So I have decided on a new Māori name for Polish people/people of Polish descent. This was done in consultation with zero Māori people and one Polish person (me), so it’s not exactly official. I’m not sure how many Polish speakers of Māori there are – there’s at least one other than me – but hopefully they will like this name.
If you have followed the Ngāti/Ngāi series (or just already know these things) you will know that Ngāti indicates the iwi’s founder from whom the iwi is descended, and that Ngāti is also used nowadays to designate and name non-iwi groups. So, the name for people of Polish descent should be Ngāti … but Ngāti what?
There is a legend that goes as follows. One day there were three brothers who went on a hunting trip together, named Lech, Czech and Rus. Each brother followed a different prey and headed in a different direction. Rus went East, Czech went West, and Lech, the eldest, went North. There Lech found himself face to face with a white eagle silhouetted against the red sky of the setting sun. Taking this as a good sign, he settled there, and in doing so, founded Poland.
As it turned out, he made a very poor choice as despite the fertile land, the country was pretty indefensible as well as a major thoroughfare for many armies in the area. That’s not part of the legend but its always good to know where to place the blame, and the blame is on the shoulders of Lech, who could be said to be the ancestor of Poland.
Now that we have the name of the ancestor, we need to make it fit as a Māori word. The only sound within his name that exists in Māori is the “e”, so we have to translate the “l” and the “ch” into Māori sounds. The letter “l” usually becomes an “r”. The “ch” is a kind of cross between a “k” and a “h” sound – I feel more of an “h” personally. You can’t end a Māori word in a consonant, so we need to add a letter on to the end, resulting in a transliteration of “Lech” to “Reha”. You can see also that if we went with a “k” for the “ch” we’d end up with “Reka” which would just be confusing. The word “reha” does not appear to already exist, although there are a few Māori people named Reha. And thus, I have coined the term Ngāti Reha for those of Polish descent, barring any discoveries that it is somehow horribly inappropriate.
Polska – Ngāti Reha
Ngāti/Ngāi Series of posts: