Only in New Zealand

Seen at the local pharmacy Taumarunui, where I’m visiting Heather Hastie—a beauty mask made of sheep placenta:

It seems to me that they should be marketing rat placenta beauty mask, killing two birds with one stone!

p.s. Heather says that the town is pronounced Toe-maa-roo-nu-ee, and that no European and very few New Zealanders can say it correctly.


  1. Posted April 5, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I hope we will see you try it! Or does it make the sheep look more attractive?!

  2. Simon Hayward
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Err, marsupial placenta?

  3. ichneumonid
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    As a marsupial, brushtail possums presumably don’t have a placenta, so will be unlikely to support an industry 😉

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Nor do birds, I think. Stoned or otherwise. 🙂

      No way would I ever be applying bits of sheeps innards to my face. Not in a million years.


      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted April 5, 2017 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        What about your mouth?

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 5, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          Well, I don’t care much for mutton or lamb. Tasteless stuff. But whatever the animal of origin, I only eat meat (i.e. muscle) – NOT organs of any sort. It just yucks me out.

          If I had to kill my own food I’d be a vegetarian.


    • Desnes Diev
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      It may be rudimentary by comparison with eutherians but marsupials develop a placenta during gestation (see, for ex., Freyer et al. (2003) J Exp Zool A Comp Exp Biol. 299:59).

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      Nor does one need to kill a sheep to collect a placenta. Quite the opposite.

    • Posted April 5, 2017 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Stupid mistake, now fixed!

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 5, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        Delete ‘possums’, insert ‘rats’?

        But rats are not the same environmental threat as possums. They may be to some native birds, but I don’t think they threaten the bush itself the way possums do.

        Sorry if that looks like hairsplitting, but I guess the relevance is, no-one’s suggested a rat-products industry similar to the possum-products industry.


  4. James Walker
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    -nui means ‘big’, I believe (like Rapanui, or Hawaikinui, the fabled Maori homeland)

    I would have thought the first syllable would rhyme with “cow” rather than with “toe”, given the spelling.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      That’s why most Europeans pronounce it incorrectly – they think tau rhymes with cow. It is definitely TOE.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted April 5, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        I remember being constantly corrected by my best friend’s wife when visiting them in Tauranga. I think she deliberately corrected me even when I got it right – she was that kind of person (he’s got rid of her now, thank goodness).

      • Kiwi Dave
        Posted April 5, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        Since words commonly change their pronunciation when moving from one language to another, it’s somewhat misleading to claim that the original pronunciation is the correct pronunciation in another language.

        My wife’s place of birth is Heung Gang in her mother tongue, Hong Kong in my mother tongue, and Xiang Gang if either of us is speaking Chinese.

        New Zealand is something like Lau Zailan in Cantonese, Xin Xilan in Chinese, Niu Sila in Samoan (the most common language after English used by students when I was teaching in Auckland/Akarana/Aokerlan/Aukilani) but Niu Tirani, according to one of this country’s founding documents – te Tiriti or the Treaty – signed by Wiremu Hopihona (William Hobson) on behalf of Kuini Wikitoria of Ingarani.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 5, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          Taumarunui is a Maori word, therefore it should be pronounced in the correct Maori way. If there was an equivalent English word for it, your argument would be correct.

          Hamilton is also Kirikiriroa. Auckland, as you point out has other names in other languages. Gisborne is Turanganui-a-kiwa in Maori.

          If someone has trouble with a word because of accent or an impediment, that’s different. Most English speakers should have no problem pronouncing Maori words properly is they make the effort to learn.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 5, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

          And in Russian (as I’ve just discovered) it’s
          (let’s see if this works): новая зеландия
          – that is, Novaya Zelandiya

          The ‘Novaya’ is a straight translation of ‘New’, but the ‘Zelandiya’ is not a translation (I don’t think) but a transliteration of ‘Zealand’ – the sound of the word has been ‘Russianised’.

          (And after all, ‘Zealand’ means nothing in English because it’s Dutch)


  5. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    That’s where I want to live, where no one can pronounce it.

    • rickflick
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      No one could find it.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 5, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

        That’s Whangamomona you’re thinking of…


        • rickflick
          Posted April 5, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

          There’s always Lake Wobegon. 😉

    • Posted April 5, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Go to Happisburgh then – not pronounced as written, much washed into the sea, & ‘people’ have lived there for 8000,000 years!

  6. jeffery
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t work nearly as well as the homeopathic version :}

  7. loren russell
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I imagine the face mask was inspired by ‘Silence of the Lambs’

  8. Posted April 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Well, at least they aren’t wasting animal products … at least here.

  9. Posted April 5, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I would look very sheepish if anyone found out I used that product.

