Two Polynesian Questions.

1) Frequent commenter Jen (in Edinburgh) writes:

I’m reading Peter Moore’s Endeavour, a history covering the life of the ship and its journeys, rather than e.g. a biography of Cook or Banks. Having reached Tahiti, some of the members of Cook’s first expedition have been collecting Tahitian words, and the book notes that one they didn’t collect is Tōtaiete mā, the local name for the archipelago which Cook called the Society Islands.

I have a strong suspicion that it would have been impossible for them to do so – that ‘Tōtaiete’ is a form of the English word ‘society’, in the same way that ‘Kiribati’ is a form of ‘Gilberts’. But I can’t turn up anything about the etymology of the name on a quick search, and Wikipedia just cites the book itself. Do you think your erudite community might know more?

I join her in her suspicion and her quest for knowledge.

2) I just watched the very silly movie Green Dolphin Street (solely because I’ve long loved the Miles Davis version of the movie’s theme, “On Green Dolphin Street,” and I was curious about its original setting). Executive summary: the sisters Marguerite (Donna Reed) and Marianne (Lana Turner) are both in love with the hunky young scapegrace William Ozanne (Richard Hart), who is in love with Marguerite but (having inadvertently deserted from the Royal Navy and wound up helping run a lumber concern in New Zealand) drunkenly sends a letter proposing marriage to Marianne rather than her perkier sister, and when the prim, ambitious Marianne shows up and he realizes his error, there is nothing for it but to swallow hard and marry the wrong woman, which occasions a great deal of hand-wringing, hangdog looks, and emotional outbursts. At any rate, in the section of the movie set in New Zealand there is a fair amount of spoken and chanted Māori (you don’t want to know how the movie treats its Māori characters), and I was curious about how accurate the language was. Anybody happen to know?


  1. 1) According to the dictionary of the Académie Tahitienne, tōtaiete is indeed an English loan. It also means ‘company, corporation’; whether that meaning came from an older English usage or later from société, I don’t know. is, roughly, an associative plural marker, so Tōtaiete mā is ‘The Societies’. The Académie’s dictionary records only te mau fenua Tōtaiete ‘The Society Islands’ (te is an article, mau is a plural marker).

    2) I haven’t seen the movie yet (I could rent it for two bucks and watch it, but I am not in that frame of mind right now.) For now, in imdb’s cast list, the apparent Māoris are played by Linda Christian (Hine-Moa), Bernie Gozier (Jacky-Poto), Patrick Aherne (Kaoua-Manga), Al Kikume (A Maori), and George Bennett (A Maori chieftain, uncredited). Christian was born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and a Dutch father (Erroll Flynn brought her to the US and she picked her name because Flynn had played Fletcher Christian.) Al Kikume was born in Hawai‘i (in Nāʻālehu, Hawai‘i, in 1894. The surname, also spelled Kikumi, may be Japanese, but he looked Hawaiian, and Nāʻālehu was probably mostly Hawaiian speaking then.) Bernie Gozier was his son, born in Los Angeles. Patrick Aherne was born in England. Of George Bennett I can find nothing, and it’s his only movie role on imdb. Maybe he was Māori?

    It would be interesting to listen to it, whether it’s Māori or Hollywood gibberish.

  2. the Miles Davis version of the movie’s theme

    Oh not just Miles: it’s a bebop standard. For some reason I’ve never been able to fix the tune in my head — its opening is too close to ‘Food, glorious food!’.

    I was curious about how accurate the language was

    How could you be so doubting? “Each brilliant characterization faithfully portrayed!” says the trailer. I agree with your very silly — if the trailers are anything to go by. Can’t find much ‘native portrayal’ in them.

    Here about 3:00 “Each memorable moment recaptured!” is some chanting, followed by a cardboard “Earthquake!”, followed by “Tribal warfare!” with some very European-sounding descant over the chanting.

    No that’s nothing like a Haka (usually glossed as ‘war dance’ — but with much wider significance); nor is the descant anything like the keening at a tangihanga (funeral). Here’s a tourist-friendly example. Here’s something more scary, starting about 2:00.

    I think it’s a pretty safe bet that “After two years in the making!” very little of the enormous budget was spent on cultural research. The film was shot on locations in Humboldt County, California. [wp]. Quite.

  3. Long-distance/long-term affiancing was definitely a thing. There’s the sad story of John and Jane Deans, affianced in Scotland 1843 before John set off for N.Z. He returned to marry her in 1852, delayed by his brother dying in a shipwreck. They settled back in NZ barely 18 months before he died (of tuberculosis).

    The cottage, the grand house he never saw, and the preserved piece of native bush are going strong.

  4. A Pōwhiri (welcome/opening ceremony) at the Parliament, with keening/intoning descant about 0:40.

  5. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Thanks Y – that’s what I wanted to know.

    Fairly relatedly, Cook’s explanation that he called the islands ‘Society’ because “they lay contiguous to one another” always makes me happy. Sociable islands!

  6. The 1973 rugby haka also predates cultural sensitivity

  7. Oh not just Miles: it’s a bebop standard.

    Oh, I know, I’ve got several versions, but it’s the Miles that introduced the tune to me and that has always remained in my head. Thanks for the NZ info, which I figured you would be able to provide!

