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2008/08/01

Who's placenta is that?

The image above shows the original, laughable headline of a New Zealand Herald Online news item on July 31. The headline has since been corrected but still remains curious with "Drive-by police find placenta in stolen car". I took the snapshot of it with the first headline, for posting to this blog and to the Apostrophe Protection Society, on Facebook.
The headline and the article itself both contained (and still do contain) some amusingly bad grammar.

I know of no other country in the world except New Zealand where not only does it have execrable grammatical standards in journalism, but also there is something like the peculiar Maori "custom" of carrying placentas around - for example, in cars. Subsequently using the car for a drive-by shooting merely adds an inscrutable symbolism to the mysterious magic of it all. (The celebration of new life and violent death - geddit? But what would be the point? Maybe ensuring a "FIFO of the souls" approach?) Then again, NZ might be full of quaint little customs like that.

The text of the 1st and 2nd (edited) versions of the online news item are copied below, for comparison.

Aside from the Maori custom of treating a placenta as a revered, quasi-religious object (in a pagan, polytheistic sense) and the fact that someone had left a placenta in the car in the first place (which seems a little odd), another odd thing in this news item is the use of the plural possessive for a placenta, in both the original news item and the subsequently edited 2nd edition, as in: "The placenta would be returned to the owners today."

Beg pardon? If a placenta can be said to "have an owner" at all, then wouldn't it be the property of the woman (singular possessive) from whose womb it came?

The answer to this question could shed a wholly new light on how the law relating to property in New Zealand is likely to evolve. One wonders if the NZ government are up to tackling this one, now that the lawmakers have severed themselves from the UK's Privy Council, apparently in preparation for severing the country's constitutional commonwealth ties (i.e., towards becoming a republic).

Enquiring minds need to know.
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1st version: (Thursday afternoon)
Placenta in stolen car suspected of use in driveby shooting
New 1:43PM Thursday July 31, 2008
A baby's placenta has been found in a stolen car suspected of being involved in the weekend fatal driveby shooting of Desmond Arahanga in Waikato.
Police found the stolen white Subaru Impreza WRX on Sunday in the shed of a home in Matamata, about 7km south of Waharoa, where Mr Arahanga was gunned down in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Inquiry head Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Nicholls said today it took police some time to find the owner of the car.
But he said they subsequently discovered it had been stolen from Rukumoana Marae, near Morrinsville, on Sunday morning. The placenta would be returned to the owners today.
"It would be speculating to comment on why the car was stolen at this stage," he said.
Placenta has great significance to Maori and is usually buried in the family's land after a child's birth.
A man has been charged with assaulting Mr Arahanga and Mr Nicholls said police were still looking for others.
The homicide investigation team was continuing with further interviews today.
- NZPA
2nd version: (Friday morning)
Drive-by police find placenta in stolen car
1:43PM Thursday July 31, 2008
A baby's placenta has been found in a stolen car by police investigating the weekend fatal driveby shooting of Desmond Arahanga in Waikato.
Police found the stolen white Subaru Impreza WRX on Sunday in the shed of a home in Matamata, about 7km south of Waharoa, where Mr Arahanga was gunned down about 1am on Sunday morning.
The car, which police believe was stolen several hours after Mr Arahanga was shot, was not the one police believe was involved in the shooting.
Inquiry head Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Nicholls said today it took police some time to find the owner of the car containing the placenta.
But he said they subsequently discovered it had been stolen from Rukumoana Marae, near Morrinsville, on Sunday morning. The placenta would be returned to the owners today.
"It would be speculating to comment on why the car was stolen at this stage," he said.
The placenta has great significance to Maori and is usually buried in the family's land after a child's birth.
Police said the white car in which the placenta was found as part of the investigation but was not the one they believe was used in the shooting.
Police believe that car was a blue 1994 Subaru Legacy Brighton, registration DFS845, which was seized by police in Matamata on Monday night.
A man has been charged with assaulting Mr Arahanga and Mr Nicholls said police were still looking for others.
The homicide investigation team was continuing with further interviews today.
- NZPA
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