  10. Wunold
    Posted April 5, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    For Germans, the word isn’t that difficult to pronounce. Except for “Tau” which sounds like the “tow” in “towel”, all of the other syllables sound like you explained.

    Saying that no European can say it correctly strikes me as a little misleading, because even related European languages have very different pronunciations.

    (Hold on, why has “pronounce” an “o” and “pronunciation” doesn’t? I noticed this for the first time. 🙂 )

    • James Walker
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Look where the stress is in each word.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Because the two words (pronounce / pronunciation) are indeed pronounced differently?

      ‘Few New Zealanders can say it correctly’ begs a lot of questions. First, most NZ-ers can get pretty close to it – Tau-ma-roo-nooey is ‘close enough’ unless you’re a purist. (Unlike some Maori names).
      Second, who are the ‘few NZ-ers’ who can say it ‘correctly’ and how do we know it’s ‘correct’ or authentic, since tape recorders didn’t exist back-in-the-day?
      Third, is this a case of ‘majority rules’ – if the majority say it one way, as with much word usage, one could argue that’s the ‘correct’ way.

      By analogy, the French say ‘Paree’ (and they should know); but English say ‘Pariss’ and any Englishman who says ‘Paree’ (in an English context) is guilty of being a bit precious. Or London / Londres the other way.
      This sort of thing only applies to internationally well-known cities of course, but I’d strongly argue that ‘Pariss’ (or Rome or Moscow or Munich) isn’t wrong even if Roma/Moskva/Munchen(can’t do umlauts) are correcter.


      • Wunold
        Posted April 6, 2017 at 12:43 am | Permalink

        Because the two words (pronounce / pronunciation) are indeed pronounced differently?

        Now, that’s hardly an argument in English. (Here’s a funny demonstration by an 102 year old man.)

        Of course, the present case could be a rare attempt to make the spelling actually match the pronunciation (or it’s an ancient artifact from better times). 😉

        Sorry for the teasing, but the unpredictability of the English pronunciation and spelling is as annoying to a foreigner as German’s gendered articles are.

        Anyway, I just noticed this while using both words together which I didn’t notice before using them separately. It’s funny how the brain works.

        As for Paris, Germans pronounce it “Pahrees” with the stress on the “ee”. 🙂

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 6, 2017 at 1:53 am | Permalink

          I do agree that English pronunciation frequently doesn’t agree with the spelling. (This is partly because, when English adopts a foreign word, it tends to not change the spelling).

          But please don’t diss one of the rare occasions when it gets it right 😉

          “Sorry for the teasing”
          – no worries!

          “but the unpredictability of the English pronunciation and spelling is as annoying to a foreigner…”

          Interestingly, I’ve been taking a glimpse at Russian (not looking to learn it, just enough to read Cyrillic signs) and I’d concluded that Russian spelling is subservient to getting the pronunciation right. That when they adopt a word from a foreign language, they transcribe the sound, and adjust the spelling to suit. For example (seen on an Audi billboard in Streetview): сервис центр which transcribes to ‘servis tsentr’ (and there are dozens other such examples)

          Of course I could be reading far too much into a superficial observation, but this implies to me that other languages – specifically Russian in this case – may be much more regular in their pronunciation than the English I’m accustomed to.


          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted April 6, 2017 at 3:47 am | Permalink

            When visiting Bulgaria a few years ago, I was surprised to realise how many words I could recognise, or at least make a guess at the meaning, simply by converting Cyrillic to Latin alphabet.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 6, 2017 at 5:43 am | Permalink

              Yes! Exactly what I found (this is on a virtual visit via Streetview at the moment). It’s quite gratifying to transcribe something totally cryptic – like the Пицца экспресс in magnificent brass letters on an impressive classical building in Moscow – into Pitstsa Ekspress. (That one cracked me up). But yes, it is remarkable how many words have been adopted from English or French or indeed other languages. e.g. суши – sushi – appears to be quite popular.


              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted April 6, 2017 at 6:34 am | Permalink

                One that cracked me up once I had worked it out was in a village just south of Varna, a sign saying “ABTOMOPΓA” which becomes AVTOMORGA. Still not clear, until I noticed the stack of old cars, and realised it was an AUTOMORGUE, or breaker’s yard. It’s a bit like doing word puzzles as you drive – great fun.

          • Wunold
            Posted April 7, 2017 at 12:39 am | Permalink

            But please don’t diss one of the rare occasions when it gets it right 😉

            Don’t worry, it was more like a mixture of surprise and awe. 😉

            Fittingly, xkcd recently made a cartoon about pronunciation.

            Germans tend to adopt foreign words in their original spelling and even invents meanings for them they don’t have in their original language, e.g. “Handy” for a cell phone. With time, some of them may be altered to match the German spelling conventions, like “Keks” coming from “cakes”, although we use it mostly for cookies.