  8. PlasticPaddy says

    2018 (result was NZ:20, IRL:29)
    2008 (result was NZ:22, IRL:3)

    Clearly the tongue action in 2008 was responsible for the NZ victory.
    Looking at AntCs video and without meaning to offend anyone, I thought the Australian version looked more like a dance devised for and by women. The pelvic and arm thrusts in the more “male” version convey for me a threat of penetrative rape, that may be less credible for women victors.

  9. Always good to see sporting events punctuated with authentic Pacific islander dances.

  10. Since the native vocabulary of Austral and Tahitian, the two Polynesian languages of the Society Islands, has no */s/ (or */g/ or */k/), those phonemes regularly become /t/ in loans from English and French.

    Nothing is puzzling, therefore, about the derivation Tōtaiete < Society and/or Société.

    It is true that Cook wrote in his journal that he named them the Society Islands “as they lay contiguous to one another,” but it is possible that he had a second reason to choose that name: the Royal Society of London, now the Royal Society, paid him one hundred guineas, in addition to the pay he received as an officer in the Royal Navy, for heading what would be the first British scientific survey of the south Pacific, which began in 1768 and ended in 1771.

  11. The Australs (which arguably have more than one language) are quite far from the Societies. The language of Rapa has /k/.

    Final English unstressed /i/ is usually borrowed as Tahitian /e/: taofe ‘coffee’, tenuare ‘January’. Tōtaiete matches society but not société (though I don’t understand the long ō).

  12. Perhaps in Cook’s time, it was still possible not to reduce the first vowel of ‘society’ so that it could be pronounced as in ‘social’, at least in artificially elicited speech. Or the locals applied the non-reduced vowels anyway due to analogy, as sometimes happens among nonnative speakers of English.

  13. PlasticPaddy says

    I don’t think you have to go back to Cook’s time to hear a long o pronounced in words like society and romantic…

  14. Socialize and romantic, sure, but society? I’ve never heard it with a long/tense o, and nor have the OED and Longman’s.
    The 1791 edition of Walker’s Pronouncing Dictionary shows society with four identical short o’s (“o¹”). The same vowel is shown on the first syllable of sociable and social as well, but I find that hard to believe.

  15. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I’m not quite sure which sounds we’re arguing about, exactly, and the superscripts aren’t very clear – but I read that page as showing ‘society’ and ‘social’ both with what the introduction calls the o of ‘note’ – different from the o of ‘not’ in the entry for ‘sock’ below?

    I don’t often put an o in society, at all, I think – s’ssiety – but if I try to be careful, it feels more like the first kind.

  16. You’re absolutely right. I was blathering (society does not have four identical vowels…) So society did have a long o, which explains the Tahitian, and everything is as it should be.

  17. The 1989 OED had /səʊˈsaɪɪtɪ/; only in the 2009 edition was the (British) pronunciation changed to /səˈsʌɪəti/.

  18. ktschwarz says

    The 1989 OED pronunciation was almost certainly unrevised from 1913, except for translating the original notation into IPA. Longman should be more reliable for the late 20th century.

  19. David Marjanović says

    the Royal Society of London, now the Royal Society

    All the funnier because the Royal Society of Edinburgh continues to exist. Maybe the R. Soc. expected Scotland’s independence referendum to go differently?

  20. David Marjanović says

    Tōtaiete mā, the local name for the archipelago which Cook called the Society Islands

    One more for the coincidence file! Finnic maa “land” occurs in the names of islands, e.g. Hiiumaa & Saaremaa in Estonia.

  21. Daniel Jones’ 1913 pronouncing dictionary has “sǝˈsaiǝt|l, -iz societ|y (S.), -ies.” There’s apparently a typo, conflating societal and society, but it seems that the reduced version was already current, and that the OED presented a more conservative form.

  22. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I thought that they had been simply the Royal Society from the beginning, and still were (like the Football Association), but apparently they’re still technically The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge – that’s what you write if you want to leave them money in your will, although it doesn’t seem to be used elsewhere on their website.

    Apart from habit, I suppose ‘of London’ does potentially imply ‘not of the rest of England’, where ‘of Edinburgh’ is more likely to be read as ‘of Scotland and not England’.

    (Although it amuses me that there are three Royal Colleges of Surgeons in the UK – of England, of Edinburgh, and of Glasgow. The Scots, locked throughout history in a long-drawn-out battle with their arch-enemies the Scots, indeed.)

  23. David Eddyshaw says

    there are three Royal Colleges of Surgeons in the UK

    True indeed. I belong to the Edinburgh one (as opposed to the Glasgow one); in my defence, I was living in Edinburgh at the time. James IV himself, however, was responsible for the organisation’s upgrade from a simple Guild of barbers and surgeons* to its current intergalactic eminence. Unlike any other British monarch, he himself seems to have been an enthusiastic perpetrator of surgery (as opposed to a mere fainéant “patron”) though I’m told that they had to pay people to be his patients.

    I am accustomed to referring to the other one as the “London” college, a practice which I believe is general among surgeons from the Hen Ogledd.

    The Dublin college is also a player in the UK surgical scene.

    * In that order.

  24. jack morava says

    A chance to recall a dear friend and colleague:

    Indeed, Ranicki had the unusual title of Professor of Algebraic Surgery at the University of Edinburgh. (Andrew was a special case for almost everything.)

  25. I googled Algebraic Surgery and got his own intro to it: “Surgery theory investigates the homotopy types of manifolds, using a combination of algebra and topology.”

