Heptune presents:


BABY NAMES OF THE PACIFIC AND ASIA

by Brenna Lorenz

Now available for the first time off Guam: The Pacific Islander's Book of Names! This is a book of baby names from the Pacific and Asia.


    First of all, when I say "names of the Pacific," I mean my part of the Pacific, the Guam part, and its surroundings. Most of the indigenous languages around here belong to the Austronesian family, which includes Malay, the Indonesian languages, the Chamoru language of Guam, the Polynesian languages like Hawaiian, and so on.

    Other important languages in the area include Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese in the western Pacific, and Arabic and Sanskrit-derived languages in the South Pacific. Of course, there are also European and American-derived names in the area (they're the most common around here, actually), but you don't need me to tell you about them!

    For this first installment, let me tell you about names from the sea. This discussion will not include sea creatures -- we'll cover those some other time.

    Click here to proceed to the second article: A Tragedy Told in Names: Chamoru Names From Early 18th Century Guam.
 
 

I. Names of the Sea

    When I teach my geology classes at the University of Guam, I like to ask my students why we don't have rock salt and rock gypsum here on Guam. What they should answer (and usually do) is that we don't have these rocks because Guam is too humid for the massive evaporation of the sea necessary to make these rocks. But once in awhile, a student will reply that we don't have rock salt and rock gypsum on Guam because these rocks come from the ocean, and we don't have that on Guam. And then I walk the student to the window and point out and say, "You see that big blue thing out there...?"

    Once, during a field trip to the beach, a student pointed out to sea and asked, "Is that the ocean?" (No, my poor dear, that's the Mississippi River; it gets very wide in places...)

    However, MOST people living out here are very much aware of the ocean. The pre-modern people depended on it absolutely. Therefore, it is not surprising that many names from this region commemorate the sea.

    One of the most popular of the Chamoru names used on Guam today is Tasi, a pretty name meaning "sea, ocean." It is used for girls now, but three males were recorded using the name in a 1728 census, and two males and a female in a 1759 census. That's a pretty good showing for a name in those days, because Chamoru names were originally highly individualized (more about that later). We also find, in the old census records, Actassi (m), which means something like "share the sea," Cadassi (m) "to have something of the sea" (one individual each), Tasiña (two females and one male) "her (or his) sea," and then there's the modern Chubasca (f) "storm at sea." We also find Inapo (modern, male) "the wave" and Napo (modern, male) "wave" and the old Chamoru Napoña (m) "his wave." And there's the old Chamoru Layacña (2 males and 1 female) "his (or her) sail."

    These names are all basically upbeat. But those 18th Century census records also contain a long list of depressing names. During the the early 18th Century, the Chamoru people were almost wiped out by warfare with the Spanish and by European diseases. There are stories of mothers killing their babies so they wouldn't have to grow up to be slaves of the Spaniards. Because so many Chamorus fled Guam in their canoes, the Spanish initiated a policy forbidding the Chamorus access to the sea. A great many names recorded in the census records reflect the suffering of the people. They are one-word essays, speaking of anguish:

    Taitasi (5 females) "no sea"

    Tadtasi (1 male, 2 females) "having no sea"

    Tailayag (1 male) "no sail"

    More will be said about this category of names later.

    Other Pacific peoples are also fond of oceanic names. We have Kai from Hawaii; this name takes the form of Tai in Maori, and Nokuoru and Day in Yapese. It resembles Hai in Chinese and Vietnamese, and Hae in Korean. All of these names mean "ocean, sea," and all are unisex names. In Samoan, Tai means "tide." In Japanese, Hiromu and Hiroshi are male names that can refer to the sea if the right kanji are used.

    In Hawaii, Kai is combined with other elements to make more ocean names: Aliikai "queen of the sea," Kaikala "the sea and the sun," Kailani "sea and sky," Kaimana "divine power of the sea," and Kaiolohia "calm sea." There are bound to be more, but these are the ones I've found in use, and the spellings shown, which may not reflect correct Hawaiian orthography, are the actual spellings used. (There are also a great many spelling variations I haven't shown you!) Hawaiian names are traditionally unisex, but here on Guam, Hawaiian names are mostly used for girls.

    South of Guam we have the Federated States of Micronesia, a large collection of atolls and volcanic islands loosely grouped into four states. From Chuuk (formerly known as Truk), we have Atiniui (m) "man of the sea," Eponu (m) "he is a navigator," Nounpotu (m) "child of a navigator," Simiram (m) "sun shining on the water, " and Wani (m) "their boat, your boat." From Yap we have Mathow (m) "the deep sea," and Nug (m) "net."

    From Palau, southwest of us here on Guam, we find Babeldaob (m) "the upper ocean," Dengiilei (f) "topmost spar of a sail," Iull (f) "wave or swell on the open sea," Kebekol (m) "to go sailing together," Metilab (m) "fishnet," Metuker (m) "a deep olace in otherwise shallow water," Ngiralmau (m) "deep area in the lagoon," Ngirkuteling (m) "the bow of a boat," Ongereol (m) "fishing place," Soaladaob (m) "one who likes the sea," and Ulai (m) "part of a canoe."

    From the Marshalls, southeast of Guam, we find Arejab (f) "right there, on the lagoon beach side of the atoll," and Morelik (m) "living on the ocean side of the atoll."

    Is that all? No, that's just all for now...


    Click here to proceed to the second article: A Tragedy Told in Names: Chamoru Names From Early 18th Century Guam.
       Click here to see The Pacific Islander's Book of Names!

Published 10/17/98

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