Wednesday 26 August 2020

The long and the short of it

I've been writing today about the longest place name not only in New Zealand, but also THE WORLD! It's in the southern Hawkes Bay and it's "Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturi pukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu" which means "the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as 'landeater’, played his flute to his loved one". It's also a bit of a cheat, since there's good reason to say it should be written as the sentence that it is, and not a single word.

However, as it is, at 85 letters, it's officially the world's longest place name, sweeping aside the feeble competition from Llanfair-etc in Anglesey, in Wales, with its piffling 58 letters. It was 2009 when I went there, and I can't remember much now about the town, apart from the famous sign at the railway station:
Without a doubt, though, there's more to see there than there is at Taumata Hill, which you get to by driving 60 winding, hilly kilometres from Waipukurau, hardly a vibrant centre itself. It's just a middling-sized hill surrounded by farmland - but they did do their best with the sign, which is 10 metres long these days. When I went there, back in 1980, to the accompaniment of increasingly impatient tutting from the OH behind the wheel, it was just a standard yellow AA sign, if somewhat larger than usual.
It sent me off on a brief tangent to find out what the country's shortest name is, but that only brought up some pretty standard Anglo-Saxon like Gore, and Cust. I did discover, though, that there are many countries in the world with one-letter place names. Most of them are in Scandinavia and one is in the Lofoten Islands in Norway, where I went in 2018, although not as far south as  (that should actually be a little circle over the A, but I couldn't find one like that).
It was a pretty dull day there, weather-wise, which is probably standard, though of course the myriads of Instagram photos of Lofoten are uniformly bright and colourful. It was good to get there, though, and have a drive around. (I was the only one, it turned out, in our little group from the cruise ship, who had a driver's licence with me, so I did the driving, which was fortunately less challenging than it could have been, because the roads were so quiet and the other drivers so considerate). 
Pleasing clean-lined bridges, villages curled around their little ports full of fishing boats, racks with cod drying on them, pointy hills and pointier mountains with snow on even in July, red barns, yellow houses, orange kelp, sheep in green fields... It was lovely, even under low cloud. 

1 comment:

the queen said...

I wonder what it’s called when it’s at home. “I was born in Taumatea?”


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