  26. The discussion of the Royal Societies, reminds me of another phenomenon. I am not a golfer (much less a watcher of televised golf). However, I have noticed a gradual shift in how sports coverage refers to the premier British golf tournament. I think the usual practice when I was a child was to call it “the British Open,” manifestly contrasting with the “U. S. Open”; however, nowadays American sportscasters seem mostly to call it by its official name, “The Open Championship.” I suppose that the organizers (of the Open, as well as other sporting events) demand more control over how the broadcasters with rights to show their events refer to them. Another memorable example of this phenomenon was the way NBC universally referred to the city hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics as “Torino,” never using the Piedmontese (or English) name “Turin.”

  27. David Marjanović says

    I thought that they had been simply the Royal Society from the beginning

    Proceedings B, a mid-to-high-impact journal, used to be Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B = Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences. Now they’re Proc. R. Soc. B.

    The Scots, locked throughout history in a long-drawn-out battle with their arch-enemies, the Scots

    The short version.

  28. David Eddyshaw says

    I have always envied Glasgow surgical Fellows their excellent official style of “Fellow qua Surgeon of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.” The qua just gives it that extra … edge

  29. Jen in Edinburgh says
  30. Would a non-surgeon be merely a “Fellow qua Physician of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow”?

  31. David Eddyshaw says

    Indeed; though any red-blooded physician would object strongly to “merely.”

    “Physician” has here the sense “advanced specialist in internal medicine”, rather than “random medic.” Non-Glaswegian ones have their own separate Royal Colleges of them, but Glaswegians are more ecumenical.

    To make life more complex, the equivalent of (London) FRCS is not FRCP but MRCP, Member of the Royal College of Physicians. There is such a thing as FRCP, but I believe it is like the higher levels of Freemasonry, and achieved only by undergoing nameless rituals whereof one does not speak.

    The levels below FRCS and MRCP are (respectively) MRCS and LRCP (“Licentiate”), which (together) entitle you to practice medicine in the UK, and are in that respect equivalent to the conjoined university degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, which is what UK doctors have (not MDs, like Americans.) In Somerset Maugham’s day, only high-fliers took university degrees, but by the latter part of the 20th century the letters LRCP MRCS after someone’s name basically meant that he* had failed in his attempts to pass his bachelor’s degrees (twice.) I believe this alternative route has now been closed, which seems a pity somehow. (There used to be a Third Way too: the Way of the Apothecaries.)

    * Yup, he.

  32. ktschwarz says

    Y said: “it seems that the reduced version was already current, and that the OED presented a more conservative form.”

    Yes, the 1989 editors describe the system of the first edition as conservative even for its time, and perhaps too precise, making some distinctions that maybe were never made, as well as some that weren’t made anymore a hundred years later. In fact, they didn’t preserve all of the first edition’s vowel distinctions in translating them to IPA, and society is a case in point: in the first edition the o’s of society and social were different. In society the o had no macron, representing “ordinary (or short) quantity” in James Murray’s system, with example hero; in social the o had a macron and was followed by superscript u, representing “long quantity” and an “imperfect or doubtful diphthong”, with examples sow and soul. In the 1989 edition, both became (əʊ), with the explanation that the “ordinary” vowels were just the long ones “under low stress”.

    They acknowledge that the result is not in accord with “most present-day phonetic descriptions of English” in some ways, including

    3. Diphthongs (e.g., əʊ) are maintained in unstressed syllables in words like homographic, protocol, in contrast with the obscure vowel ‘schwa’ in words like homonym, melody.

    Just like social/society, protocol had the pronunciation of the first two o’s represented as different in the first edition, then both as (əʊ) in 1989, and finally now as different, with the second reduced to schwa.

    (Homographic is unrevised, and still has the old transcription /hɒməʊˈɡrafɪk/ — but it now also has an audio clip with schwa in the second syllable!)

    The Century Dictionary, in 1895, described these o’s similarly: the pronunciation of the o in society is given with a dot under it, indicating “abbreviation and lightening, without absolute loss of its distinctive quality” of a vowel in an unstressed syllable.

  33. To my (non-native) ear, society with a long o is wrong, while societal ditto is marginally acceptable. Lexical diffusion in action!

  34. Tōtaiete mā

    Almost parses as being something in Estonian, indeed. Not just maa but also too (2PS imperative of ‘to bring’?) + taiete which would seem to be a plural genitive of a noun taie (a “lost cognate” of Finnish taide ‘art’?). So basically one space short of a phrase “Bring the Land of Arts!”… maybe also not a bad slogan for a Royal Society, at least if we ignore that taide is ‘arts’ just in the narrow pictorial-musical-poetic sense. A hypothetical Estonian taie, I suppose, is not beholden to Finnish and could have a wider semantic range (already the Fi. base verb is the more generic taitaa ‘to be able, know how to do’).

  35. I’m reminded of the island of Aegna, whose name supposedly comes from a word for horse in an Estonian-Swedish dialect:

    Ajaloolane Paul Johansen on Aegna kohanime päritolu seostanud eesti-rootsimurdelise sõnaga eik (hobune), sest Tallinna rae korraldusel peeti saarel keskajal hobuseid. Ta eeldas, et saare rootsikeelne nimi võib olla seotud Tallinna all 1032 hukkunud viikingi Ulf Ragvaldssoniga, kes maeti seejärel mõnele Tallinna lahe väikesaarele. Ta pakkus ka, et eestlased nimetasid saart esmalt Salmesaareks väina ehk salmi järgi.

