So how do you pronounce Hei Hei?

04:03, Nov 20 2013

Phonetically is it Hi Hi or Hey Hey?

It seems not even those who live in Hei Hei - the small suburb sandwiched between Hornby and Broomfield - can agree on that one.

"It's Hi Hi," insists 81-year-old Jim Davy, who has lived in the suburb for about 30 years.

John Lemon agrees. He has lived in the area for about eight years and has always known it as Hi Hi.

"Most of the locals think it is Hi Hi," he said yesterday as he walked his dog Wilson along Hei Hei Rd.

Riccarton-Wigram Community Board chairman Mike Mora said Hei Hei took its name from the Maori word for chicken because the area used to be a poultry farm.

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The correct pronunciation was Hey Hey, but it was an uphill battle getting the locals to say it that way.

"Some people refuse to pronounce it correctly. They say, 'No! It's bloody Hi Hi," Mora said.

"I'm not too hung up on it, but I think the word should be pronounced right. If I was tangata whenua or Maori I would probably get a bit upset about people pronouncing it wrong and I would probably go around trying to correct them.

"I think people should make the effort to pronounce it correctly," said Mora, who admitted that he was guilty of occasionally mispronouncing the suburb's name.

Hana O'Regan, kaiarahi at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, said the correct Maori pronunciation of Hei Hei was easy for English speakers to get their tongues around and she found it difficult to fathom why people insisted on pronouncing it as Hi Hi.

"I find it sad that names that are absolutely easy to pronounce get mispronounced. It really does come across as complete disrespect for the language and the history associated with it," said O'Regan.

At the Hei Hei shops in Wycola Ave, nearly everyone The Press spoke to yesterday was of the opinion the area was called Hi Hi.

"I've always said Hi Hi. I don't know why, but I always have," said Kay Ray.

"I know it as Hi Hi," said Tanya Wierkx.

"It's Hi Hi. I've always known it as Hi Hi," said Greta Martin.

Shirley Hunter, who works in the local Salvation Army shop, has done some Maori language training and said she was aware that Hey Hey was the correct pronunciation, but admitted she often found herself referring to it as Hi Hi, like most of the locals.

"I know very well that it should be Hey Hey," she said.

Dairy owner Balvant "Merv" Ravji was also aware of the correct pronunciation but said he tended to "go with the flow".

Debbrina Anderson correctly pronounced the suburb as Hey Hey and said she believed locals should honour the area's history and heritage by taking more care with the name.

The Press