The rugby World Cup has started, and watching the All Black perform their famous Haka, I started thinking about how you don’t need to understand Maori to know exactly what they’re singing about. Their facial expressions and body language say it all. See for yourself:

Scary. Impressive. Awesome. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be watching them while knowing that you’re about to have a good old scrap with them. Surely I thought, it must mean something like this:

By the blood of our ancestors!
We are powerful!
We are invincible!
We are not scared of you
and you will surrender
before the brave warriors that we are!
Look at the size of our arms!
And of our legs!
Come and tackle us if you dare!
Be very scared!
Be terrified!

So I went on the official All Blacks website to see what it actually means, and these are the lyrics of the haka:

Ringa pakia
Uma tiraha!
Turi whatia!
Hope whai ake!
Waewae takahia kia kino!
Ka Mate! Ka Mate!
Ka Ora! Ka Ora!
Tenei te ta ngata puhuru huru!
Nana nei i tiki mai!
Whakawhiti te ra!
A upane ka upane!
A upane kaupane whiti te ra!

And this is the translation:

Slap the hands against the thighs!
Puff out the chest!
Bend the knees!
Let the hip follow!
Stamp the feet as hard as you can!
It is death! It is death!
It is life! It is life!
This is the hairy person
Who caused the sun to shine!
Keep abreast! Keep abreast!
The rank! Hold fast!
Into the sun that shines!

"Bend the knees"? "Let the hip follow"?! "This is the hairy person who caused the sun to shine"??! It sounds like a mix between the birdie song and ABBA! I must admit, now that I know the words, the awe I’ve felt time and time again before an All Black game will probably be replaced by giggles, as I watch this group of (hairy) men slapping their thighs and stamping their feet while shouting that they’re slapping their thighs and stamping their feet. This is one translation I could have done without; some things are meant to remain shrouded in mystery.
Polite notice: could any reader that might feel like gloating about France v Argentina in the comments try and refrain from doing so? I blame the stupid new kit.