Don’t call beer pubic hair unless you make it with pubic hair.
August 7, 2020 3:14 AM   Subscribe

Beer brand and leather store unwittingly named after Māori word for 'pubic hair' A Canadian brewery and a leather store in New Zealand have found themselves in a hairy situation after using te reo Māori to unwittingly name their respective brands after pubic hair.

As many societies grapple with issues of what is cultural appropriation and is it ever appropriate, the use of language is shaping up to be a new arena of discussion. This includes languages from the Deaf community, the Australian Indigenous community, singing in the Canadian Indigenous community (often technique rather than actual language, but related), African American Vernacular English (AAVE), and the misuse of the word Namaste.
posted by Megami (61 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
But is it okay if you drink the beer in a pubick house?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:34 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


What probably happened is that both companies relied too much on online translation tools. If you use Google translate it does suggest 'huruhuru' as a translation of 'feather'. So does maoridictionary.co.nz:
huruhuru
1. (noun) hair, feather, coarse hair, bristles (not normally of the head), fur.

Ka hūhunutia te poaka, kātahi ka waruwarua te kiri kia ngahoro mai ai ngā huruhuru (PK 2008:147). / The pig is singed and then the skin is scraped to remove the hair.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:47 AM on August 7


“If you are selling leather, call it leather, don’t call it pubic hair unless you are selling pubic hair and don’t call beer pubic hair unless you make it with pubic hair.”
Good advice.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:25 AM on August 7 [9 favorites]


How long until someone rises to the challenge and attempts to brew a beer with pubic hair as an ingredient?
posted by acb at 4:34 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, I think this is a place where cultural appropriation goes in multiple directions - and often is a self-punishing crime, because the people who do this kind of thing tend to screw up. For example, the use of English phrases as t-shirt slogans or motifs on other random merchandise in Japan; that happens probably as frequently as we have random yutzes asking people for tattoos of kanji here in the US. The English on those t-shirts is often bafflingly odd, while the kanji tattoos are often hilariously mistranslated.

In an ideal world this kind of appropriation wouldn't happen. The silver lining here, though, is that it backfires more often than it works and it ends up making the appropriator look like a big idiot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:36 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


While it is all funny, I think the bigger issue is that languages - like te reo Māori - are people's culture and way of life, not a gimmick to be used to make something a bit more hip, or funny, or whatever.
posted by Megami at 4:37 AM on August 7 [23 favorites]


Of course, the other reading of this story is that this is the sort of problem that can arise when dictionaries withhold part of the popular usage of a word in the name of shielding tender eyes from indecency, instead choosing to beat around, umm, the bush.
posted by acb at 4:37 AM on August 7 [41 favorites]


He asked for non-Māori businesses to use their own language to promote their products.

And if more than a quarter-million English words aren't exotic enough for you, at least ASK someone who natively speaks that language. They are located in Wellington, after all.

Also, were they selling leather, or feathers? Was this supposed to be some kind of "clever" bilingual rhyming slang?

Side note: It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that this article is about two separate businesses. I thought it was a Canadian brewery that created an NZ Pale Ale, and also decided to open a pub/fashion outlet (diversification!) named "Feather" to honor the beer. Or something. Where's my coffee?
posted by basalganglia at 4:53 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


The online Maori Dictionary lists puke huruhuru as (noun) pubes (of a woman), clearly they're not afraid of offending sensibilities.
posted by WhackyparseThis at 4:53 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


How long until someone rises to the challenge and attempts to brew a beer with pubic hair as an ingredient?
posted by acb at 7:34 AM on August 7


I’m sure the lads from Brew Dog are all over it.
posted by brand-gnu at 5:25 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


basalganglia: And if more than a quarter-million English words aren't exotic enough for you, at least ASK someone who natively speaks that language. They are located in Wellington, after all.

Perhaps they did. "Hey, is huruhuru a good name for my store?" "Hmm... yes... yes, I do believe it is..."
posted by clawsoon at 5:46 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


“quarter-million English words”. My understanding is that a good many of these are loan-words in the first place.
posted by aesop at 5:50 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Great, another IPA. What's Maori for 'fermented grapefruit juice'?
posted by Flashman at 5:51 AM on August 7 [10 favorites]


My understanding is that a good many of these are loan-words in the first place.

You have all these English people sitting on the verandahs of their bungalows, looking at the jungle, using their shampoo!
posted by basalganglia at 5:58 AM on August 7 [7 favorites]


At least when Coca Cola made their mistake in New Zealand they weren’t wrong.
posted by terrapin at 6:10 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


dancestoblue, both of those are false urban legends. And the one about baby food is pretty racist, FYI.

Links to Snopes:

“Did Baby Food Jars Horrify African Consumers?”

