Why the pronunciation of manuka honey gets us in a sticky mess

In a pinch, Kiwis can keep the Bledisloe Cup. And Keith Urban. And Phar Lap when push comes to shove. But there’s no way we’re going to push our Manuka honey across the table. Not after January’s coup in the UK High Court, which ruled against New Zealand’s exclusive control of the brand.

This argument runs deep. One look at an organization like the NZMHAS (or New Zealand Manuka Honey Appellation Society) confirms that this honey frenzy is a big deal. Big deal too, with a market value placing the golden slime at $500 a kilo, top with Medellin marsh powder.

The legal debate may be over for now, but what about the phonetics?

The legal debate may be over for now, but what about the phonetics?Credit:stock

Beyond a breakfast option, manuka honey laces up throat sprays and lozenges, eczema and cosmetic creams. Its active powers lie in the UMF (or Unique Manuka Factor), aka Methylgloxal, an antibacterial ingredient capable of stimulating collagen and boosting overall radiance, according to the literature.

Anyway, that’s the selling point. The hum if you like. Swarms of antipodean bees produce the good oil, which is responsible for the intensity of the brand fight. Similar squabbles have erupted over other regional labels like Prosecco and Champagne, Gorgonzola and Stilton, but Manuka is a difficult customer to judge.

The sticking point is Leptospermum scoparium, the Manuka tea tree. As a true ANZAC, the plant comes from both nations. Although his name is purely Maori just to reinforce the kerfuffle. For the record, local beekeepers formed the Australian Manuka Honey Association way back in the 1930s. In many ways, the British ruling helped two rivals see that they share an advantage, a fate. Although not the same grammar book.


Feel free to blame Walter Burley Griffin on this. When the American architect designed the Canberra Labyrinth in 1914, he incorporated a manuka into the spread, home to the oval of the same name. The venue has seen some fine competitions over the years, from brumbies to giants, but none hold up to the phonetic showdown surrounding the word manuka. Does the tree rhyme with snooker or Hanukkah?

The Macquarie dictionary fails to solve the dilemma and presents both possibilities, with an emphasis on MAR in the first option and a lengthened NOO in option 2. Important to note is that there is no MAN in Manuka, as The Canberra Times laid down in 1927. Yes, this debate is so chronic.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen of All Bees, had a chance to explain the official version when she sheared the ribbon for the opening of Manuka Oval in 1954, but some pesky kids had been swinging the wires that day and wrecking the PA. Despite this, both Oval and Suburb seem separate from the tree and its by-product. As does an Aussie talent for saying a Maori word contrary to the utterance endemic to Aotearoa.

https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/why-the-pronunciation-of-manuka-honey-has-us-in-a-sticky-mess-20230130-p5cghh.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture Why the pronunciation of manuka honey gets us in a sticky mess

Jaclyn Diaz

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