Wednesday, 6 August 2014

In the Coromandel, on top of Mt. Moehau

We love Moe, but I was a bit disappointed last night.

Moe's a furry monster who lives on top of Mt. Moehau in the Coromandel. And he has a NZ kids' tv show that's well worth watching. Last night, we watched the episode where Moe, who was running a fan to cool him off because the heater was too hot, was to learn about something beginning with the letter 'P' that could help him to conserve electricity. Moe thought electricity was something magic that came out of a power bar without limit.

Understandably, I was expecting something other than a trip to the Benmore power station. They did a great job showing how electricity is generated, but that doesn't really help Moe to understand why he should turn off the heater rather than run a fan in addition to the heater if he's too hot.

'P' shouldn't have been for Power Station (Whare hiko).

Our 6 year old learned a different lesson. We've been running a space heater in his room on cold nights in the rental house we're in while our house is being fixed and before moving to Wellington. He turned it on out of habit on a very warm night last weekend. When it turned cold again, he didn't turn the heater back on. When I asked him why, he told me, "Mom said I'll have to Pay for the electricity". Which she must have told him would be the consequence of running the heater on a warm day. I told him not to worry about it on cold nights as I'd cover it, but that he would if he flipped it on when it wasn't cold.

No trip to Benmore Power Station can do more than a simple lesson in Prices. P. Prices. Which perhaps translates as utu, but perhaps not. [Update: I'm told the transliteration of value is wariu, and utu is used colloquially.]

Your fun definition as belated part of Maori Language Week:


  • (verb) (-a,-ngia) to repay, pay, make a response, avenge, reply.
    Utua ai au e rima herengi i te wiki (HP 1991:26). / I was paid five shillings per week.
  • (noun) revenge, cost, price, wage, fee, payment, salary, reciprocity - an important concept concerned with the maintenance of balance and harmony in relationships between individuals and groups and order within Māori society, whether through gift exchange or as a result of hostilities between groups. It is closely linked to mana and includes reciprocation of kind deeds as well as revenge. While particular actions required a response, it was not necessary to apply utu immediately. The general principles that underlie utu are the obligations that exist between individuals and groups. If social relations are disturbed, utu is a means of restoring balance. Gift exchange, a major component of utu, created reciprocal obligations on the parties involved and established permanent and personal relationships. Traditionally utu between individuals and groups tended to escalate. Just as feasts were likely to increase in grandeur as an exchange relationship developed over time, so could reciprocal acts of vengeance intensify. Utu was not necessarily applied to the author of the affront, but affected the whole group. Thus utu could be gained through a victory over a group where only the most tenuous of links connected the source of the affront with the target of the utu. Any deleterious external influence could weaken the psychological state of the individual or group, but utu could reassert control over the influences and restore self-esteem and social standing. Suicide could even reassert control by demonstrating that one had control over one's fate, and was a way of gaining utu against a spouse or relative where direct retaliation was not possible. Such indirect utu often featured within kin groups.
    He mea peita anō hoki e ia, ā he utu tika tāna utu i tono ai mō āna mahi (TW 28/8/1875:170). / They were also painted by him and the price he asked was right for his work.
    (Te Kākano Textbook (Ed. 2): 48;) See also utu ā-hāora

I love the sense of reciprocity that's built into price on this definition, but I'm not so sure about the link to hostility and revenge. Same in English though... you'll pay a price if you think otherwise....

Perhaps Moe should subscribe to the New Zealand Initiative's weekly updates. P is for Price came up a couple weeks ago there....

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