“Did the Chevrolet Nova Fail to Sell in Spanish-Speaking Countries?”
posted by snowmentality at 6:22 AM on August 7 [16 favorites]


Are you there, Death? It's me, pubic hair.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:27 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


How long until someone rises to the challenge and attempts to brew a beer with pubic hair as an ingredient?

So, beer made from vaginal yeast is a thing; adding in pubic hair would be a minor step at that point.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:28 AM on August 7


Rogue made a beer with yeast cultured from "beard" hair. Who knows, though.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:37 AM on August 7 [3 favorites]


[A few comments deleted -- this is a story about how a marginalized group's language is important and non-Māori businesses trying to borrow in this way with a gimmicky translation can be disrespectful. For goodness sake don't follow up with your own disrespectful translations into Māori or with stories that treat marginalized groups disrespectfully! ]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:37 AM on August 7 [15 favorites]


Aynur Karakoc [of the NZ leather store] said the company got approval for the name from the Intellectual Property Office’s Māori advisory committee.

So it looks like they at least did their due diligence. And yet. Such are the perils of using a language you don't know as the name for your business.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:06 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Another tattoo removal session to schedule ...
posted by benzenedream at 8:09 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


not a gimmick to be used to make something a bit more hip, or funny, or whatever

There was a slightly odd example fairly recently of Natwest (part of the Royal Bank of Scotland) deciding to call their new (since shuttered again) online bank and app , which is the Irish word for cow. Which is, okay, a bit strange, but fine (not entirely sure why they didn't go with Bò, the Scottish Gaelic equivalent, though.) However, their original press release claimed the following, (while referring to the accent by its Irish/Gaelic name "fada"):

We like the way it sounds. It's a name that's warm and friendly, gentle even. We also like it because Bó doesn't mean anything in English so it's a word that we can own, that will grow with us and become associated with what we're trying to do.

Irish people were not impressed. (A later press release did at least reference the meaning in Irish.)
posted by scorbet at 8:13 AM on August 7 [9 favorites]


How long until someone rises to the challenge and attempts to brew a beer with pubic hair as an ingredient?

Given what I've seen as a casual member of the homebrewing community, I think there is about 0% chance this hasn't been done. More than once.

The results may not have been pubicized, though.
posted by solotoro at 8:19 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


They probably should have just called it "huruharo" or similar, because it sounds cool and foreign, without it actually being any example of a specific foreign language.

And they should probably sue the Intellectual Property Office’s Māori advisory committee for doing a shit job. And yeah, like with tattoos, if you do not have enough native speakers within your circle or otherwise accessible to check and be 100% sure you know what you are committing to, probably shouldn't do it.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:24 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Reporting from NZ sources: Shop's hairy problem shows need for te reo experts. Also Brewery apologises and Reo Māori expert urges seeking advice over names, brands. The first article includes a statement from a language expert
Hēmi Kelly, a lecturer from Te Ara Poutama, the faculty of Māori and indigenous development at AUT University, said “huruhuru” would translate as wool, fur or hair. The word is used in the haka Ka Mate.
“Depending on how it’s used it can also mean body hair.”
I'll note all three New Zealand articles went mostly with a story of "why didn't they get a local expert to help get the name right" rather than the Guardian's reporting on "any foreign store using a Māori name is cultural appropriation". It's quite possible that represents a pakeha bias in the NZ media I selected. I wasn't able to find any articles about this in the limited Māori news sources I know of.
posted by Nelson at 8:27 AM on August 7 [5 favorites]


While it is all funny, I think the bigger issue is that languages - like te reo Māori - are people's culture and way of life, not a gimmick to be used to make something a bit more hip, or funny, or whatever.

Well, capitalism, in this case in the form of advertising, is a well known respecter of others’ property, intellectual and physical (including bodily integrity). Would that it were different.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:31 AM on August 7


beer made from vaginal yeast is a thing

Yeast does not belong anywhere near a vagina or vulva. But then again, given the dudebro aspects of craft beer, it's unlikely any of them actually knows anything about women's bodies, except for how to use them as a gimmick to sell their product to other dudebros.
posted by basalganglia at 8:32 AM on August 7


they should probably sue the Intellectual Property Office’s Māori advisory committee for doing a shit job

That... would be inadvisable.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:39 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the NZ links Nelson.
posted by Megami at 8:50 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I think I never understood how personally annoying this kind of thing can be until the first time I ate at a Wienerschnitzel. I'm convinced somebody told them it means "food that would be improved by the addition of pubic hair," and they just fucking ran with the concept.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 9:07 AM on August 7


Is it the Intellectual Property Office's remit to ensure that you don't end up embarrassing yourself, or just that you don't say anything illegal or egregiously offensive?
posted by acb at 9:17 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


It's Bionicle all over again
posted by timdiggerm at 9:21 AM on August 7


Canadian? That seems like a 'Merkin thing to do.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:23 AM on August 7 [10 favorites]


“If you are selling leather, call it leather, don’t call it pubic hair unless you are selling pubic hair and don’t call beer pubic hair unless you make it with pubic hair.”

