Posts Tagged ‘molluscs’


• Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Glyph of the word 'ipu'.


  • (n.) slug

Oku! Hava ei i ipu okuoku!
“No! I would never eat a slug!”

Notes: Snail shells are about the only thing cool about a snail, which makes slugs the antithesis of…of something. Blech!

Today’s iku always reminds me of yesterday’s. The two look rather similar. As far back as you go they’re pretty similar, in fact (both being built off similar iku and combining with the same iku in the same way). I think both iku are kind of ugly. What can you do, though? They can’t all be birds of paradise.

Not that have anything against slugs, specifically. In fact the club we resurrected at Berkeley was called SLUG. It stood for the Society of Linguistics Undergraduates. And we even put together a symposium. That’s where I did my first ever presentation on conlanging. Know what I used? Overheads. Actual overheads. And they were awesome. In fact, that’s one of my wife and I’s oldest stories. She was the time keeper, and I’d mentioned that I was going last during our symposium so I could take up as much time as I wanted. She had signs that told us how much time we had left, and after I got the STOP sign (and I was still going), she pulled up some other signs she made just for me (signs that said things like “STOP! STOP! STOP!” and “PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP!”). I was so amused, that I got distracted, and pretty soon we were all waiting to see how many signs she had and what they said. Good times…

You know, we had a mascot too that I drew. It was a slug with a Superman cape that was attached via a gold chain that was fastened by a great big schwa that dangled over his chest (or thorax [or bodily mass…?]). In fact, can we get a shot of that guy? Let’s see… Ah! Here he is:

The SLUG mascot circa 2003.

Not the best drawing, but you can see his cape, his schwa, and his sardonic expression. I fear the Society of Linguistics Undergraduates is no more, but it had died before and been resurrected. Should the need ever arise, the Mighty SLUG will rise again from the ashes, like a fiery…slug. So be not sad! His schwa will live on forever.


• Friday, October 21st, 2011

Glyph of the word 'foka'.


  • (n.) fish (or any animal that lives primarily in the sea)

I ilea! Ai foka toi li’ia ai?
“Hello! Got any fish on you?”


This is my second time around writing this post, thanks to the DreamHost outage yesterday (IT ATE MAH POST!11!!). Here’s Keli, twisting up the way she does when she wants to get comfy:

Keli contorting.

As I explained yesterday, I believe Keli now knows when she’s being photographed, and relishes it. The second I unbutton my little iPhone camera case, she perks up—will wake up if she was previously asleep, even (I can’t get pictures of her asleep anymore!). And then she poses and looks straight at the camera. What a cat!

Today’s word was inspired by the Spanish word “marisco”. We often see it pluralized (“mariscos”), where it means “seafood”. I liked the idea of having a single word refer to everything that comes out of the sea. The difference with foka is that it doesn’t refer primarily to food the way “mariscos” and certainly “seafood” does.


• Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'eka'i'.


  • (n.) abalone

Nievu eika iu eka’i kau.
“We dive for abalone.”

Notes: When I was very young, my stepfather brought me an abalone shell, and I kept it as decoration in my room until I left for college. Since then, it’s been lost to the winds (or, more likely, the trash heap. Happened to a lot of my stuff without my knowledge).

You’ll recognize the iku for eu in this glyph. It’s kind of used as a leyaka to stand for a shellfish, and then ka is added as a phonological clue. Of course, it rather looks like the “bad” line determinative, so there are some superstitious folks that think it’s bad luck to disturb or harvest abalone for their meat or shells. It’s kind of a motif in Kamakawi lore (perhaps like black cats or broken mirrors in Western culture).


• Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'mena'.


  • (n.) scallop

Ka hava ei iu mena kipe.
“I had scallops yesterday.”

Notes: Among other things. Since I’d just been talking about it, I had some cioppino yesterday for dinner. It was exquisite, but I simply can’t eat the way I used to be able to… :( I brought home a lot of it as leftovers. It was quite good, though! Scallops are easily one of my favorites.

