whakamere – interesting
One word that has come up a lot at our noho (our stays at the marae) is “interesting” – it’s amazing how often people want to say that something is interesting! Finally, we have discovered the Māori word for interesting – whakamere. If you look up “interesting” in most dictionaries you’ll find a few other words, but most of them also mean things like “fun” which isn’t really the same. Whakamere is not in all the dictionaries, but you can find it in the Ngata Dictionary as interesting or intriguing.
This next bit is my thoughts and speculation about the origins of the word whakamere.
So now that we know the word, why is the word whakamere itself whakamere? Well, it’s whakamere that the word begins with whaka – often this would mean the word is a verb, and tends to embody the concept of causing something to happen or be. For example, whakaora means to resuscitate or heal. It combines whaka with ora which means well or alive. So whakaora is literally the concept of to cause to become well/alive, i.e. to heal or resuscitate (etc).
Mere (or Meremere) is the short name for Meremere-tū-ahiahi, aka Venus as the evening star (pretty much everyone named Venus separately in its two incarnations as the evening star and the morning star). Venus is particularly noticeable as the brightest item in the night sky after the moon, and often has myths associated with it where it competes with the moon for being the most beautiful, or similar things. If we check Ngata Dictionary, we see it has the word whakameremere meaning show off, endeavour to attract attention. Based on our earlier discussion of the meaning of whaka-, essentially we are saying that whakameremere means something like to be like Meremere; I don’t know the Māori thoughts on the evening star, but showing off and attracting attention is certainly consistent with the character of Venus in many cultures, and with the simple fact that it is very bright and distinctive.
Now – what is happening when something is “interesting”? It may not be “showing off” as such, but it has, by definition, attracted your attention and your interest! So, I think that whakamere essentially describes something that has caught your eye and attracted your interest, like Venus in the evening sky.