            The pronunciation of adopted words differs from person to person, mostly depending on their familiarity with the original language, until it too will be slowly assimilated into the common german tongue.

            Overall, I would say that Germans first include foreign words in their original form, then slowly change the pronunciation, and may even later adapt the spelling to it. 🙂

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted April 6, 2017 at 3:51 am | Permalink

        I agree with your comment on foreign place names, so why in recent years are we being forced to relearn Peking as Beijing, Bombay as Mumbai, and so on? And why do they always seem to announce the change while I’m away on holiday, so I come back and suddenly there’s a new place name I don’t recognise 🙂

    • Stuartg
      Posted April 6, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      I was taught at school that the Maori did not have a written language before the European arrived.

      The language was written down by English academics who approximated the sounds that they heard by using phonetic English spelling (I know, that sounds an impossible concept).

      Some place names still preserve the differences in pronunciation heard around the country in the 19th century, an example being North Island Waitangi vs South Island Waitaki.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 6, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        This might be synonymous with situation with Native Americans. No written language, but encoded after contact with Europeans.

      • Wunold
        Posted April 7, 2017 at 12:58 am | Permalink

        The language was written down by English academics who approximated the sounds that they heard by using phonetic English spelling (I know, that sounds an impossible concept).


        Interesting, thank you.

  11. Posted April 5, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    There is song about Taumarunui –

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 5, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      Nice piccy of a Ka 4-8-4.

      I notice he pronounces it ‘Towm-ra-nooey’.

      However, Dora (the ‘Northern Explorer’) no longer stops at Taumarunui. The station yards are full of passenger carriages but they’re ‘SA’ Auckland suburban sets displaced by electrification, in storage.

      Sad, really.


  12. Posted April 6, 2017 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    Interesting — always looking for ways of diversifying! Come to think of it, my hands always feel nice and soft after I’ve delivered a lamb!

  13. hugh7
    Posted April 6, 2017 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Heather’s pronunciation is very good. The stresses are light but but diphthongs take a stress, so it’s TAU-ma-ru-NUI. A taumaru was a sunshade, so (as James Walker implies) the name means big sunshade. A chief lay dying in the sun (to die inside would have rendered the building too tapu – sanctified – to use) and called for a sunshade. One’s last words (ōhākī) are highly significant, so the place was named after them.

    Māori vowel sounds are pure, like Italian and Japanese, and the diphthongs are what results from running them together. Our “ow” is actually a triphthong. A pure A-U is very like our “oh”.

    In 1984-94, I recorded 132 elders pronouncing some 7000 placenames and assembled the result into an oral dictionary, called “Ngā Ingoa o Aotearoa” (The Names of New Zealand) Here is the late Hikaia Amohia saying Taumarunui.

    As to “correctness”, this country is the home of te reo Māori, the Māori language, and it is endangered in its own homeland (like Welsh). Saying words in the Māori way is a tiny step towards keeping the language alive. It is also a mark of respect.

    As to analogies with other languages, we are inconsistent. We may say Paris with an S sound, but you’d be a peasant if you said “Bizet” with a T sound or “Mozart” with only one, or Beethoven like beetroot.


  14. Val Mills
    Posted April 23, 2017 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Once we all said tow, now toe is definitely the way, just the way taupo (tow-po) became toe-paw. Once we were taught that each tribal region had their own pronunciaton, especially when it came to the use of ‘wh’ being ‘w’ of ‘f’. Now it seems the whole country uses a recognised similar pronunciation. You are right, we should all make the effort to pronounce Maori words correctly.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 23, 2017 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

      I’d be very surprised if the whole country had similar (Maori) pronunciation, since – as an analogy – no European country ever had. Unless it’s been deliberately ‘standardised’ in recent times.


      • Val Mills
        Posted April 23, 2017 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        I think for the sake of teaching it in schools, TV news readers and no doubt others most pronunciation has been standardised.. We are only a small country of four and a half million people, many people quite transient, so too many varitaions in spoken language could become confusing.

        • hugh7
          Posted April 23, 2017 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

          “We all”? Māori speakers have used a consistent pronuncation since before contact. Many Pākehā used to ride roughshod over the language, while others made an effort. Broadcasters did what they could (the Broadcasting Charter used to require it), but sometimes created strange new pronuncations of their own (PAra-PAra-Umu for (Paraparaaumu while most Pākehā said “Peraprem” or “Prem” – and sometimes “corrected” those who tried harder).

          Now, with the revival of Te Reo, something more like an authentic pronunciation is becoming usual. The tribal variations are very slight and would take little effort to accommodate. It is a pity that presenters are now tangling themselves up with “Hfwanganui” and the like, when the old Pākehā “Wonganui” was actually quite close to the local variant.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 23, 2017 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

            Not just presenters. I seem to recall quite a heated local skirmish on whether the place should be spelled with or without an ‘H’.

