Sunday, February 25, 2007
New Hood: Ode in Apology to Helen Clark (After careful deliberation, on behalf of the New Zealand Media)
The latter might, among people who were reading certain newspapers during a certain period, give rise to comparisons with the work of Whim Wham. Comparisons such as, "That's wildly technically inferior to the work of Whim Wham!" or, "What's with the italics? Where are the arbitrarily capitalised words?" Anyway, if it did, any resemblance would not be entire coincidental.
Whim Wham (government name Allen Curnow - surely you've heard of him) delivered wry light verse to readers of the Christchurch Press (from 1937) and the New Zealand Herald until 1988, usually inspired by some item - or particular turn of phrase - from the week's news.
I myself only heard about all this through a review of the best-of compilation Whim Wham's New Zealand, which I managed to score as a Christmas present and have now - I'm pretty sure - actually read all of (it's easier to dip in and out).
He's also refreshingly difficult to pidgeonhole. I'm sure there are libertarians would be happy to wear some of his pieces on over-regulation or welfarism (or state-funded arts) as a t-shirt, yet he was equally curmugeonly about Rogernomics. We could make sense of this by imagining him in some middle ground between what were rather extreme situations, but perhaps he just liked to keep the state on its toes.
A little while back on the Public Address board there was mention of the apparently unkillable meme the "pakeha" means "something bad", as opposed to, well, "pakeha". And I made an unsatisfactorily vague reference to one particular poem. Here, in another place and far too late, are the details.
It seems that, speaking to the Waitangi Day Bill in 1960 - legislation Peter Dunne would have something to say about now - Mr R M Algie called the term "pakeha", among other things, "just a nickname and a vulgarism". Whim Wham, as was his way, grabbed the relevant quote to sit at the top of a poem, which he called called 'Unpakehaliamentary'.
I am a Pakeha and proud of it,The fact that Algie had complained of Maori having a big M but pakeha a small P gives added point to Mr Wham's habit of capitilising initial letters - if not whole words - to please himself. Having pointed out that there were several disputed and mostly innocuous derivations he closes:
Although I seldom brag aloud of it.
Our Forebears in this land (good Luck to them!)
Were given the Label, and it stuck to Them.
Good Maori and good English – Why, Ron,In the intervening 46 year we've opened up whole new field of argument over THE WORD. But for all Whim Wham's zingers (most unquoted - just get the book) I ge tthe feeling we still have plenty of Ron Algies out there too.
It's older than the Poet Byron!
Vulgar, you say? Now, that's absurd –
It can't be, when I USE THE WORD!