Cody Cliffs?

Have you noticed how radio and TV presenters these days seem to over pronounce so many Maori words that they are becoming quite undecipherable? Many of them are words or place names that you know quite well, but you find yourself scratching your head or failing to understand at all what the presenter, particularly on weather and traffic reports, is talking about.

The latest example was when the newsreader on ZB was talking about Sir John Key and Barack Obama playing golf at an exclusive golf resort in Northland. The name of the place was Cody Cliffs.

Cody Cliffs? Is that close to Muhduhree? Not far from Toepaw Bay?

Yes, that the place. Close to Matauri. Not far from Taupo Bay.

But, hang on a minute. Something is not right here. If Kauri is pronounced Cody, then why is Taupo pronounced Toepaw?

In his Newshub article in January of this year, Professor Paul Moon agrees that proper pronunciation has become a minefield, and it is doing no one any favours.

Te reo M?ori could soon be extinct because we’re too obsessed with pronunciation, historian Professor Paul Moon claims.

Prof Moon claims that constantly correcting people only serves to put them off trying and if we want Te Reo to survive, we have to lay off the pronunciation snobbery.

“People get so dogmatic about it,” he says. “‘You must pronounce it this way, you must say it like that.’ Those things serve to damage the language more than save it.”

Prof Moon says pronunciation is always going to be a challenge for many people, but there’s no absolute rule with languages.

“Your ability to pronounce any language is to do with the way you pronounce your mother tongue when you’re brought up. We’ve got to start asking what’s more important? Is it getting it right, or actually speaking it?”

Oh, thank goodness someone has finally said it! So, if I want to say Pet-ton-ee instead of Petonnay, nobody is going to have a fit? What about Totara Park? It is always pronounced Toe-dara Park on the traffic reports. But, is that right? Shouldn’t it either be Totara or Dodara? How can the first T be a T, but the second be a D?

I give up. I have no problem with people wanting to keep the language alive, but no one is making it easy. I went to Cantonese lessons in the 1980s, complete with nine tones, which was a new concept but, frankly, that was easier than this.

What about those of you that live in the Why-cut-oh? Especially Toedonga. I used to travel to Tauranga a lot in the 1990s. It was never called that back then.

The final straw for me was yesterday when the newsreader was talking about Obama’s visit and said that he received a ‘”Pawdiddy” at Government House in Auckland. A what? It took me a few minutes to figure out what the hell she was talking about until I realised that it was that thing that Maoris do as a welcome? Yes, we all know it. But, isn’t that a “Po-fear-ee”?


I truly mean no offence, but I am genuinely troubled by the fact that place names and Maori words I thought I was pronouncing reasonably correctly are totally wrong.? And, because I mean no offence, I am not actually going to try. It is all so difficult these days, that I’ll just stick with my poor European pronunciations, and remind everyone that I come from the north of England. Eee by gum!

The worst thing is that these days when they talk about it, it sounds like the ‘Mouldy’ language. Nobody means that, of course. But that is what it sounds like to me.