It’s so clear

For a little while now (only eight years or so!!) I’ve been making a basic mistake with the word mārama, and nobody ever thought to let me know. The worst part is that I use it all the time. So I feel it’s my duty to make sure none of you go through the best part of a decade as blithely unaware as myself.

Normally I would say something like this:

Kei te mārama koutou [ki aku kupu]?
Can you understand [what I’m saying]?

I remember years ago breaking down the word into it’s root parts: – white, clean, clear; rama – torchlight. What a beautiful way to describe the verb understand, the feeling of relief when you see spark of light in the darkness.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean to understand something, it’s not even a verb; it’s a stative meaning to be clear, understood, or transparent.

Kei te mārama aku kupu [ki a koutou]?
Is what I’m saying clear [to you]?

Whoops! That’s right, mārama is to be clear whether or not a person sees it.

He mārama tōna ātaahua, engari kāore anō kia mōhiotia e ngā taitamatāne.
She is clearly beautiful, but the boys haven’t yet realised it.

And it also means that the word whakamārama doesn’t break down as ‘to make (someone) understand’ as I thought, but ‘to illuminate (a thing)’.

Ka whakamāramatia ana tinihanga ki te iwi.
His deceptions were exposed to the people.

While I was looking for some examples of the use of mārama, I came across this one below and had another ‘well, duh’ moment; I remembered somebody had told me that mārama also translates as fluent but I didn’t think to ask how or why.

He mārama ia ki te kōrero Māori
She was a fluent speaker of Māori

i.e. She was clearly understandable at speaking Māori.

On the bright side, if I’d learnt this properly years ago I probably wouldn’t have spent a couple of hours looking at all the different ways you can translate the word mārama and I wouldn’t have come across these lovely wee phrases here.

mārama te titiro – unhindered gaze
mārama kehokeho te moana – ocean transparent as glass
katahi ka mārama ki ahau – then it dawned upon me
he mārama ana tuhi – her writing was legible
mārama tonu te hēnga – obvious error

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