Once again, ladies and gentlemen, a Happy New Year to you! This month, I decided that I wanted to be free from the same old things that come up in my reading month after month. It's/Its Their/Their/They're Your/You're and all the things like that. Instead, I'm focussing on a New Zealand theme for once, but the rest of the world might appreciate the content too.
Mana is an important concept in New Zealand culture, particularly in Maori culture. Integrity, charisma, prestige. Those are the sorts of things we associate with mana. If we have the respect of those around us, or do something in a dignified manner, then we are said to act with mana. A bad example follows:
"Get your Glocks out, get your Glocks out," Raewyn Wallace shouted as her daughter smashed a bottle near a television camera outside the High Court at Wellington yesterday afternoon. The Wallace family's anger and dissension spilled over outside court in the aftermath of the acquittal. The jury took three hours to reach its verdict. The outburst occurred moments after a spokesman for the family had told waiting media that the family was grateful for a fair trial and wanted to leave with dignity and their mana intact.However, the term mana is so widespread in this land that it is understood by everybody, regardless of their heritage. Unfortunately, there are those who think it is appropriate to use the word in places where it does not belong. In the book of Exodus, chapter 16, we too often hear about mana from heaven. Unfortunately, this is not what we should hear. The word is MANNA - two ns, short vowels. Exodus 16:31 - The people of Israel called the food manna. It was like a small white seed, and tasted like thin cakes made with honey.
Please don't confuse the two words. If you do, you will surely make a nonsense of both of them. I have come across many people reading the scriptures to us who talk about mana from heaven, and it makes my flesh creep every time. What finally spurred me to write this article, however, was seeing it in the introduction to a book we own. It wouldn't be right for me to name it, of course, but its ISBN number is 0-7900-0470-4.
Going back to the original point, please bear in mind that manna means "what is it?" because the children of Israel didn't know what it was. So we add this to the list of things with odd names, in such a way as Captain Cook did so famously. Wanting to know the name of an island, he pointed down, and the islanders told him that was "Tanna", which means "earth or "ground". So the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was named. Somehow the island of "Erromango" (a name which always amuses the Japanese) was named in a similar way but apparently the term means "this is a man". Maybe these are true, maybe not. We know that many things receive very odd names through international misunderstandings. That, however, may be my opportunity for next month.