Outside of the cultural appropriation context, this sounds like the basis for a deceptive practices lawsuit.
posted by me3dia at 9:37 AM on August 7


Yeast does not belong anywhere near a vagina or vulva.

At risk of mansplaining: vaginas have a naturally occurring level of yeast (and bacteria) as part of the normal flora that is present (and other body parts have similar natural flora). Yeast infections usually occur due to a changing of conditions that allow the already-present yeast to flourish, and not due to an introduction of yeast to an otherwise sterile environment.
posted by explosion at 9:39 AM on August 7 [5 favorites]


cultural appropriation aside, the beer is quite good.
posted by piyushnz at 9:41 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I'd try it, but I worry about it tickling the back of my throat for hours, afterwards.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:47 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]


There's kind of an interesting dilemma here, though. The person interviewed in the article is described as a te reo Māori exponent, and indeed there's a linguistic revival going on in New Zealand since a while back. The language was also given recognition as one of NZ's official languages a few decades ago.

Given that, I assume it's kind of a difficult balance between promoting the language (it was brought back from a pretty sharp decline, as I understand it) and keeping it from being misused or appropriated. It might even be that some appropriation is the price they'll have to pay for reviving it. Not ideal, but no language can exist pure and in a vacuum, especially when it's a minority language that's long been oppressed and is only now experiencing some measure of acceptance by the dominant culture.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:21 AM on August 7


Hell’s Basement co-founder, Mike Patriquin, acknowledged in a statement to the news site RNZ that the company thought that huruhuru meant “feather” and didn’t realise it was a reference to pubic hair.

“We did not realise the potential to offend through our artistic interpretation, and given the response we will attempt to do better in the future,” Patriquin said.

He said it was not the company’s intent to infringe upon, appropriate, or offend the Māori culture or people in any way.


Oh my gods just shut up shut up with these pallid non-apologies. Why can't he just say that they made an error? OF COURSE they intended to appropriate Māori culture; it's a Canadian brewery naming a product using a Māori word that they don't understand. He apparently needs to check an English-language dictionary, since he doesn't seem to know what the word "appropriation" means other than vaguely knowing that it's supposedly a bad thing so he definitely didn't do it?
posted by desuetude at 10:30 AM on August 7 [8 favorites]


If you are selling leather, call it leather, don’t call it pubic hair unless you are selling pubic hair and don’t call beer pubic hair unless you make it with pubic hair.”

Probably some nervousness today in the legal department at Busch Beer.
posted by newmoistness at 11:10 AM on August 7 [10 favorites]


If I ever open a bikini waxing store I will just call it "Bush Administration".
posted by w0mbat at 11:39 AM on August 7 [25 favorites]


They probably should have just called it "huruharo" or similar, because it sounds cool and foreign, without it actually being any example of a specific foreign language.

No, please don’t do this. It doesn’t sound cool and foreign. It sounds like exactly what it is, an attempt to get the cachet of a non-English language without putting any of the work in, and saying to native speakers that their language is equivalent to gibberish.
posted by scorbet at 12:48 PM on August 7 [9 favorites]


This reminds me of the urban myth about the word "chilito" which I'm still not convinced is real, but have a hard time proving or disproving either way. They're called Chili Cheese Burritos now. though if the slang story wasn't told about it being "small penis" but just a stolen slang word in general I wonder if it would have changed.

More locally and recently - I just found out about a WI company who changed their name out of respect for the Kickapoo Nation, they are now Wonderstate Coffe (the link is to their apology/name change announcement).

Sorry this isn't specific directly to the incidents in the OP, but it shows we can do better and there's no reason people have to grudgingly hold onto names for spurious reasons like "honoring" the people whose words are being used.

I can't say I fully agree with an idea that words are "owned" by any given collective people (it rubs up against my descriptivist leanings) but I do recognize that this is not the same case. Words evolving on their own between groups of people organically is not the same as someone making a profit using words from another culture.

