Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Waewae takahia kia kino!

Céline Graciet is one of the best English-French translators in the country, but she is clearly not much good at translating from Te Reo Māori to English or, probably, to French. Having no knowledge of the New Zealand language, she merely made a guess at what the All Blacks might be trying to convey with their pre-match Haka, and has had to confess that it was wide of the mark.

What the chant actually means is apparently:

Slap the hands against the thighs! Puff out the chest! Bend the knees! Let the hip follow! Stamp the feet as hard as you can! It is death! It is death! It is life! It is life! This is the hairy person Who caused the sun to shine! Keep abreast! Keep abreast! The rank! Hold fast! Into the sun that shines!

How surprising! Apart from one bit this is quite gentle stuff, the sort of thing with which my sister might have used to encourage her class. Not a bit terrifying.

On Céline’s website there is the original, a YouTube clip of them doing it, and her translation. Hopelessly inaccurate this may be, but to my mind it is much better than the original in that it conveys the right spirit and has the desired effect on the listener. The All Blacks would do well to translate it back and use it to replace the existing rather feeble words.

But I suppose it doesn’t matter since no-one understands the words; if they were actually a quotation from Lady Windermere’s Fan the performance would be just as intimidating. However tough and menacing other teams’ players may look, they could never compete with this: Men of Harlech, say, even with what they call in the valleys a nice bit of 'armonising, wouldn't cut the mustard. It might be better for them to take an entirely different approach and come mincing on to the pitch singing, falsetto, “Shine Through My Dreams” from Glamorous Night. This wouldn’t frighten the other side, but sure as hell it would make them feel puzzled and uncertain, and thus put them off their game.

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