Nicknames and Names


I’ve had a range of nicknames over the years including ‘mini-windows’ and ‘four-eyes’. I have worn prescription specs from age 5 and it was common to tease children who wore glasses back in the day. The above nicknames were – and still are – ridiculous and inoffensive; and they never bothered me as a child. Other silly nicknames included ‘bus arse’ – because I had a fat bum; which I understand is visually (sexually?) appealing in some circles nowadays. In the 1980s as a teen, my step father used to frequently remind me that I had “…an arse the size of the back end of the Aratika”, and then he’d stare straight into my eyes and say “don’t you?” The Aratika was a Cook Strait New Zealand Rail ferry that sailed daily between Wellington and Picton, stepdad was a mechanic on the Aratika and on the other ferry, a freight ship, the Arahunga.


My surname pre-2005 was ‘Wakelin’ (my birth dad’s surname). I took my mum’s maiden name, ‘Paurini’ legally in 2006.

I love my ‘legal’ surname because of its history and because I’ve since learned about my wider whakapapa. However, many members of my whanau and hapu are unhappy that I took my mum’s maiden name. This is because of our tradition which could be seen as ‘sexist’ but I would caution against that view because it’s out of context. In order to know what that means, come to our marae (or most marae) and spend a few days. I’ll write more about the politics of equality and our iwi some other time.

Anyway, the way we go is as follows: the males of the family line are still considered the chiefs of all whanau, hapu and iwi. As far as I am aware this applies in both of my Maori tribes. While I am male, I am born of a female from a chiefly line.

Mum is a direct descendent of Tukino Te Heuheu IV (koro’s birth name is Horonuku, he was the Tuwharetoa Chief in the mid-late 1800s). She is the great granddaughter of his oldest child, Papakore Takarea; who also happens to be female. My birth father is white (or ‘Pakeha’, a descendent of English ancestry) but even though Dad was not a ‘blood’ relative on mum’s side it is tradition for boys to follow the male in all cases. As mum’s son; ‘blood’ related to my iwi, hapu and whanau my role is feminised in a way in that I am expected to follow in her footsteps; that is, men (and their male children) are the chiefs, women (and their children, male or female) are the spiritual leaders; the tohunga, counselors, guides including being considered the ‘power behind the throne’; or chief adviser to the chief. When I changed my surname legally from Wakelin to Paurini, I interrupted the tradition. Some family members close to me haven’t spoken with me in thirteen years.  I’m still not sure what to do about that. I know that I am lonelier than I have ever been.


Oliver. S., ‘Te Heuheu Tukino IV, Horonuku’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993, updated June, 2018. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 14 August 2018)

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