    Historian Paul Johansen has linked the origin of the place name of Aegna with the Estonian-Swedish-Moorish word eik (horse), because horses were kept on the island in the Middle Ages on the orders of the Tallinn rae. He suggested that the Swedish name of the island might be related to Ulf Ragvaldsson, a Viking who died under Tallinn in 1032 and was subsequently buried on one of the small islands in Tallinn Bay. He also suggested that the Estonians first named the island Salmesaareks after the strait or salmi.

    Moorish -> dialectal
    Salmesaareks -> Salmesaar
    rae -> (raad, from German ‘Rat’) ‘city council’
    salmi -> salm

  36. “Moorish”???
    I think it’s ‘dialectal’.

  37. That’s what I said.

  38. I’d thought Aegna had something to do with egen/eget/egna ‘(my, etc) own’,

  39. So you did. Sorry about that.

  40. raad

    When I was in Tallinn many-many years ago, Tallinna Raekoda/Tallinnan Raatihuone/the Tallinn Townhall never failed to impress me, especially as seen from here.

  41. Lars Mathiesen says

    FWIW, I think I unlearned the souciety I learnt from the RP manquant of my 4th grade teachers when I was exposed to modern versions of the language.

  42. Lars Mathiesen says

    For Swedish:1348 Wluesøø, it seems, and until 1920 it could be called Wulf in Estonian literature. The current name can still be connected to *yéwk- through a North Germanic word for draft animal (Danish has øg, ON eykr).

  43. Trond Engen says

    juha quoting et.wikipedia: Ajaloolane Paul Johansen on Aegna kohanime päritolu seostanud eesti-rootsimurdelise sõnaga eik (hobune), sest Tallinna rae korraldusel peeti saarel keskajal hobuseid.

    (Pretending to understand Estonian.

    How and when could Estonian borrow that word as aeg? Sw. ök, Da. øg < OESc ø:kr < PSc *aukiaz or something < PGmc *jaukija-.

    I’d thought Aegna had something to do with egen/eget/egna ‘(my, etc) own’,

    Me too. Or if there’s a way to turn k > g, Sw. ek “oak”. Either way, it may be relevant that Gotlandic preserved (or reinvented) the PSc diphtong ai.

  44. Allan from Iowa says

    With regards to algebraic surgery, Wikipedia says algebra is derived from Arabic ‏الجبر‎ (al-jabr) ‘reunion of broken parts, bonesetting’

  45. PlasticPaddy says

    This may be just the way the Uralics (or Finns/Estonians) borrowed:
    F. haiven ex PG hawją cf. Sw. hö, Dan. hø
    F. kaivata ex PG kawjaną cf. Westrobothnian: köuk
    (OK this is a stretch to find etymon with ö)
    F. laipio ex PG laubijo cf. Sw. löv, Dan. løv

  46. jack morava says

    @ Allan of Iowa:

    It goes back to Isis reassembling the bits of Osiris found in the bullrushes of the Nile,

    sex and jealousy all the way down.

  47. David Eddyshaw says

    Orthopaedic surgeons have a reputation among fellow-medics for not being particularly cerebral (they are the Kerrymen of medicine.)

    This situation would surely be remedied if they were to adopt the (evidently justified) self-designation algebraists.

  48. Lars Mathiesen says

    My MSc main paper in maths was supposed to be on Morse Theory. I have successfully repressed all memories of the subject.

  49. jack morava says

    maybe the algebraic ones are just the missing particularly cerebral ones?

  50. jack morava says

    @ Lars M,

    If you think of human veins as flow lines

    you get a pretty good image of what a Morse function tells you…

  51. @David Eddyshaw: Are you trying to remind us of the Iain Banks novel? A good one, but depressing. Much like a lot of Scottish SF novels. Especially Ken McLeod’s. I was depressed for weeks after I read The Execution Channel. That poor cat. EDIT: I’m joking.

  52. David Eddyshaw says


    I am unfamiliar with the work you allude to. So, no.

    I’m not a fan of IMB (or IB, for that matter.) Ken McLeod, though, I do rate … (and I reckon his works are quite cheery, in a Scottish kind of way …)

    I haven’t read The Execution Channel, mind. However, I can testify that Leuchars has the most desolate and generally depressing* railway station in Britain, so the place strikes me as a suitably grimdark setting.

    * No matter when you arrive, you see the last taxi to St Andrews already pulling away.

  53. I have a place to stay in Edinburgh whenever I might decide to visit, I won’t have to inconvenience you. I actually want to finally go there. Maybe for the Fringe?

  54. David Eddyshaw says

    It is long since I actually lived in Edinburgh (before, and, briefly, after I went to West Africa.)
    My recollection is that the natives generally leave town for the Festival (the better to lease their flats to English patsies honoured guests.)

    Stupidest financial decision I ever made was to sell my house there …

  55. But David, I actually want to go to the Fringe (if only to brag about how much I hated it). EDIT: Jen, tell him.

  56. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s OK, V. You’re allowed to want to go. (You’re too late to catch my offspring performing there, though. He works for some thinktank or other in London nowadays. Young people of today …)

  57. One of my best friends’ ex-boyfriend used to work with Nick Clegg. And that was before Nick Clegg went bad, as in allying with the Tories.

