Thursday, May 19, 2005

Words words words

A confession: I have a dilettante interest in the language of abuse, profanity, and obscenity. So when a commenter on Jesus' General wrote
Billy's right, you know. What say we just bring back the use of all racial slurs.
of course I had to take a peek. But that list is less than reliable if the entries relating to New Zealand are any indication.

Bogan - Whites - New Zealand white trash or rednecks.

This one's very close, actually. Good enough for the purposes of that list at least. Bogans are urban - no rural connotations like "redneck" - but it's closer to "redneck" than "white trash" in intensity. Folks don't refer to themselves as "white trash" (except ironically) do they?

Looks like this one came from Australia, but has developed an entirely different connotation in crossing the Tasman:
bogan (plural bogans)
  1. (Australian) A young person who is not cool.
  2. (New Zealand) A member of a lower socioeconomic group historically classified by the wearing of black jumpers, black T-shirts decorated with designs including such bands as Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Nirvana or favourite drinks such as Jack Daniels or Jim Beam. Bogans often drive larger cars and are often referred to as petrolheads.
Kiwi - New Zealanders - The native bird is the Kiwi. Not necessarily a slur to New Zealanders.

Uh, I'd like to know who considers it a slur, if only so I can avoid contracting Stupid Cooties from them.

Pakeha - New Zealanders - White New Zealanders only. Maori for "white devil". Curiously, this is an official term.

Bollocks. A definitive etymology is unknown. There are several suggestions, some of which are innocuous, others less so, and none of which are "white devil". The most amusing hypothesis is that it came from the early whalers' and sealers' frequent use of the curse "bugger ya!"

The word does have official status though, which from a pragmatic point of view should, no matter how unpleasant any putative origin may be, make it no more offensive than "vanilla" is for its root in "vagina". (Aussies and Kiwis of any age or gender will get a dirty little schoolboy snigger out of the close proximity of "root" and "vagina" there, but that's beside the point.)

This article discusses the etymology of "Pakeha", concluding that the most plausible origin is in "Pakepakeha - Mythical, human like being, with fair skin and hair who possessed canoes made of reeds which changed magically into sailing vessels." Frankly too flattering.

Pom - British - Used by Australians. It's the acronym of "Port of Melbourne", the port where British immigrants landed in the colonization of Australia.
Pome - British - 'Property Of Mother England' - Used in Australia, New Zealand, etc. Probably related to and/or another version of Pom.

This is seriously confused. Pom, or Pommy for a Briton is correct, though a Scot, Welshman, or Ulsterman is much less likely to be referred to as such than an Englishman.

Beyond that, etymology is uncertain, and the "Port of Melbourne" derivation is a new one to me. The standard version is "Prisoner of Mother England", but this smells like a back-formation. More convincing is the suggestion that it's a humorously semi-rhyming misrendering from "immigrant" through "immigranate" to "pomegranate" to— you get the picture.


At 3:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is a lot of controversy and speculation about the meaning of the word pakeha, but it actually just means stranger.


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