Breaking news tonight of a story close to our hearts here at the Eye of the Fish. I’m really pleased that at last someone has decided to start calling the two main Islands more inventive names than North and South. I’m far more excited to live on Te Ika a Maui than on the dull and predictable North Island, and with the South Island being named Te Wai Pounamu, at last we can have some sense of pride in where we live. Although it seems I may be out on a different limb here from boring old mainstream NZ.
Mind you, it used to be different, and could have been worse. Originally the 3 main Islands were to be called New Ulster, New Munster, and New Leinster, if my fishbrain remembers right – and there was even a phase where Stewart Island was held to be important enough that the mainland was to be called Middle Island, or some such tediously terrible nomenclature. If NZ ever wanted to be known as a place with no imagination, then our present North and South would be a good place to start. Vote me in for a name change right away – only about 150 years too slow!
All that aside however, naming of countries and places do tend to have a boringly prosaic manner, probably more than we realise for the most part, unless you happen to be a polyglot, or another type of cunning linguist. The Netherlands just means the Flat Lands, or Low Countries, while Austria just means the Eastern Kingdom (OsterReich), and Yugoslavia simply means the Land of Southern Slavs. There’s bound to be tons more of tedious naming examples, but I’m sure you can tell me more than I can tell you. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nigeria actually stood for Land of Dodgy Email Scammers in Fulani or Yoruba; nor that surprised if Russia stood for Land of Dodgy Email Spammers. (We’re getting hammered here by spam at the old fisheye, and the tireless Russians are breaking down the doors – I’m a little obsessed by them at present).
Meanwhile, of course, while it may be news to some red-neck residents of our land of the long white cloud, we’ve been multi-lingual for years: and other countries know it. Years ago, I got a letter from London addressed to me in Poneke, Aotearoa. It got here faster than one posted the same day and written in English. So if overseas posties can wrap their lips around our sometimes allegedly difficult to pronounce language, then I’m sure we can too. Let North and South be gone !