We can add special sense of humour to all the things that make our indigenous people special citizens.
They get their laughs in all sorts of ways that may differ from the way the Grumbles get their laughs.
To illustrate this point, here’s something that we are told should give Maori a good chuckle.
It’s a translation of “policeman” (a concept which Alf suspects did not exist in Te Reo until the white man turned up with a splendid array of well-proven methods of good British governance, including the introduction of a police force for rounding up bad buggers).
The translation is to be found – correction, it used to be found – at maoridictionary.co.nz.
(loan) (noun) policeman, police.
Ki te kitea te pirihi, he kawe tamana mai, warena hopu tangata ranei, ka kikia atu te kumu, ka pakarutia te warena, ka panaia atu ia.
If a policeman is seen bringing a summons or an arrest warrant, he’ll be kicked in the backside, the warrant screwed up and he’ll be thrown out.
Maori readers, Alf imagines, will have been overcome by mirth and may well be rolling around the floor with uncontrollable laughter.
But according to a report in the NZ Herald today, the bloke who wrote those words has had second thoughts.
He has rewritten the definition and in the rewritten version Mr Plod is no longer bringing a summons and being booted in his bum.
John Moorfield, author of maoridictionary.co.nz, admitted the sentence appealed to his warped sense of humour – but has now changed it, after a complaint.
That came from Lee Baker, who was helping her son Alex, 4, learn te reo and was surprised with what she found in the online dictionary when he asked her what the Maori word for policeman was.
“I was a bit disappointed, because the sentence basically gave the word for policeman but said he would get a kick up the backside, his warrant screwed up and he’d be thrown out,” said Ms Baker.
“I didn’t think it was good for Maori people. It’s not good for New Zealand having that idea put out there. Why couldn’t it have been ‘the kind policeman helped the old lady across the road’ or something like that?”
Alf is bound to say he shares Ms Baker’s view of these matters.
She moved to New Zealand from Britain 11 years ago, it seems, and she reckons the sentence about policemen showed a disdain for authority and could be misconstrued as police-bashing.
“There’s all that police-bashing going on, so it’s not really a good look.”
The cops aren’t too pleased, either, although they are being very diplomatic about what they say, no doubt appreciating that anything untoward will be seized on as an expression of racism.
A spokesman is quoted as saying:
“While such comments are unhelpful, the police strongly value their relationship with Maori and our focus continues to be on building positive relationships with tangata whenua through our work in communities across the country.”
And then we come to the bit of the Herald report where we learn of Maori having a special sense of humour.
Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Maori chief executive Glenis Philip-Barbara said the issue could be one of cultural differences around humour. She doubted it would lead to Maori relating to police any differently.
“Sometimes a Maori perspective and Pakeha perspective on things can be poles apart – we laugh at tangihanga and can even berate the tupapaku [corpse]. But in the context of language learning, which is hard enough, I would be less inclined to complain and probably more inclined to giggle.”
Alf is surprised that someone named Glenis Philip-Barbara has any idea of a Maori perspective, but nowadays your surname is not a good guide to ethnicity.
Take Shane Jones, for example. That would be a great name for someone preparing for High Noon in a cowboy town in the American West.
As for getting a laugh out of the forces of law and order, Alf has been able to laugh at the antics of the Keystone Cops, the incompetent misfits who have entered Police Academy, and the fumblings and bumblings of Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
Finding the cops mocked in a dictionary definition is another matter.
Dunno if Glenis Philip-Barbara thinks we non-Maori are unable to laugh at funerals, by the way.
If so, it’s not true.
Alf is thoroughly capable of getting a good laugh out of the funerals of some people, although typically these people are his most disagreeable political opponents who at some point of a quarrel have vowed to see the member for Eketahuna North dead and buried.