tongue-tied new zealand tips

tiki carving‘Cheers’ is the most common expression when drinking in New Zealand, but you could also hear ‘Chur bro’ or even ‘Cheers cuz’. Pronouncing the place names is more of a challenge, but Intrepid’s resident Kiwi, Alison Mead, comes to our aid with some handy talking tips…

“Early colonists to New Zealand often experienced difficulty in mastering the local Maori place names. As a result, many names have passed into current usage in corrupt forms, such as Amuri (Haumuri), Petone (Pito-one), Mangahao (Mangahou), and ‘The Nunneries’ (Te Nganaire).

Trying to not get tongue-tied around Onehunga – an Auckland suburb, Mt Ngaruahoe – North Island Mountain or Whakatane – a gorgeous town in the Bay of Plenty, can be tough, but with such a strong Maori cultural history it is worth taking the time to learn the correct pronunciation, or you may get a giggle or two from a local Kiwi. Onehunga, often thought to be one (as in the number) hunga, should be said ‘o nee hunga’. Anything with a “Wh” at the start is an “f” sound, so Whakatane say ‘faka tar nay’.

A real favourite local name is Aotearoa (Land of the Long White Cloud) and translates to New Zealand. Another word and place close to Kiwi hearts is Aoraki, New Zealand’s great alpine park also known as Mt Cook. Aoraki National Park, home to the highest mountains and the largest glaciers in the country, is a 70,696 hectare (174,693 acre) park located deep in the heart of the Southern Alps. The mountains are seen as ancestors by the Tangata Whenua – the Ngai Tahu people and is sacred above all. As a tradition, Maori do not believe that it is appropriate to climb onto what is effectively the head of such an ancestor. For most of us it is enough to be dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape in the area.

In keeping with a tradition of hard to pronounce names, New Zealand lays claim to the longest place name in the world, but Thailand and Wales also claim this record, so the debate is open. Taumatea, as it is locally known, is located in the small community of Porangahau, in the south east of the North Island. For the long version try Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukaka-pikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu which translates to mean…’The brow of a hill where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as land eater, played his flute to his lover’. Legend has it that Tamatea Pokaiwhenua (Land Eater) was a chief so famous for his long travels across the North Island that he ate up the land as he walked.”

Tour New Zealand with Intrepid Travel on trips like these great small group adventures:

Land of the Long White Cloud – 28 days
Northern Highlights – 14 days

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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