrible things, and have frequently been able to cite chapter and verse/sura and hadith in support of their actions. This is often dismissed as not being "true" to the religion involved. Why should this be so? How do we know? We might have collectively decided that it is only the peaceful and non-violent sections of said texts that are "true" to the religion in question. But who are we to make that decision? Certainly this makes perfect sense if we want religious people to not re-enact the Book of Judges on the nice folks from the next town over, but it is human beings that have made that decision. The warm, fuzzy notion of religions as moral guardians is a useful fiction, but a fiction all the same. They are given the credit for the good, while the bad is charged to another account.

    If, however, someone truly and strongly believes that their religious text is a moral guidebook, then deciding which pieces are truer than others would represent an imposition of an external morality upon a book which purports to be the only source of morality. For a genuine believer, this would be absurd. I think this explains what we know of Bin Laden's views quite well. Bin Laden claimed religious warrant for the very worst of his beliefs. That is, he was driven to obey/attempt to enforce passages of the Qur'an which others have chosen to ignore. But those passages are there. And, as a sincere believer, it is quite likely he did not see himself as having a great deal of choice in the matter. From the evidence available, I think it is quite disingenuous to claim that Bin Laden was not a genuine and sincere believer in the truth of his religion. On the contrary, it seems he was a good deal "truer" than most religious believers in the modern world, by the measure that he rejected less of his chosen text than most.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 63 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Islander,

    Another matter: in the far South, we never called Pakeha – Pakeha. We called them takata-pora…

    I take it 'takata' is cognate with 'tangata'? And 'pora' is 'foreign' or 'foreigner'?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to R A Hurley,

    On the contrary, it seems he was a good deal "truer" than most religious believers in the modern world, by the measure that he rejected less of his chosen text than most.

    I agree completely. I do find the claim, oft heard, that 'our understanding of these guiding texts has evolved and we no longer take parts of it literally', or words to that effect, disingenuous and utterly dishonest.

    Either you buy into these brutal bronze age and/or desert tribe morals and teachings or you dismiss them. There is no half way point surely. You can't pick and chose the 'word' as the times require.

    Despise him or not, Osama saw himself as true to his texts, as odious as they may be. And he's not alone.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    what New Zealand English speakers think about the spelling of te reo words is not relevant in this instance.

    You’re missing a step in the argument. Edited published writing, by definition, is subject to editorial influence (it’s not just a product of what the writers “think” about language). Any relevant prescriptions have been brought to bear. The one under discussion generally is not – and so it is, as an observed fact, not currently a prescription applied to English, and no-one can just order it to be so. (“This word ‘Maori’” as you put it clearly is a word of English, not of te reo, because it does not follow the rules of te reo. That is the reality that we have to work with.) Whether that is the best outcome and whether it can be changed is then open to question.

    Now, if you want to say that words from te reo used in English should ideally be spelled as they are in te reo (macrons and all), I’m actually with you. But I disagree considerably about the method to use in bringing about change. I don’t think it should be phrased as a bald prescription about spelling (which is valid within te reo, but becomes invalid when extended into English: you open yourself up to the same sort of ridicule reserved for those who make pronouncements about “the only proper plural of octopus ”); rather, the focus of debate (and of any resulting prescription) more properly concerns what it means to borrow a word; how far such words are typically assimilated into English rules (which isn’t just a matter of what speakers “think” about English, but also of how English works when we don’t think about it!); and, then, crucially, the extent to which the level of assimilation should change when the audience for the English text includes speakers of the source language; and even more so in a country where the source language is also an official language. (Which brings us to a sound basis for your second point about respect, too.)

    Thing is, we need to be clear this is a prescription about society more than language.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1942 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    I agree completely. I do find the claim, oft heard, that ‘our understanding of these guiding texts has evolved and we no longer take parts of it literally’, or words to that effect, disingenuous and utterly dishonest.

    Either you buy into these brutal bronze age and/or desert tribe morals and teachings or you dismiss them. There is no half way point surely. You can’t pick and chose the ‘word’ as the times require.

    Thanks for that man-splain, Simon. I will start keeping strict kosher, shunning menstruating women and kill the sodomite I live with immediately. Since I really should be following Leviticus to the letter or be a hypocrite, right?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Russell:

    Looks like you made Bomber cry... .

