Thursday, 23 April 2009

NOT PJ: A Tale of Two Whatsits

This week Bernard Darnton doesn’t know where the whuck he is.

Recently I travelled from a large geological formation situated between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean to a slightly larger geological formation, also situated between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Because I had the car I didn’t fly but took the Inter-thingamabob ferry.

Buying tickets was almost impossible as I explained that I wanted to go to the green and white pointy place right next to the Pacific Ocean.

“The what?” asked the ticket agent.

“The Paci- The big blue wobbly thing,” I said pointing at the big blue wobbly thing out the window.

It was then that I mentally formulated my letter to the New Zealand Geographic Board.

Thank goodness we have a government department to tell us what to call things, especially since – being in Wellington at the time – the big blue wobbly thing didn’t always live up to Baldrick’s romantic description. Most days it was a large grey angry thing that hurled itself at the windows. It would be useful to have just one name that we could refer to it by.

Most New Zealanders would have been shocked to discover this week that the North and South Islands didn’t have names. How have we coped up until now?

A bigger question is: having discovered this staggering oversight, why do we turn to the New Zealand Geographic Board to fix it when they’ve ignored forever the existence of the two largest geographic features New Zealand has to offer? The Geographic Board (headquarters: Codfish Island) obviously can’t be trusted with geography.

The justification for this omission is that the islands haven’t had “official” names because they aren’t mentioned in legislation. The Board is there to settle squabbles over out-of-the-way places mentioned in Waitangi Tribunal settlements – that sort of thing. Two words: Electoral Act.

The formula for the number of general electoral districts in New Zealand is based on the population of “the South Island.” Let’s make sure we don’t get this wrong because the green and white pointy place mentioned earlier isn’t the only place that’s ever been called “the South Island.” Based on the population of Stewart Island (formerly known as the South Island, back when the South Island was called the Middle Island) the electoral district formula would give us 130,053 MPs.

Judith Tizard would be the least of our problems if we had to scrape that far down the barrel and keep tunnelling.

So, in the absence of anyone who’s done their geography homework, let’s get the Geographic Board on the case and issue a proclamation on something everyone already knows before the aforementioned horror eventuates.

The Board has wisely suggested naming the islands in Māori: Te Ika a Māui and Te Wai Pounamu. That way their little slip-up will be thoroughly obscured by the holy war between the rednecks who take pride in their ignorance of Māori pronunciation and the pinot gris types who care-fu-lly e-nun-ci-ate every syllable to prove how right on they are.

Michael Laws, representing the former, had a stroke at the suggestion, still grumpy about having an H inserted where it wasn’t welcome.

A round of applause to our wonderful bureaucracy. Admittedly they created the “problem” in the first place, and then had to point it out in a press release when we blissfully got on with our lives anyway, but they’re finally here to fix everything. I don’t know where we’d be without them. Or what it would be called.

* * Bernard Darnton writes every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

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