Women’s work

I  once went through a stage where I broke apart common words that used the prefix whaka- (meaning to make or to do) just to see what a difference it makes:

whaka to make + iti little = whakaiti humble
whaka to make + rongo hear = whakarongo listen
whaka to make + haere go = whakahaere organise

What about whakatāne? According to the Williams dictionary, it means to act like a man; the town Whakatāne is named for an event when a woman had to save the day (the waka, their goods, and all the women and children on board) by ‘playing the role of a man’.

Kia whakatāne au i ahau
Let me act as a man

Sure ok, that makes sense. So when Cinderella’s fairy godmother is spinning magic, perhaps she’d whakatangata the mice, whakawākena the pumpkin, and whakapounamu Cinderella’s shoes.

But then I came across this use of whaka:

Mahia ōu whakawāhine.
Mind your responsibilities.

Eh? I didn’t get it at all. Further reading of the whole original text in made me realise that the English translation was woefully inadequate. It should have read something like:

You girls stick to women’s work like cooking and cleaning the house, while we men (mātou) do important things like run meetings and petition government.

Hmph! We’ll skip  that for now, as this post is supposed to be about different uses of whaka-.

to do things as women do them
the things that women do

Now that makes whaka- a very useful little prefix. Another similar example I found used whaka-Māori.

E kore e taea e mātou whaka-Māori aua tini mahi a te Pākehā.
We with our Māori ways cannot match all the things that Pākehā do.

Like children with a new toy, my classmate and I were experimenting with possible uses…

he aha āu?!! he mea whakawāhine
what on earth are you up to?!! oh you know, just girls’ stuff

whakakēhua tana haere
he went like a ghost (quietly and invisibly)

… when our minds fell straight into the gutter:

to do it like missionaries do it

to do it like rabbits

I’m easily amused.


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