What Dame Susan’s office really does all day!
We have an intriguing letter from some dame this week complaining about our use of language.
’Disappointing view of language’
I am writing to express disappointment and concern at your publication of a letter from T Brown, of Tauranga City, with heading: ‘Move over macrons: try an arselet’ as well as your Rogers Rabbits column ‘Boycott this nonsense - Stamp out invasion of the macrons’.
I understand your opinion – don’t agree, but understand it – but why all the profanity? ‘arselets’, ‘dick’, ‘dicks’, ‘stupid little dick’.
I know you’re trying to be funny but really, is this an editorial? It sounds more dictatorial, perhaps given your choice of language, even janitorial.
Spelling words properly isn’t about being politically correct, it’s about spelling and pronouncing them properly, correctly and without errors.
What kind of legacy are we leaving our children if we tell them we need to respect some languages and their conventions, but not others? A hugely significant pa site, Ot*moetai, is also a major suburb and home to many kids who deserve to know how to pronounce the name of the place they call home.
This issue isn’t about a M*ori name versus a P*keh* name: it’s about the correct spelling of the M*ori name. As I understand the changes will take place when the signs need replacing, therefore there’s no burden on the taxpayer either.
When Hinewehi Mohi first sung our national anthem in Maori at a Rugby World Cup match in England, there were howls of indignation. “How dare she!”, some cried. But 15 years later, singing ‘God of Nations’ in te reo is normal and sung loudly and proudly by thousands of Kiwi kids all over our country. Like South Africa, we publicly and proudly highlight our two national languages before every test. The centre of gravity of public opinion about te reo Maori has shifted significantly since 1999 and we have the All Blacks, Hinewehi Mohi, as well as thousands of kids and open-minded adults to thank for it.
Our children do not bat an eyelid at Maori words or culture, because it doesn’t threaten them and they know it’s one of the things that makes us Kiwis unique. They are much better at being global citizens than many of their elders.
Freedom of speech is a right: but freedom to send a ‘newspaper’ replete with swear words into the homes of Tauranga families?
This is not freedom of speech, this is just offensive. As the editor of a newspaper you have a responsibility to do the right thing.
Stop making a maunga out of a molehill.
Dame Susan Devoy,
Race Relations Commissioner,
and Tauranga ratepayer.
*Ironically, the macrons in this letter were not recognised by our page layout programme, Adobe InDesign - the industry standard page design system. The missing letters were presumably macrons which are not part of standard English and have been replaced with asterix. Neither, I might add, has the industry been consulted on any proposal to have extra symbols accepted, or imposed upon, professional media organisations.
The fuss started over macrons. As we’ve pointed out before, they are offensive little French symbols that, someone, somewhere, has decided we need to have insidiously penetrating our perfectly good English language.
Dame Susan Devoy, who also happens to be the Race Relations Commissioner, and also signs herself as a ‘Tauranga ratepayer’ (whatever that has to do with it) has taken issue with some of the language in Rogers Rabbits. Even though, her letter of complaint is about her views on decency and bugger all to do with race relations.
She complains about T Brown’s letter and also the use of the macron ‘arselet’. Not a well-known macron, but then neither was the dash thing until the Geographic Board planned to nail one on top of Otumoetai.
The Dame complains about the use of the word ‘Dick’ which I find extraordinary, since this was the name of several of my friends, neighbours and my dad’s cat.
I’m not sure where it falls in the Race Relations Commissioner’s job description, to spend public-funded time publicly commenting on the appropriateness of the naming of my Old Man’s moggy.
Or maybe dearest Susan has also been appointed Commissioner of Decency, or Commissioner of Potty Mouth Conversation, while we weren’t looking.
Spelling it out
I’m really comfortable with Otumoetai, its spelling and pronunciation. And all the other Maori names for so many of our wonderful places. I’m pleased to know the correct pronunciation, without having French instructions bastardising our language, like irritating sticky memo notes. Bring on te reo, it is to be celebrated and embraced. But Otumoetai is how we spell it.
And the Commissioner’s office ignorance stretches beyond that, as they don’t understand that the little-publicised arselet is pronounced with a silent S and the ET on the end is the French style ‘lay’ , phonetically sound like ‘Ayrrrlay’.
One can only ponder, does the Race Relations Commissioner have her mind in the gutter to assume that arselet is pronounced, well, arse-let?
Now I like Dame Susan and she’s done a lot of great work in the community and rates highly on the Reader’s Digest list of trusted people. But I have some concerns with this outburst. Is she complaining as Race Relations Commissioner, as per the signature on the letter? Well surely not, since the complaint is not a race-based one, that we know of. Although, there is a lot of irrelevant waffle there about singing the national anthem. Is she complaining as a Tauranga ratepayer? Well who knows, what relevance is that? I am a Tauranga ratepayer too. Or is she abusing her position as Race Relations Commissioner to bitch about a reaction against a pedantic PC intrusion into the lives of ordinary New Zealanders?
Position of attack
Now you’d think that if a reader had a problem with something published in the paper, they’d complain, as a citizen, to the editor. Or take it to the Press Council. But to write a letter under the title of the Race Relations Commissioner, in the office time of that position, from the office of that position; that is purely bully tactics. Abuse of a public position. This objection to language was sent from the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, in taxpayer time, on taxpayer resources, for what seems to be a private objection from Ms Devoy as a Tauranga ratepayer. Hello? Abuse of privilege?
Not just the Commissioner’s highly-paid salary abused here, but also that of Christine Ammunson, NZ Human Rights Commission’s senior media specialist. I would like to know their combined salaries and just how much this squandering of taxpayer dosh is costing us.
If Ms Devoy has a problem as a resident, why is it necessary to swing the hefty club of Commissioner? I say, it’s bullying by a civil servant, doing her personal bleating while being paid handsomely by the public. I am really disappointed, Susan.
This is clearly a case of the race relations office and the myriad of other PC nonsense outfits having too little to do, and being overpaid, at the expense of the long-suffering taxpayer.
Profanity? I fail to see how the word dick can be described as profanity, when some of the best blokes I’ve known are Dicks. It will be a sad day when the usually silent majority, such as T Brown, can’t express their opinions without being squashed from on high, by a Race Relations Commissioner who considers the family cat’s name to be unfit for repeating.
In my position of Commissioner of Preventing Wasteful Taxpayer Spending, I rule this as abuse of the position of the office of the Race Relations Commissioner.
We’re keen to hear readers’ thoughts:
NEXT WEEK: More on The Race Relations outfit; and some interesting revelations.