The New Zealand Geographic Board has advised the Minister of Land Information that the city of Wanganui should be renamed Whanganui. This is proving to be trollbait for rednecks. In standard Maori WH is pronounced /f/ and in the local dialect around the city the H was silent and the pronunciation was /w/. 3News in reporting the news was diplomatic and pronounced it as ‘hwanganui’. It’s up to the minister to decide now. My suspicion that as a member of a right-wing populist government he will come down on the side of the loud voices.

My own feeling is the H should be included. The name comes from Whanga, harbour, + nui, augmentive, big, large: Big Harbour. I understand that *wanga is not a word in Maori. Pelliondance can correct me on that. Does that mean that Wanganui translates as Big Wang? Their mayor is certainly behaving like Biggus Dickus!

Public Address System found this quote on Papers Past from the Manawatu Herald of 18 April 1890.

The Manawatu Herald quotes as follows from the local school inspector’s report:— « Pronunciation of names in the colony should receive more attention from several teachers. For instance, that ‘ang’ in Wanganui, Tauranga, & is pronounced by them like ang in ‘hang,’ seems very curious. » The Herald thinks that the critic should have gone farther and indicated how the vowel should be sounded. Does he adopt the vulgar pronunciation, which turns the a into the o in « song »? The a is the same as in « Rangiora » —longer than the English vowel in « hang, » and not quite so long as the a in « far. » The g is commonly mispronounced. In the Maori the ng is always inseparable, and is very commonly an initial sound. In divisions of words this is often overlooked by the comp. « Tau-ra-nga » is the proper division—not « Tau-ran-ga. » The Herald pertinently asks why, if the Inspector stands up for correctness, he falls into the common error of dropping the h from « Whanganui. »

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