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Thread: Pakeha: an offensive slur or an everyday word?

  1. #1
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    Default Pakeha: an offensive slur or an everyday word?

    I had always thought that pakeha was a term that was perfectly acceptable in polite company. However, in the last few weeks two people have told me they believe it to be an offensive word.

    Both of them are English women. The first was a 23 year old who has been here for about 4 months having previously travelled in Australia for a while. This was in Wellington.

    The second is a woman who lives in the far north. She's lived here now for about 8 years. I used the word pakeha and she told me it was deeply offensive and that she disliked hearing it, adding that she is not a 'white pig' which is what she beleived it meant. We were sitting in the audience at a classical concert at the time. Ironically, shortly after this conversation, the compere was introducing the next performance and said something about all the cultures here including pakeha, maori, pacific islander, etc. So it seems it's okay to say on stage at a concert that, if the weather had been better, would have taken place in the grounds of Government House.

    Does anyone here find it offensive? or heard of it being used in a derrogatory way?

  2. #2
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    No, it doesn't mean a white pig - as this article says, no Maori dictionary contains any derogatory meaning for the word at all. I feel that anyone being offended by its use is mistaken as to the origin. NZers I know just use it to distinguish ethnic background/culture if necessary. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81keh%C4%81

  3. #3
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    Hi Jacqi - no it is definitely not offensive. I am a Kiwi and have lived in NZ most of my life. I think historically it was an offensive term the Maoris used for 'White people' but nowdays its very common and doesn't have the same implications - I would say it is far more frequently used and considered to be more PC than the term 'White'. It's used commonly in surveys and the National census etc. So not to worry, you should not feel bad about using the word at all!

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    Hello and welcome.

  5. #5
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    Its historical usage was offensive, sort of like using the term ni**er to describe black people.

    I personally don't find words offensive (my view is that it isn't the word but the way in which it is used that could cause offense) - but I can understand why some people would find it so.

  6. #6
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    Also, words connotations change particularly when the group a word is used to describe adopts it, which is what has happened with pakeha.

  7. #7
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    Default ‘pakeha’, its origin and meaning

    http://www.maorinews.com/writings/pa...her/pakeha.htm:

    "This paper discusses the origins and range of meanings attributed to the term ‘Pakeha’, and outlines my own perspective on the term. There are no definitive oral or written records about the exact origins of the term ‘Pakeha’ and despite some beliefs about it meaning ‘White Pig’ or ‘Bugger Ya’, the term Pakeha is probably not the insult that some believe is the case. Many New Zealanders appear to dislike the term which refers to a New Zealander of caucasian descent, believing it to have negative connotations. However, there are also many who are not entirely sure of its exact meaning or origins. The purpose of this paper is to explore the various definitions and discuss deeper issues concerning ethnic identity that are involved in the concept of ‘Pakeha’ in today’s society.

    ...

    In conclusion, this paper has examined the meaning of ‘Pakeha’ in today’s society. Through this research and discussion I have been able to come to my own understanding and perspective on the term ‘Pakeha’. The term itself is derived from ‘Pakepakeha’, a mythical human-like being with fair skin and hair. Originally the Pakeha were the early European settlers, however, today ‘Pakeha’ is used to describe any peoples of non-Maori or non-Polynesian heritage. Pakeha is not an ethnicity but rather a way to differentiate between the historical origins of our settlers, the Polynesians and the Europeans, the Maori and the other. "


    I consider this article as very good one!

  8. #8
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    Its historical usage was offensive, sort of like using the term ni**er to describe black people.
    Do you have a source, please, James?

  9. #9
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    Just put the two words "Pakeha" and "offensive" into an internet search machine and you will find results; people expressing their feeling offended by this term.

    This feeling is generally based on a misunderstanding of this term "Pakeha" and only occasionally based on the context it is used in.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JandM View Post
    Do you have a source, please, James?
    Only source is my parents who were shocked with the fact that people were now openly called pakeha on tv and radio shows.

    It would appear that the origins of the word were non-derogatory; then it became used in a deregatory way, at least in some places; and then became non-derogatory again. Similar in some ways to the N-word but that is only non-derogatory now when used by some people and remains derogatory when used by others (which sort of goes back to my point that words by themselves can't be offensive - it is the way that they are used and the meaning behind them that causes the offense.

    Personally I'm not a Pakeha nor NZ European (nor Maori) as I find all of these terms divisive; I'm a New Zealander or a Kiwi.

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