Forget Solomon. Maurice Williamson has just displayed the wisdom of Kang.
Until The Wire came along, I thought The Simpsons was about as good as TV could get. And one of the all-time best episodes of The Simpsons (imho) is the 1996 Halloween special, "Treehouse of Horror VII".
In it, two aliens kidnap Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, assume their form and proceed to contest the 1996 Presidential election. During the course of the campaign, one alien (Kang) is making a speech in which he declares: "Abortions for all!" Half the crowd boos. "Very well then. Abortions for none!" Half the crowd boos. After a moment of reflection, Kang announces: "Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!" And the crowd cheers in unison.
This neat solution to an intractable problem came back to me when I heard what Maurice Williamson's decision was on the vexed question of "Wanganui" or "Whanganui". Easy, he says. It'll officially be given both names, and people can choose to use whichever they want. A quick dust of the hands, and the problem is solved.
Except, how is what he has announced any different from a decision that W(h)anganui will officially be known as Whanganui alone? I posted on this point back in September, so let me quickly recap the legal effect of giving a place an official name. Basically, such official names "must be used in all official documents." "Official documents" then mean "a published document created by a public office or by a local authority in the course of business", or privately published "geographic and scientific publications and manuscripts" and "publications intended for travellers or tourists".
So, making both Wanganui and Whanganui official names simply means either may be used in an "official document". Everyone else can keep on calling the place whatever they like - just as they could have done whatever the Minister had decided.
But. And there is a but. Maurice Williamson also made it clear that "Crown agencies will be expected to move to the name Whanganui over time." So central government is going to begin using Whanganui in all its "signage, publications and other official documents" (albeit "only when the[se are] ready to be replaced.")
And you can bet that as central government references to Whanganui begin to predominate in the next few years, those producing material for travellers and tourists are going to follow suit - least they start to confuse German backpackers looking for the "Wanganui" in their guidebook and finding only roadsigns to "Whanganui".
So the only group likely to be left holding out is the Wanganui council. The effect of Maurice Williamson's decision is that it can still keep on sending out letters and other publications to residents proudly speaking of the good things they are doing for Wanganui, without thereby breaching the New Zealand Geographic Board (Ngā Pou Taunaha o Aotearoa) Act 2008. Until, with time, they are the last organisation left doing so.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with taking a pragmatic middle ground that "solves" a problem in a way that leaves everyone happy. You might even say it is the Kiwi way, to look at "what works" rather than hew rigidly to principle. And anything that takes away Michael Laws' (or is that Lhaws?) soapbox is in and of itself A Good Thing.
However, that shouldn't disguise the fact that the battle for Whanganui's name is over, and the forces of "H" have won. Not today. Not even tomorrow. But when our kids get to our age, you can bet they'll all be speaking of the beauty of Whanganui, the river city.