What’s in a name? It all depends!

When MIT opened it was called the Manukau Technical Institute. What’s the betting that it was commonly referred to as “The Tech.” reflecting the old habit of finding a friendlier and usually shorter name.

Then it became the Manukau Polytechnic which lends itself to an abbreviation such as Manukau Poly. That recalls an old story of an Irish Polytechnic that acquired high status and all that goes with it by being upgraded to University status. As the change approached a huge picture of a parrot appeared at the main gate of the polytechnic. This parrot picture got smaller and smaller over successive days until one day it disappeared to be replaced by a single word: POLYGON! A further billboard announced the fact that the polytechnic had become a university!

After its third change of name to Manukau Institute of Technology, accurate and well-in-tune with the other names of other NZ Institutes and Polytechnics. But it was realised that it was also the name of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1861 and acknowledged as the most famous and successful educational institution in the world!

It had to happen and litigation ensued. There has been a suggestion that an academic from another Auckland institution had drawn the attention of MIT Massachusetts to the outrageous and pretentious little MIT New Zealand. As these things tend to be sorted out a solution was found and an agreement was struck between the two institutions. MIT NZ amicably agreed that the abbreviated MIT should occur in the proximity of the full institutional name, Manukau Institute of Technology. And when it was to be used internationally (e.g. academic papers, conference presentations, and material on the world-wide web and the like) the same would apply.

This didn’t stop a Form 4 student at a local high school from saying that “It was good that MIT had some Nobel Prize winners!”.

I had the responsibility for trying to get MIT signposted on the motorway bridges. A clear and correct set of specifications was drawn up noting the delicacies of the MIT Massachusetts position and the signs duly appeared. Yes, you guessed it – not a trace of our full name being associated with the MIT abbreviation and, what’s more, large sloth-eyed dots was introduced between each letter!

I argued that I thought it likely that someone driving in a southerly direction, approaching Ōtara would realise that they were not going to get to Boston. And anyway, they would be searching for signs directing them to “The Tech!”

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¹ Future Golden Jubilee Snippets will relate the story of MIT Manukau., and of the Secondary Tertiary Developments.