When Grandpa Was A Boy, Were There Any Dinosaurs?

Tag archive: New Zealand

Last Of The Moriori

1933: At the end of 1835, the brig Rodney ferried two large parties of Maori migrants from New Zealand to the Chatham Islands, 900 kilometres to the east.

The warlike newcomers overwhelmed the peaceable Moriori inhabitants. “We took possession,” boasted a Maori, “in accordance with our customs and we caught all the people. Not one escaped. Some ran away from us, these we killed, and others we killed – but what of that?”

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Zzxjoanw

1912: The Music Lovers’ Cyclopedia, edited by Rupert Hughes, defined zzxjoanw as a Maori word meaning “drum”, “fife” or “conclusion”. It would be a difficult word to pronounce in any language, and more so in Maori, which does not contain the letters z, x or j. (Evidence that editors are not without a sense of humour.)

Source: Michael Quinion, Port Out, Starboard Home and Other Language Myths (2005), p. 278

Hot Pants

1931: On 12 August, the Hawera Star surprised readers with a story about exploding trousers. Richard Buckley, a local farmer, had placed his wet trousers in front of the fire to dry. As they warmed up, they “exploded with a loud report”.

Buckley’s trousers weren’t the only combustible clothing. Elsewhere in New Zealand, a load of laundry burst into flames on a washing line and a farmer’s trousers began to smoulder while he was actually wearing them.

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Chinese Gooseberries

1966: In the middle of the Cold War, New Zealand fruit exporters got round the political touchiness of the name “Chinese gooseberry” by devising a new name: the “kiwi fruit”.

Source: John Ayto, Twentieth Century Words (1999), p. 416

Chinese gooseberries, also known as kiwi fruit, photographed by André Karwath

Bedside Comforts

1921: Staying at a hotel above the Swiss town of Montreux, Katherine Mansfield kept on her bed at night “a copy of Shakespeare, a copy of Chaucer, an automatic pistol & a black muslin fan”.

Source: Katherine Mansfield, The Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, IV: 1920–1921, ed. Vincent O’Sullivan and Margaret Scott (1996), pp. 244–5