  58. David Eddyshaw says

    I think he was always bad really, but secretly. Like Tacitus’ take on Tiberius. Capri, Facebook, plus ça change

  59. Or if there’s a way to turn k > g, Sw

    The Estonian B, D, G—never at the beginning of native words—stand for P, T, K, so it’s just a spelling convention. (P, T, K, in turn, stand for PP, TT, KK. What PP, TT, KK stand for is easy to guess.)

  60. I remember going on a short excursion trip on a boat around Tallinn Bay, starting at the Linnahall. There were two landmasses out to sea. The much larger one is called Naissaar and the smaller one is Aegna.

  61. Now I’m wondering if Vladimir Saar of scatological fame is Estonian or German.

    Российский чиновник предложил хвалиться «идучи срать»
    Мэр города в Красноярском крае неудачно оговорился на тему местных дорог
    Владимир Саар

    Владимир Саар. Кадр: телеграм-канал «Kras Mash»

    Мэра города Назарово в Красноярском крае Владимира Саара поймали на неудачной оговорке. Во время встречи с местными жителями чиновник неверно передал содержание пословицы: «Не хвались, идучи на рать, хвались, идучи с рати». Об этом сообщает Telegram-канал Mash.

    СМИ обратили внимание на оговорку из-за многолетних проблем с канализацией в Назарове. На вопрос: «За это лето будут лучше дороги?», Саар предложил необычное решение. «Не хвались, идучи на рать, а хвались, идучи срать», — ответил он. Мэр города добавил, что постарается сделать так, чтобы к осени было чем гордиться. После того инцидент предали огласке, журналистов не пустили на аппаратное совещание.

    Ранее, в феврале, во время выступления на заседании Совета безопасности глава Службы внешней разведки Сергей Нарышкин оговорился и сказал, что поддерживает решение о принятии Донецкой и Луганской народных республик в состав России. После того как президент Владимир Путин уточнил, что на заседании обсуждают вопрос признания их независимости, тот заявил, что поддерживает признание суверенитета самопровозглашенных республик.

    В ноябре 2021 года недавно избранный мэр Краснодара Андрей Алексеенко оговорился и во время заседания городской думы отметил, что «горожане ждут от властей разговоров, а не конкретных дел».

  62. Jen in Edinburgh says

    EDIT: Jen, tell him.

    Tell him what? I am lost as to my part in this 🙂

    Nothing wrong with going to the Fringe, although if you actually want to see Edinburgh there are better times. Not Hogmanay, though.

  63. “The Dublin college is also a player in the UK surgical scene.”

    Some of those bodies based in the Republic of Ireland which retain “Royal” in their name justify this on the basis that they retain the all-island responsibility that they had, before partition, when the Royal title was granted. Where such responsibility was only ever symbolic this is an easy claim to make. Dunno to what extent all this applies to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

  64. Surely the “Royal” refers to Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair.

  65. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Anyway, David, consider yourself tellt.

  66. Hah, I recall now that my friend who lives between Sofia and Edinburgh also told me something like that, that the Fringe is not the best time to visit if I want her to show me around.

  67. David Eddyshaw says

    @Jen: OK.

  68. V: … lives between Sofia and Edinburgh

    In Weibersbrunn?

  69. It’s ambiguous, and Brett was employing the ambiguity to make a joke. The more idiomatic way to say it would be “divides her time between.”

  70. @languagehat: Is there a post missing here?

    I posted that snarky comment precisely because, while there is an ambiguity, the semantics of “between A and B” strongly favor an interpretation corresponding to a locus somewhere in between* the cited locations. Pragmatically, of course, this is absurd, but I found it funny because the plain meaning and the intended one were so obviously at odds.

    * With the assistance of the Web, I found the nearest municipality to the midpoint (along a great circle) between the two, although, really, any place situated along the geodesic would fit the description.

  71. Stu Clayton says

    any place situated along the geodesic would fit the description

    But not the endpoints themselves, Sofia and Edinburgh. I hold this truth to be self-evident, that no two loci are created equal, so nothing can be between itself and another thing.

  72. David Eddyshaw says

    Since achieving enlightenment as a result of Hat’s koan about languages in which all words are silent, I now realise that all loci are, in fact, identical. Even Sofia and Edinburgh. Perhaps especially Sofia and Edinburgh.
    Namburbi, man!

  73. @languagehat: Is there a post missing here?

    Yes, V deleted a comment expressing confusion about your comment.

  74. Stu Clayton says

    There appears to be a lot of satori sloshing about at the moment. My sox are still dry, though.

  75. jack morava says

    @ DE,

    [de Selby] is alleged to have put it into practice by travelling from Bath to Folkestone though the use of picture postcards of the supposed route, barometric instruments, clocks and a device to regulate gaslight to simulate sunlight at various “times” of day.

  76. Brett: yeah, I figured that was the mid-point between Sofia and Edinburgh, along great-circle lines. It’s been difficult to sleep recently, some chronic pain.

  77. David Eddyshaw says

    de Selby

    What is “bodhisattva” in Irish?

  78. I figure the midpoint at Meierhöfer Seite, south of Weißenstadt in Bavaria (or, if you want to be a wisenheimer, a spot in the Pacific a few hundred km SE of the Chatham Islands).

    (If you’re driving, it’s at about Eisenach).