That said the Chilito myth and this pubic hair thing is like those Tattoos in Kanji that say something rude. A bit of an egg on someone's face for trying to make money off of the cultures they claim to be respecting. (well IDK about the "claim" part, but you know what I mean).
posted by symbioid at 4:27 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


Technically it can only be called Pubic Hair Beer if it comes from the Pubic region of New Zealand. Otherwise it's just Small Coarse Hair Beer.
posted by Mchelly at 4:30 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


the Pubic region of New Zealand

Tasmania is in Australia.
posted by acb at 5:07 PM on August 7 [8 favorites]


So Te Reo is a hugely contextual language, always has been, and made more so by the Kohanga Reo movement. Effectively this Taoka was gifted to the Tamariki so it would live, with the result that non speakers effectively need to check terms against a (non-existent) Te Reo Urban Dictionary, as well as a regular dictionary, to understand how terms would be appreciated.

For example; Kia Ora is perhaps the most widely known Te Reo term, the vast majority of people in Aotearoa would understand it in a greeting context. A majority of people in Aotearoa would understand it in a best wishes context. A substantial minority of people in Aoteroa would understand it in a positive interjective sense (Called out during a speech to indicate support for the speaker or the speech).
These would be the obvious dictionary styles usages; in more fluent settings, Kia Ora will also be used in a negative interjective sense ("and now we must talk about the failings of immigr-" "Kia. Ora.") As a disguised insult ("Mr Tekaru we are unable to give you a raise at this time..." "oh Kia Ora")[cf. bless you]. As questioning of an unexpected pronouncement ("I hate the way my car looks so I tied a bunch of helium balloons to it!" "Kia Ora?"). As mockery of old fashioned ideas ("the youth today are too influenced by America, they just need to spend more time on the Marae" "Kia Ora")[cf. ok boomer].

If you lack the fluency with Te Reo, and cultural contact with fluent speakers, to justify why your usage of term of a term is acceptable, you will get yourself into trouble.
posted by fido~depravo at 5:17 PM on August 7 [18 favorites]


So “Kia Ora” is the Te Reo equivalent of “sorry” in British English?
posted by acb at 1:54 AM on August 8


three aer nu kultor 2 apprpiatre.

nam beere drincc BEPIS, offand 0nly surreal meme community.
posted by saysthis at 3:12 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


When visiting Chile, Google Translate wanted to translate the word for myrtle into death, which lead to some very odd dessert names.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:53 PM on August 8


Perhaps another way to look at this, stealing other people's words can be a minefield because often words have multiple meanings (even more so in Te Reo because people often leave off the macrons that indicate vowel length) ... a word's meaning becomes very contextual ... and if you use it out of normal context (like randomly naming a beer) then all bets are off
posted by mbo at 5:23 PM on August 8


So “Kia Ora” is the Te Reo equivalent of “sorry” in British English?

See, and me as an Australian thought "fuck" was the best equivalency, which I think speaks volumes about the malleability of language and rather a lot about all three cultures, too.
posted by Jilder at 6:20 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


I'd say this is karmic retribution for cultural appropriation but I'm pretty sure I'd be misappropriating and misusing "karma" if I did.
posted by clawsoon at 6:21 PM on August 8


Fabulous comment fido~depravo. I'm guessing from context taoka = taonga? As in Ngai/Kai Tahu?
posted by Pink Frost at 8:09 PM on August 8


Yes, exactly; the pronunciation/spelling your Iwi/Hapu uses is another one of the cultural tells that gets embedded in Te Reo, same as using double vowels instead of a macron if you're from Waikato, or wh=h for Northland (at least parts there of).
posted by fido~depravo at 11:03 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


So what do you think this is made of?
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 1:01 AM on August 9


A legal case, either for deceptive trade practices or animal cruelty.
posted by acb at 5:57 AM on August 9


at least ASK someone who natively speaks that language

Yeah, that might not help either - people have been known to jerk the chain of someone asking questions along these lines.

Q: What would be a good name for my house?

A: How about Tutae Whare?
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:36 PM on August 9


That would be a houselike shit. Shit house would be whare tutae. But the expression is generally whare paku.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:02 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


There's a degree of stolen valour about using a language one does not understand, whether it's kanji tattoos on credulous gaijin, Canadians naming a beer after a cool-sounding Māori word, or indeed the (white, very anglo, conservative) establishment of 1950s Melbourne deciding to name their city's new festival “Moomba” after asking one of the local dispossessed indigenous people how to say “let's get together and have fun”. (Apparently it really means something to do with rectal insertion.) One could argue that not giving lazy white people a straight answer is fair play: tell you what, learn a bit of the language and come back to us.
posted by acb at 4:57 AM on August 10


One could argue that not giving lazy white people a straight answer is fair play

"An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas" is one of the few phrases in Irish a lot of us, non-Gaeilgeoirs can actually remember from school. (It was even featured in a pretty accurate Carlsberg ad.) I would not be surprised if there were somewhere credulous Irish-Americans who firmly believe that this is an ancient benediction, avowal of love, or whatever they were looking for to be translated so that they could "connect to their heritage".
posted by scorbet at 7:58 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


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