Saturday 19 February 2011

Tales of the South Pacific

I made an exciting discovery this week.  I have always wanted to visit the South Pacific - inspired by the movie of the musical in all its glorious technicolour (no sniggering back there: aside from having the BEST tunes, South Pacific is a Pulitzer Prize-winning survey of racial and social conflict among people thrown together by war).

Anyway, whaddya know, it turns out New Zealand is in the South Pacific.  It is part of Polynesia, the south-west corner of the Polynesian triangle (the other corners are Hawaii and Easter Island).

With this discovery came a lesson in pronunciation.  It's not Ton-gah, it's Tong-ah (the 'g' is barely there); Sam-oah is actually Saam-OOa.  Niue is said New-ee.  (Okay, no, I'd never heard of it before now either.)

And I loved learning that the Maori have a complicated system of genealogy that relates, in part, to your ancestral waka (canoe) - or, as I understand it, the ship you came in on.  A bit like people in the US priding themselves on having ancestors who were on the Mayflower.

So picture me, in the South Pacific, skipping around singing Bali Ha'i and you pretty much have my week.

ps when I googled 'South Pacific' for pictures, this turned up.  I thought it would be mean to deprive my audience of this picture of that guy from Glee as Lieutellan Cable, sans shirt:

(image via


  1. LTLS (anthropological consultant to the LT)19 February 2011 at 09:18

    You are a veritable philanthropist. I did some good 'I know! I know!' hand raising at the Tonga bit - six days measuring Tongan barkcloth will do that for you. Did you also know that 'Maori' is actually pronounced 'Mah-rrrrri'?

  2. I did find that out about 'Maori' and was practicing under my breath all week - but I'm not sure I have it exactly right yet. Some people say it as thought there's no 'o' at all, and some people roll their 'r's more than others. Confusing.