Why do all the Women’s World Cup cities have two names?

Why do all the Women’s World Cup cities have two names?

When football fans descend on New Zealand this month ahead of the Women’s World Cup, they may be greeted not in Auckland or Wellington, but in “Tāmaki Makaurau” (“Tah-mah-key Ma-kow-row”) or ” Te Whanganui-a-Tara” (“Tay Fung-a-noo-ee a Tah-rah”).

These names – as the cities are called in the country’s indigenous language, te reo Māori – are reflected in the official documents of this year’s Women’s World Cup, which put indigenous languages ​​and images at the forefront.

Each city that will host a match is listed with its English and Aboriginal names, and FIFA announced this month that it would be placing First Nations and Māori flags at all stadiums. The effort comes after host country football and government officials pushed for a more inclusive approach, and “will mean a lot to many”, the head of the Australian football federation said.

In New Zealand, the decision reflects an ongoing conversation about the nation’s identity. For decades, many New Zealanders have mangled and mispronounced the Māori names of the country’s cities and towns. Taupō (“Toe-paw”) was pronounced “Towel-po”. Ōtāhuhu (Oh-tah-hu-hu) was “Oter-hu”. And Paraparaumu (“para-para-oo-moo”) was sometimes simply referred to as “Pram”.

More recently, lawmakers, broadcasters, and much of the general public have dismissed these mispronunciations as part of a concerted national effort to say the names correctly. At the same time, many are choosing to use the original Māori names of their cities rather than their English alternatives. Last year, a formal petition to rename the country and restore all Māori names was signed by more than 70,000 people.

“Before, it felt like a choice to say the right names,” said Julia de Bres, a linguist at Massey University in New Zealand. “And now it feels like a choice not to.”

Visitors must absolutely use these names, as well as the common greeting “kia ora” (“key ow-rah”), said Hemi Dale, director of Māori secondary education at the University of Auckland.

“Once you understand vowels, you can master most words with your tongue – long sounds, short sounds, the macron,” the horizontal line above a vowel that indicates a stressed syllable, he said.

(A note: New Zealanders abroad – of whatever descent – ​​often allow themselves an inner shudder to hear how foreigners say the word “Māori.” The plural is simply “Māori”, without an “s”, which does not appear in the language.)

The defense of Māori place names is visible throughout New Zealand life: increasingly, New Zealanders call their homeland Aotearoa, the Māori name that is often translated as “land of the long white cloud” and which has been used by the Māori to refer to the country for decades, if not centuries. The Maori and English names are used by the country’s weather forecast service, on newly released official maps, and on signs on the country’s roads.

The changes are the result of a decades-long drive to revitalize a language that was in danger of being wiped out by colonialism, said Rawinia Higgins, the country’s Māori language commissioner.

As English-speaking settlers became the dominant population, Māori and its language were marginalized and suppressed. As late as the 1980s, Māori children were beaten up at school for speaking the language, and many adults chose not to pass it on to their families.

Beginning in the 1970s, the Māori language revival movement led to the adoption of te reo as one of the country’s two official languages, alongside sign language, and the establishment of nearly 500 kindergartens where Māori is spoken. exclusively.

Many non-Maori New Zealanders have embraced the change and there are long waiting lists for Maori language courses. The government aims to have one million New Zealanders – roughly one-fifth of the population – speaking basic Maori by 2040.

But for a small but active minority, a bicultural society is seen as divisive rather than inclusive.

Last year, after chocolatier Whittakers temporarily changed the packaging of its milk chocolate bars to read Miraka Kirīmi (creamy milk), some in New Zealand called for a boycott of the brand. The issue of bilingual road signs has taken on enormous importance ahead of this year’s general election, where questions of racial politics have become a feature of centre-right rhetoric.

Place names, as some of the most visible examples of change, have been caught up in the fray. Lost in this debate is the reality that the country’s colonial names often had little to do with the places to which they related.

Christchurch, for example, was named after a college at the University of Oxford, while the name Auckland was bestowed as a thank you to George Eden, the Earl of Auckland. Eden was the boss of a former New Zealand Governor, William Hobson, who chose the name. Eden never set foot in the city.

In contrast, Māori place names reflect location-specific information, including important history or where food can be found, said Hana Skerett-White, a Māori teacher, lawyer and translator who has worked with artists such as singer Lorde.

“Māori names tell us stories,” she said. “They talk about our history, important events, and actually function as pockets of knowledge, which is how we transmit information from generation to generation.

“When those names are taken down, our knowledge systems are also disrupted in the process.”

English translations of Tāmaki Makaurau, as Auckland is known in Māori, vary. One version says that the city, with its harbors and volcanoes fringed with palm trees, is a place desired by many. Another tells the story of Tāmaki, a beautiful princess, and her many admirers.

From a Maori perspective, each understanding is equally valid, and individual tribes, or iwi, may approach it differently, said Pāora Puru, a Maori language advocate and co-founder of Maori social enterprise Te Manu Taupua.

“People have their own interpretations, their own meaning,” he said. “I liken it to an invisible umbilical cord that connects you to that place and your ancestors’ traditional connection, association, occupation, or use of that particular area.”

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