Oh Tikokino.

Much loved. Often garbled.

From the southern Hawke's Bay town of Taumatawhakatangihangakōauauotamateapōkaiwhenuakitānatahu to Heretaunga, more commonly known as Hastings, most Hawke's Bay residents pronounce it wrong.

Tikokino School's junior teacher Rachelle Birrell-Imbeah says it's pretty simple for everyone, including her pupils, once they've had a bit of practice.

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Tee-koh-kee-noh. Not Tick-o-key-no.

Hastings District Council's James Graham demonstrating some of the Māori place names often mispronounced. Photo / Warren Buckland
Hastings District Council's James Graham demonstrating some of the Māori place names often mispronounced. Photo / Warren Buckland

Birrell-Imbeah said gaining the knowledge of how to correctly pronounce Hawke's Bay's te reo place names is a worthy thing to do, particularly during Māori language week.

"Knowledge helps even if you don't get it right all the time. In Māori there is a different pronunciation of vowels, that's where people mess up Māori words.

"We tend to be lazy with the way we speak, we miss out sounds, it's a funny beast."

Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is the longest place name in the world.
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is the longest place name in the world.

Birrell-Imbeah said if you hear the same word, pronounced incorrectly often enough, you learn it incorrectly and it becomes a part of your speech.

"Phonetically Tikokino is pronounced as Tee-koh-kee-noh, but most people would just say it the way it is spelt."

Similarly she said Waipukurau, the largest town in CHB, was often just referred to as 'Waipuk or Waipak" by most people.

"Ideally we learn these from an early stage, but you work with what you grow up with.

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"Māori Language Week is a good opportunity to promote the Māori language, but it is something that should be ingrained in our lives, otherwise it gets forgotten."

Hastings District Council's principal advisor of relationships, responsiveness and heritage James Graham says there are many, many different Tikokinos (places often poorly pronounced) around Hawke's Bay.

Waipukurau (Wai-puku-roe, with a rolling of the r), Pourerere (poh-re-re-re), Kairakau (kai-ra-koe), Mangakuri, Maraekākaho (Marae-ka-ka-ho), Heretaunga (hare-ae-tonga) and Ahuriri (Ahu-riri) were all stumbled over often, he said.

For Graham, Māori Language Week, represents a connection to his ancestors whose language was te reo Māori, which he believes was lost along the way.

"Te reo represents a connection to our past, our identity and our heritage. It fosters and supports our culture, our identity, our wellbeing as whānau, as hapū, as iwi."

Correct pronunciation of Māori words and place names is highly important, he said.

"It shows manaakitanga - respect and connection with the person, and it also nurtures esteem in our people.

"Given that te reo Māori is one of the official languages of New Zealand, why shouldn't you get it right."

Māori Language Week gives people an opportunity to celebrate, embed, and normalise te reo Māori, he said.

A couple of months ago, more than 40 Māori place names in Hawke's Bay, including those often pronounced incorrectly, were made official by the New Zealand Geographic Board Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa (NZGB).

These place names are all commonly used. Seventeen place names in Hawke's Bay, now include macrons as part of their official names.

"Applying macrons correctly in written Māori provides the meaning of a name and assists with pronunciation. This is important for all New Zealanders," said Anselm Haanen, acting chairman of the NZGB.

"Many Māori place names have important stories behind them, so ensuring the correct spelling will help keep those stories alive."

A fair few towns in Central Hawke's Bay have commonly mispronounced Māori names. Photo / Paul Taylor
A fair few towns in Central Hawke's Bay have commonly mispronounced Māori names. Photo / Paul Taylor

New Zealand's longest place name, Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu(pronounced as-Toe-mah-tah-fah-kah-tah-ngi-hah-nga-kaw-oh-oh-aw-ta-ma-te-a-too-ri-poo-ka-ka-pee-kee-mow-nga-haw-raw-noo-koo-paw-kai-feh-noo-ah-kee-tah-nah-tah-hoo), in southern Hawke's Bay was one of the places to get official macrons.