Glyph of the word 'puo'.


  • (expr.) an answer to an unfair yes or no question (whether neither “yes” nor “no” is technically correct)
  • (n.) refusal

“I refuse to answer the question.”

Notes: That, of course, is Keli’s answer to the question, “Are you still in our recycling box?” And she answers thus because it’s not a recycling box: It is a Kitty Fortress!

Keli in her new fortress.

She loves that box!

A word like puo is a useful word, because it allows one to answer questions like, “Are you still guilty?” Presuming you’ve never been guilty, an answer of “no” could mean, “No, I’m no longer guilty (but I once was)”, and answer of “yes” would, of course, be an admission of guilt. There’s not much you can do with that question in English. In Kamakawi, you can say puo.

The word was inspired by the Japanese word mu, which is used in the same way. I decided to go big tent with responses to questions in ol’ Kamakawi. Thus we have puo.

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5 Responses to “Puo”

  1. Ka kavaka Christophe ti:

    Mmm… I knew about the Japanese “mu” used as prefix like English “-in” and “-un” (for instance 無限 “mugen” meaning “infinity”), but not about “mu” being used on its own in this way. So it’s interesting (Wikipedia has a good article about “mu”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_%28negative%29).

    As it happens, Moten has a negative particle that happens to be _mu_, but its meaning is different, indicating alternatives, and when answering questions it simply corresponds to “no” (well, not completely, since Moten uses echo answers, but close enough).

    But there is something in Moten that can be used somewhat like your _puo_: the particle _us_. It’s another negative particle that is normally used to deny the truth value of a statement. But it can also be used as the answer to a question in order to “take the third option”, i.e. to indicate that the question itself is invalid. It’s usually used in more mundane situations:

    Et jagvi ito mu ito? — Us ito: Do you have to go now? — (No,) I don’t *have* to go now (but I’m going to go anyway)

    But it could be used as well in order to answer loaded questions like “have you stopped beating your wife?” to indicate that the question itself is fallacious.

  2. Ka kavaka David J. Peterson ti:

    That echo strategy is something I’ve never done (I never seem to have a language with small enough words [though I suppose it could work with Kamakawi]). I like that other usage of yours (i.e. contextually suggesting the obvious left out alternative). Seems likely that something like that would evolve for a response like puo. Thanks for the suggestion! ;)

  3. Ka kavaka Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets ti:

    In Moten, the echo strategy works fine because I only have to repeat the auxiliaries. That’s the advantage of having only periphrastic conjugations :-) . It was also the only possibility since things like _mu_ and _us_ are clitics. _Mu_ can also be used as an interjection, but then it means “no way!”.

    And you’re welcome! That usage evolved naturally from the meanings of _mu_ and _us_.

  4. Ka kavaka Anthony ti:

    good word.

    > (i.e. contextually suggesting the obvious left out alternative). Seems likely that something like that would evolve for a response like puo.

    maybe “Puo puo”?

  5. Ka kavaka David J. Peterson ti:

    It’s a possibility, though I’m not sure… It might get interpreted as contextual duplication (e.g. saying “No, no” in English). As an addendum, pupuo is the modern word for “to reject” or “to repudiate”.

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