Sunday, September 21, 2008

The aspirated Whau

While I was waiting for a really nice lunch I had today, I was reading Why the Hibiscus? (see earlier post). One bit, amongst many, caught my eye:
"Although 'f' is the currently fashionable pronunciation of the Maori wh, one of the first Europeans to know Whangaparaoa, Dacre's partner Gordon Browne, spelt the name with the h before the w, suggesting it was an aspirate." [Footnote, p. 17]
As someone who has lived all my life in a district by a river with one of those wh names, I say "Yes!" All my life, the Whau River has been the Wow River, and I can certainly accept an aspirate better than an "f". Most of the crew trying to be modern and correct about the whole thing mangle it anyway, not even saying "foe", but "fow" (rhyming with that sound you make when hammer hits thumb.)

Recorded spellings for the river (and the district, pre-c.1865) were "Wao" and "Wahu", the latter sounding more that that aspirant than the letter after "e".

I'm not worried, however, or especially fussed. Modern people say "foe", I respond with "wow" --- communication and understanding still takes place, and all's well. I know I'm an historian, and they probably think I'm practising for curmudgeonhood.

Life, in the Whau, will never be dull.

1 comment:

  1. That's very interesting. Glad someone at last has dug just that little deeper to dispell the everthing with Wh as the 'f" sound. Great post