Useful Word Wednesday – Pukumahi

Today’s useful word is pukumahi, which means busy.

pukumahi – busy

Ok, so that’s kind of useful to know. Now you can say, “I’ve had a busy week” – right?

Ah, no, there’s the trick. You can’t use pukumahi to say you’ve had a busy week, or a busy day, you can only say that you’ve been busy this week. In other words, pukumahi can only apply to a person – you’re saying that the person is busy. This is a bit more obvious when you look at some of the other meanings for pukumahi – industrious, hard-working, diligent. You can’t say that your week was hard-working! So, perhaps our useful word should be remembered as follows:

pukumahi – industrious, hard-working

So, for example, a conversation could go like this:

  • Kei te pēhea koe? – How are you?
  • E pukumahi ana au! – I am/have been busy!

So, if you want to say you’ve been busy lately, which is something we in our society often want to say, then you can use pukumahi and people will know what you mean.

For myself though, I actually don’t like to use it because it seems like a bit of a brag to say that I’ve been so hardworking! (Plus that’s usually not even true…) Below are some examples from two of the online Māori dictionaries using pukumahi to describe another person as hard-working.

From Māori Dictionary online:

  • He tino pukumahi hoki ō mātau mātua. –  And our parents were really hard-working.
  • He wahine pukumahi a Te Paea… – Te Paea was a hard-working woman…

From Ngata Dictionary online:

  • He tauira pukumahi a ia. – She is a hard-working student.
  • He tangata pukumahi taku matua. – My father was an industrious man.

I think the word pukumahi also provides an interesting opportunity to reflect on what we mean when we use the word “busy” – sometimes we make ourselves busy regardless of the amount of work present, sometimes we take pride in being busy, other times we really mean that we were over-whelmed, some times “chaotic” is a nice word to describe our week.

If anyone knows the “correct” way to say you’ve had a busy week in Māori, please leave a comment! I normally make up a sentence about there having been a lot of work, but I don’t know what the natural, idiomatic Māori might be.

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