  79. A friend of mine hitchhiked from Sofia to Amsterdam in less than 48 hours. I think that’s a record of a kind.

  80. So between the North and South poles is anywhere?

  81. PlasticPaddy says

    I am afraid you will be disappointed…
    From Irish Wikipedia:
    “Tá daoine ann a bhfuil soilsiú acu, nach bhfuil siad marbh fós agus nach bhfuil siad ina mBúdaí fós, go dtugtar Bodhisattva orthu. ”

    = There are people who have [attained] enlightenment, who are not yet dead and who have not yet become Buddhas, that are called “Bodhisattva”.

  82. Annette Pickles says

    What is “bodhisattva” in Irish?

    I feel like there is a joke I am not getting here…

    “Bod… Is áit bheatha.”? “Bod… Is áit bhá.”? “Bod ‘s at-bheatha.”? ““Bod ‘s at-bhá.”? (at, “swelling”)

  83. The National Terminology Database for Irish has 140 terms in category “Buddhism”

    I see that “dharma” can be rendered as “dharma” or “darma”.

  84. David Eddyshaw says

    Well, I suppose English doesn’t have a word for “bodhisattva” either.

  85. David Marjanović says

    My sox are still dry, though.

    Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse, sont-elles sèches ou archi-sèches ?

  86. dravsi: nope, that’s the equator. It’s rather that any point on the Earth’s surface and its opposite point have an “equator” of sorts, and those are the great circles; that is the shortest path by air between any other two points that are on the same great circle.

  87. Lars Mathiesen says

    I failed recently to make an impression on someone who thought the “Western hemisphere” was well defined. Or at least that America was squarely in it. Asking where they thought the West Pole was had no effect.

    In Danish “the south pole” and “southern Poland” are homonyms. Hilarity may ensue, as in sending letters to Sydpolen by balloon from Copenhagen.

  88. I failed recently to make an impression on someone who thought the “Western hemisphere” was well defined. Or at least that America was squarely in it.

    Both those things are true, unless by “well defined” you mean “defined in some unmistakably scientific way,” a qualification which few definitions can stand up to. Encyclopaedia Britannica:

    Western Hemisphere, part of Earth comprising North and South America and the surrounding waters. Longitudes 20° W and 160° E are often considered its boundaries. Some geographers, however, define the Western Hemisphere as being the half of Earth that lies west of the Greenwich meridian (prime meridian, 0° longitude) continuing to the 180th meridian. According to this scheme, the Western Hemisphere includes not only North and South America but also portions of Africa, Europe, Antarctica, and Asia.

  89. Lars Mathiesen says

    I like the second definition because it puts the West Pole in the Galapagos Islands instead of mid-ocean.

    But yeah, the person thought it was naturally / astronomically defined without recourse to the Eurocentric view of East and West, instead of starting from “the half of the globe with America in it”. If you are stood in Australia, that’s the East innit. Or would be, if you ignore common usage.

  90. Well, according to any definition it would include parts of Antarctica.

  91. In Danish “the south pole” and “southern Poland” are homonyms.

    Well, a relative residing in Adelaide, SA, has told me that some of the letters sent to him made a detour via South Africa.

  92. Which reminds me: I just read that someone realized that the very rich and very white Elon Musk is, technically, African-American.

  93. If the Fortunete Isles… Alexandria… Paris… etc. go under the ground/sea, we have a problem.

    If they migrate to the pole, we have a problem too.

  94. Lars Mathiesen says

    Like American, African in African-American means “what US people mean when they say it.” Technicalities don’t get a look-in, neither Musk or Qadafi qualify. But unlike American, the usage is not common in Europe; black or the equivalent seems to be the most common, though the sensitivity to Black African descendant phenotypes is tuned much lower than in the US. If the US press calls the Harry&Megan PLC kids black, nobody over here will know what they are talking about.

    (In Danish, brun is gaining some terrain as the accepted word for PoC. FWIW. But the wristbands for the World Pride last August had added brown and black stripes to the rainbow of earlier years– I don’t know if that represents a perceived division or just different feelings about what colour to use for non-whites as a unitary group. In any case, I think it was more to show solidarity with the very real struggle than to suggest a combined cause — I’m not party to the politics of it, but I haven’t seen anybody adding skin colour letters to LBTIQAA++ yet).

    Ditto Hispanic, come to think of it. Can you be Hispanic and African-American at the same time, in the US view of things? EDIT: Yes, but only since the 2000 census.

  95. Lars Mathiesen says

    I doubt you’ll find any permanent residents of Antarctica who that confuses. The 20W meridian does cut Iceland in two, though. They should put up a sign and charge admission, if they haven’t done that already.

    Hella does end up in the Western hemisphere by some 12 miles.

  96. Speaking of Iceland, is Faxaflói to be pronounced [ˈfaksaˌflouːɪ] or [ˈfaxsaˌflouːɪ], as can be heard here at 12s in?

  97. Jen in Edinburgh says

    Was it one of the Sheens/Estevezes who was having trouble getting people to believe that you could have a Spanish name yet be white European?

  98. Lars Mathiesen says

    Faxaflói: I think somebody doesn’t know that [] means narrow IPA or is a non-native and overlooked a rule — according to WP you do get a velar fricative in that position.

    I’m not a native either, so I’m not editing it.

  99. David Marjanović says

    The 20W meridian does cut Iceland in two, though.

