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Subject: 'Puhoi' a word that survived time
Question: I'm having problems recognizing the word ''puhoi'' as Maori in origin. I have two theories. One involves my Romanian heritage. The other one involves an Indo-European language with intricate turnout in regards to this particular word. In Romanian (and I am including Old Romanian, or ancient Dacian words that survived history into modern times), ''puhoi'' means floods. It is a highly-contextualized term to refer to the effect of hard sudden rain flooding villages especially villages close to the mountains. From an official website of the town Puhoi located in New Zealand, the word ''puhoi'' (spelled and pronounced the same as in Romanian) means ''slow water'' and it is claimed as Maori in origin. However, the town Puhoi was first established by a group of Bohemians who settled there in 1863. From a linguistic point of view, I found out that the Maori tribes in that particular region had already lost their vernacular. They were speaking some kind of English at the time the Bohemians came. How come they would claim the word ''puhoi'' is Maori, then? I am at an impasse. If anyone could help me understand this word could mean two opposite things (flood versus slow water), I appreciate it mostly. Thank you.

Reply: I know neither Maori nor Romanian languages. But I don't see much problem with the situation you describe. It isn't at all unusual for place-names that were originally coined in a particular language to go on being used long after that language is extinct in the area (or everywhere). For instance, very many river names in European countries derive from languages which have not been spoken near those rivers for thousands of years; in the USA, many towns and other place-names derive from Red Indian languages although all the inhabitants now speak English. As for the sound "puhoi" meaning one thing in Maori and an opposite thing in Romanian: there are so many languages, and each one has so many different words, that you are sure to find lots of cases like this, just by coincidence, if you look hard enough. The Czech word "no" means "yes", for instance.

Geoffrey Sampson
Reply From: Geoffrey Richard Sampson      click here to access email
 
Date: 18-Nov-2013
 
Other Replies:
  1. Re: 'Puhoi' a word that survived time    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (26-Nov-2013)

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