            (My feeling – it doesn’t *matter*. Nobody ever pronounces place names right anyway, Maori or European, but the Maori were there first and it’s their word so if they think Wanganui needs an ‘H’, put it in.)


            • hugh7
              Posted April 23, 2017 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

              It all started when David Young wrote an article for NZ Geographic about the river, and asked the elders how they wanted it spelt. They wanted an H and it spread from there. For a while the river and region had an H while the town didn’t. Michael Laws, the Mayor of the town led the charge to leave it out, and was backed up by a lot of fellow rednecks. I think there’s still resistance in the town, but they’re losing.

              Whether the H is written or not, the sound is the same, Whanganui. That’s the voice (if you run Windows) of Nepia Nikorima, who was recommended to me by a meeting of the local elders as their best speaker.

              I would write it with a superscript h, as I do here, but can’t do here.

              (Here’s hoping with all the html.)

              • hugh7
                Posted April 23, 2017 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

                Um, trying again: Whanganui

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 23, 2017 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

                For what it’s worth, I have more sympathy with the Maori who wanted the ‘H’ in (after all, it is their language) than the townies who wanted it out for, apparently, no better reason than ‘it was good enough for our fathers and why should those Maoris get their way?’

                (P.S. I don’t run Whindows. But VLC plays *anything* 🙂


            • hugh7
              Posted April 23, 2017 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

              Eventually the cockroaches will take over and nothing we did will matter, but in the shorter term, the language is a living treasure of NZ/Aotearoa (if only for the beauty of the sound, which anyone can appreciate) handed down from the ancestors to us all, that can only be preserved by people speaking it.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 23, 2017 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

                Hmm yes. My comment really related to the ‘h’ in W(h)anganui – pronunciation stays the same anyway, in fact putting the ‘h’ in seems to encourage mispronunciation if anything.

                But the English alphabet is not well adapted to getting pronunciation right.


              • hugh7
                Posted April 24, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

                “the English alphabet is not well adapted to getting pronunciation right.”

                The Roman alphabet is quite capable of being used phonetically and consistently, as it is in Italian and German (and in fact the vowel sounds of Māori are the same as those of Italian). All the sounds of Māori are present in English, but some (initial ng- and final -e) are in unusual places.

                The problem is that English-only speakers see certain letters and combinations of letters and immediately hear the English sounds. Puke, a hill and one, a beach or sand, are false friends. (Fortunately rape, buttock tattoo, pronounced rah-peh, is not a common word.)

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 24, 2017 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

                That’s why I said ‘English alphabet’ not ‘Latin’. I could have said it the long way – ‘Latin alphabet as used for the English language’. Vowels are especially variable.

                Actually, ‘puke’ and ‘one’ (Maori) are easy to get approximately right, just remember each vowel is pronounced individually – so, ‘pook-ey’ and ‘on-eh’. What’s more difficult is whether to pronounce ‘one’ as ‘onnay’ or ‘awnee’ or ‘orrnair’.


              • hugh7
                Posted April 25, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

                Linguists are fond of inventing words, and they have many words for the concepts you are referring to: graphemes for the minimal written forms, phonemes for the minimal sounds, etc.

                The Roman/Latin alphabet (which is the same for English, Italian and Māori) of 26 graphemes tries to convey some 40 English phonemes, but need only deal with 5 Māori vowel sounds (in two lengths, long vowels nowadays marked with a macron) and 10 consonents (using two digraphs, ng and wh).

                So to try to express Māori sounds by using English or pseudo-English word-forms will inevitably introduce ambiguity. “pook-ey” might be the oo of “book” or “spook” and the -ey of “hey” or “key”. Puke and one have the same final vowel. The English “eh” sound (as in “pen”) approximates that so long as the h is silent. Some English speakers sound a final written R, others do not.

                You seem to be wondering whether to pronounce one as Māori speakers pronounce it, or how non-speakers, who may or may not be trying for Māori sounds, pronounce it. If the former, I strongly recommend not trying to write Māori pronunciations in English words. I refer you again to my online oral dictionary, Ngā Ingoa o Aotearoa for direct examples of placename pronunciation. (It should be possible to link directly to every individual name by the end of the year.)


              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 26, 2017 at 1:30 am | Permalink

                I wasn’t trying to accurately render Maori pronunciations, just to highlight the ambiguity that results when ‘English’ letters are used, as they inevitably will be.

                However in practice, though there are many variants of pronouncing ‘Onehunga’ for example, they are all intelligible as the name of the place in question, even if not correct.


          • Val Mills
            Posted April 23, 2017 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

            You are obviously more knowledgable than I am on ths matter 🙂

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