    So does the Mid-Atlantic Ridge…

    [] means narrow IPA

    Without context it means neither “IPA” nor “narrow”. It just means “some kind of phonetic transcription”, as opposed to phonemic (//) or morphophonemic (||).

    If the US press calls the Harry&Megan PLC kids black, nobody over here will know what they are talking about.

    Or Megan herself, or Colin “Paleface” Powell – I can see it after it’s been pointed out, but would not have noticed on my own anytime soon.

  100. David Eddyshaw says

    I was living in Ghana when Colin Powell was in the news, and recall being actually surprised on reading in some American source that he was “black.” Any Ghanaian would have called him “white” without a second thought on the matter.*

    I presume this is the poisonous legacy of the “one drop” thing, long since internalised even by its victims in the US.

    * To be fair, this is cultural as much as anything. Black Americans in Ghana looking for their roots can be taken aback to find that as far as the locals are concerned, they are “white”, regardless of actual skin colour. And I think I’ve mentioned before my Sri Lankan colleague who got quite upset about how Ghanaians consistently described him as “white.”

  101. Just to be clear, for those from overseas: To a conventional American eye, Colin Powell clearly appeared “black ” whereas Megan Markle does not. This is mostly as the results of their physical features, but clothing and grooming styles also play a role.

  102. PlasticPaddy says

    I imagined what de meant is that US blacks have different speech delivered with a different rhythm, different clothes from different fabrics in different styles worn differently, different size, shape, body language and even body odour (from eating different quantities of different foods), all of these things trumping the mere optical effect of skin colour and placing them firmly in the “white” camp…

  103. Lars Mathiesen says

    Megan Markle does not — good to know, but that’s why I mentioned the press — the shouting about “ENGLAND HAS A BLACK PRINCESS!!!11!!” echoed even over here. Or maybe that was on Facebook…

  104. John Cowan says


    The usual AmE pronunciation (which I share) is /ɹoʊˈmæntɪk~ək/ with unreduced first vowel.

    Orthopaedic surgeons have a reputation among fellow-medics for not being particularly cerebral

    In theezum parts they are known as carpenters, a metaphor I heartily endorse. (Setting a leg bone with a brace and bit, you know.)

  105. @Lars Mathiessen:

    the wristbands for the World Pride last August had added brown and black stripes to the rainbow of earlier years– I don’t know if that represents a perceived division or just different feelings about what colour to use for non-whites as a unitary group. In any case, I think it was more to show solidarity with the very real struggle than to suggest a combined cause

    That’s probably following the Progress Pride flag, explained thus by its designer: ‘the light blue, pink and white stripes represent trans and non-binary individuals and the brown and black ones represent marginalised People of Colour (POC) communities. The black stripe has a double meaning as it is also intended for “those living with AIDS and the stigma and prejudice surrounding them, and those who have been lost to the disease”’ (

  106. Lars Mathiesen says

    The one for World Pride 2021 didn’t have the trans / enby colors, or anything like those inverted chevrons. So if they took it from the Progress Pride one, they did it in a weird way.

  107. Ah, then we’re probably speaking of the More Colors, More Pride version, the first one to add stripes for POC. Queer vexillographers have been busy the past few years!

  108. Lars Mathiesen says

    I admit that my first reaction was that the oppression of LBTQ+ and POC by majority society wasn’t logically linked with each other, so the combination of concerns might not make either side stronger. But the linked article is not the first time I’ve heard of white male homosexuals feeling powerful enough to kick down at other groups (trans, NB and POC in particular) and so it makes sense to include those groups in “their” flag as a (movement-internal) reminder that they didn’t win the battle alone.

  109. On the improbability of pre-European Polynesian voyages to Antarctica

    An extraordinary claim “without commensurate evidence”. Debunked in part by language sleuthing: Rarotongans (pre-European contact) have no word for ‘ice’, ‘snow’ or ‘frozen’ — not surprisingly. The words that got translated from a myth as ‘frozen sea’ by those pushing the claims really mean ‘foamy sea’.

  110. That would have been a much tougher sell for Columbus. “Really boys, the world is round. Put your coats on. I’m quite confident that if we just stick it out sailing north, we’ll circle up to Ceylon and India.”

  111. The culprit seems to be Smith 1899 the imaginative translator

    … depends crucially upon Smith’s translation of ‘tai-uka-a-pia’ as the ‘frozen sea’, where ‘tai-uka’ means frozen sea and ‘pia’ is a metaphor for whiteness …
    the ‘tai-uka’ translation is linguistically improbable. The Dictionary of Cook Islands Languages: Rarotongan (2016) has ‘uka or ‘uka’uka’ as foam or froth and ‘ukātai’ as sea-foam or spume. Smith knew that ‘tai-uka’ was cognate with the primary Māori meaning of ‘huka-tai’ as sea foam or white-caps …

    And Aotearoa/NZ Māori indeed has ‘huka’ = foam, froth — extended to snow “– also a general term for any of the other white forms of precipitation, i.e hail and frost.” [MaoriDictionary]

    But then we’ve plenty of snow & ice here. You’d need a word for it.

    Ooh, in the paper page 4 a use of ‘repose’ in the passive. Don’t think I’ve seen that before:

    little confidence can be reposed in the actuality of Hongi’s(1925) story …

  112. Per Wiktionary, huka ‘snow’ and huka ‘sugar’ are unrelated. The latter is borrowed from English.

  113. huka ‘sugar’ … borrowed from English.