    I have just received the equivalent of a drive-by shooting from a Lexus hybrid.

    But hey, at least Chris Trotter get its...what Bradbury got from Trotter will respond to antibiotics, I hope.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    So, are we going to get into the debate of my religious believer being more moral than your religious believer are we? Hitchins has some wonderful writings that dispose of that hoary myth. There is nothing so scary, sad and dangerous as picking your morals from the same book and then shooting each other.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Russell:

    Looks like you made Bomber cry… .

    I have just received the equivalent of a drive-by shooting from a Lexus hybrid.

    As Sean Plunket once said to me on K Road: "Russell, we live in the cauldron of ideas."

    Sometimes, we will be harsh about each others' ideas. It's best not to take it personally when that happens.

    But I do feel bound to point out that the family car is a 12 year-old Mazda.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    Either you buy into these brutal bronze age and/or desert tribe morals and teachings or you dismiss them. There is no half way point surely. You can’t pick and chose the ‘word’ as the times require.

    But picking and choosing the word -- or at least interpreting it -- is precisely what Bin laden and the other Wahhabists are about. In theory, they worship the same god as the Sufis, but the beliefs they express and the actions they take are very, very different.

    Despise him or not, Osama saw himself as true to his texts, as odious as they may be. And he’s not alone.

    No doubt that's how he saw himself, and he was clearly confident in in dishing out interpretations. But the family that runs the dairy around the corner from are see themselves as good, observant Muslims too. And they're not killing anyone.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Ross Mason,

    So, are we going to get into the debate of my religious believer being more moral than your religious believer are we?

    Ross: Yeah, because the overwhelming majority of law-abiding religiously observant folks in this country are absolutely morally equivalent to Bin Laden, Fred Phelps and Ian Paisley. Just as the squalid malfeasance of Messers Mao, Stalin and Hitler prove how evil all atheists are.

    But no – I’m not going to get into this debate, because it invariable ends with me wanting to get smug, dogmatic evangelicals (both theist and non-) in a room and hand down an epically un-Christian pimp-slapping while misquoting Ezekiel 25:17 :

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • recordari,

    My second point is this; we’re talking here about the proper noun of the indigenous people of this place; we should spell it correctly.

    So now what? A handful of knowledgeable persons are guilted into using the macron when writing ‘Māori’ (how do you even do that in a browser without copying and pasting?) and to chastising those who misuse it in other contexts in the hope that this will eventually become widely adopted by the clearly uneducated masses? Good luck with that.

    I would be interested to know your views of the compounded form of isn’t it (i.e. innit) being added to the official scrabble dictionary. Personally I think we should be rioting in the streets.

    Sorry about the snark, but I found myself feeling talked down to for my ignorant practices, and it made me a bit grumpy. I’m sure a nice cup of tea and a sit down will help. Carry on.

    ETA: While coming to terms with my ignorance, I found this very helpful.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • HORansome, in reply to linger,

    I know how peer review works, thank you very much; I was talking about the difference between a work being descriptive of a state of affairs vs. prescriptive. You may have noted that I'm asserting that we need to spell te reo words according to the rules of te reo and not of English; I am very much taking a prescriptive position here and I don't think English language intuitions have much bearing on how we should spell te reo words.

    “This word ‘Maori’” as you put it clearly is a word of English, not of te reo, because it does not follow the rules of te reo. That is the reality that we have to work with.

    If that's your argument for claiming that "Maori" is an English word, then it's not much of an argument; it's also possible that "Maori" is a word in te reo which is spelt incorrectly by people with English 1st language intuitions. Simply saying "The word doesn't obey the rule..." doesn't make the word suddenly English; I can see your argument holding water say, in Australia, where te reo is not a language of the indigenous people and thus "Maori" might be a loanword which has adopted Australian English orthography, but here the Māori are an indigenous people who still speak and write in the language.

    Now, you could point to the corpus of te reo and say "But look, no to inconsistent use of macrons!" and you'd be right (a friend compiled one of the largest corpuses of written te reo for a thesis she wrote) but that doesn't tell us much; debate about the macron or using "aa" has raged for a while and now we have system and, by the gods, we should not just be using it but pulling people up (like, say, Russell) when they don't.

    Tāmaki Makaurau • Since Sep 2008 • 441 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

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