    Yes, that’s an entirely regular borrowing: Te Reo Māori

    * has no sibilants
    * has a nasal velar [ŋ] — always syllable-initial, but no voiced velar plosive [ɡ]
    * has consonants appearing only syllable-initial (C)V(V). (not that English ‘sugar’ has a trailing consonant)

    I guess too many of the consonants had already been snapped up by Eastern Europeans. Te Reo doesn’t have quite so few of them as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.

  114. I remember watching some stupid movie drama about the Easter Islanders deforesting the island in order to build all those statues, and then the chiefs responsible for that sail away on an iceberg who they think is a ship sent by the gods as reward for the statue-building. That must have been inspired by this “frozen sea” business.

  115. By pure serendipity [**], another very silly NZ-set movie. 1954 The Seekers, starring Jack Hawkins, Glynis Johns. I’ve linked to the opening rather than a trailer, because at 30 seconds in is some very non-Māori chanting.

    They did actually shoot this in NZ — I recognise most of the tourist-enticing locations behind the credits in the first couple of minutes. (You can stop watching after that.)

    A funny story from the shooting:

    … there was a problem with Moana, the chief’s young wife whom the novel presents as a feisty, romantic and beautiful heroine. Producer George Brown travelled to New Zealand, where he interviewed some 400 young Māori women for the role, but all of them proved “too reticent and dignified”.

    The (NZ) author of the novel, John Guthrie real name John Brodie, seems another sad story of colonial life: dead at 49, and only married three years.

    [**] There’s a glossy bimonthly magazine ‘New Zealand Memories’ I’ve only ever seen in coffee shops and waiting rooms. This month’s has a piece on John Guthrie/Brodie. He seems to have had no participation in actual Māori culture.

    Movie released in the States as Land of Fury — which is why I couldn’t find it at first.

  116. W T actual F ?!

    We had tested several Māori girls, some of them beautiful, but somehow the cameras didn’t take to them. You know how people photograph differently from the way they really look… Well, when we stumbled across Laya Raki and tested her, she photographed ideally for the part. She looks more like a Māori than a Māori.
    [A publicist for the film said]

    The hell she does.

    Laya Raki née Brunhilde Marie Alma Herta Jörns … “played the role of the Māori chieftain’s seductive wife in The Seekers and created a worldwide stir by baring her breasts, 10 years before Rudi Gernreich’s topless swimsuit made headline news.”

    Well even today ‘Māori girls’ are demure. That’s why they wouldn’t have a bar of the movie. (For example nobody on a beach will just wrap a towel round themselves to change into their togs. Every beach has changing rooms.)

  117. Ms Raki’s oevre. I assume sanitised for the promo.

    Travesty! Straight out of (a very bad amateur production of) ‘The Rite of Spring’.

  118. At least in The Rite of Spring the girl dies at the end.

  119. Te Reo doesn’t have quite so few of them [consonants] as ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi.

    Specifically Maori has 10, Hawaiian has 8. Maori /ŋ/ merged onto Hawaiian /n/ (there goes one consonant), and Maori /f/ (written wh) is split between Hawaiian /w~v/ and /h/ (but on what principle I don’t know), which merged with existing /w~v/ and /h/ (and there goes the other consonant). There is also a chain shift in Hawaiian: /t/ > /k/ and /k/ > /ʔ/, but it doesn’t cause any mergers or splits, since Hawaiian has no /t/ and Maori has no /ʔ/.

    (Hawaiian l vs. Maori r is just a matter of spelling, but we have to reconstruct both for PPn because Tongan shifts /*r/ to zero but not /*l/, whereas elsewhere they are merged as /r~l/. PPn /*s/ merges to /h/ except in Samoic, but to /ʔ/ in Cook Islands Maori. Finally PPn /*ʔ/ is preserved in Tongan and variably preserved in a few other languages but completely lost elsewhere. And that makes 13 consonants for PPn.)

    This is still a lot compared to Central Rotokas, a non-Austronesian language of PNG, which has only /p/, /t/, /k/, /β~b~m/, /ɾ~n~l~d/, and /ɡ~ɣ~ŋ/.

  120. Proto Polynesian *w > /w~v/ in both Māori and Hawaiian. PPn *s > /h/ in both. PPn *f > /f~ʍ/ in Māori, /h/ in Hawaiian (merging with the reflex of *s).

    PPn *s is also preserved in the language of Tongareva (Penrhyn) in the Cook Islands.

    Rurutu in the Australs is down to 7 consonant phonemes.

  121. @AntC: I hope you are okay down there? I heard you had Tornadoes and an earthquake?

  122. Yes. And let’s not forget Xerib in Turkey.

  123. I wrote Xerîb almost two weeks ago and still haven’t heard back.

  124. I hope he is okay…

  125. @Hans @AntC: I hope you are okay down there?

    Thanks Hans for asking. I personally am ok. We had a lot of rain and wind in the (mid-)South Island — worse and going on for longer than a winter storm, but the drains coped/a few trees blown over. Severe shortages in the shops of random fruit/veg.

    Most of the North Island is definitely not okay. Several deaths, and counting. Thousands still unaccounted for/power and comms knocked out across wide swathes.

    The earthquake was a nothingburger in comparison: very deep and out to sea. So everybody felt a prolonged rolling. A TV fell off its shelf in Taranaki …

    So yeah, early this week was feeling like the end times.

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