The iku is a rendering of the famous scallop shell (perhaps the most visually salient of seashells). The reason it has no top is because this iku, in fact, is a modification of another iku, which…I haven’t done yet. :lol:

You’d think after more than a year I would have finally done an entry on every glyph in the Kamakawi writing system. Looking at the numbers, though, I think I’m about…halfway done? I think there are about 600 distinct glyphs. I’m getting there!


• Monday, June 27th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'kapo'.


  • (n.) mussel

Ka hava ei i kapo.
“I’ve eaten molluscs.”

Notes: They’re in one of my favorite Italian dishes: cioppino. It’s a kind of seafood soup that’s just out of this world (if done right, of course; one could have a poor bowl of cioppino).

Huh. How about that. I just linked to the Wikipedia article on cioppino, and so started to read it. Turns out it’s not Italian at all: It came from San Francisco! And not only that, it’s typically served in a wine sauce! I didn’t know that, either. I’m terribly allergic to wine (not the alcohol: something in the wine), and break out if eat anything in a wine sauce.

So…yeah. Dang. That’s not cool. Now I’ll have that to worry about when I go out to eat… :(


• Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Glyph of the word 'pito'.


  • (n.) oyster

Pito! Pito! Pale li’i i pito!
“An oyster! An oyster! My hut for an oyster!”

Notes: Oh me of little inspiration! Find me a word for the word of the day, as the hours grow short!

Ah ha! An oyster! An oyster it shall be! And I vow that tomorrow’s post will be more informative.


• Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'kanaka'.


  • (n.) animal
  • (adj.) animal (bestial; used to describe something that is animal in nature)
  • (v.) to be natural (said of beings)

Mata ia iu ipe kanaka!
“Look at those animals!”

Notes: Today’s post is an advertisement for Sylvia Sotomayor’s Kēlen Word of the Day blog, because…man! Take a look at this post!

Reluctant to click? Let me list just some of the animals Sylvia has taken pictures of in Australia:

  • Bats
  • Koalas
  • Penguins
  • Sea Lions
  • Tree Frogs

And there are more. And they’re all on the same page! There are some incredible shots there. Let me tell you, this didn’t make my day: It made my month. (And I didn’t even mention the hopping kangaroo!)

So, yeah. Head over there. I promise you, you will not be disappointed. (And if you are, this animal fanatic doesn’t want to hear about it.)

This iku is a strange one, because I’m certain I had a reason for designing it the way I did, but what that reason is completely escapes me. The word, of course, is based on the Hawaiian word kanaka, which means “man”. Perhaps it was an inside joke that the iku is built off the glyph for hopoko, the Kamakawi word for “man”.

Anyway, let’s think about this. There’s a little notch on the right side which means…something. And then a slash through the leg. I think my original idea was to draw a connection between humans an animals, which is why this iku is built off hopoko. As for the notch and the slash… I get the impression that the slash is supposed to be a claw of some kind. I don’t know. It’s a puzzle. Anyway, there it is. What, what, rah-ther, and all that.

It’s all right to have some mysteries in one’s writing systems, so long as there aren’t too many (I mean true mysteries, not just etymologies that have been lost to one’s imagined speakers). With Kamakawi’s system, I think there’s just the right amount.

Now, to bed! Or…water first, then bed! And teeth brushing… Something or other.


• Monday, April 19th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'kuiki'.


  • (n.) seashell
  • (v.) to be pink
  • (adj.) pink

E kuiki nukoa hie.
“The meat is still pink.”

Notes: The iku for kuiki is a modified version of yesterday’s iku, eu. The idea is that the word for “pink” derives from the color of the inside of certain shells, which are, indeed, pink (e.g. a conch shell). Also, the “meat” inside a shell is also pink. It seemed to me like a plausible way for a non-essential color term to come into the language.


• Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'eu'.


  • (n.) clam
  • (phon.) glyph for the sequence eu

A hoku ipe eu!
“That clam is huge!”

Notes: The “clam” part of that glyph takes a line determiner; the other is just the phonetic glyph.

You know, I do enjoy clams (e.g. in clam chowder), but I feel bad about how defenseless they are… They’re simply no match at all for our tools; they can’t even put up a fight. In fact, fishing (all kinds) is probably the most barbaric of all forms of hunting and harvesting. Most fish suffocate to death. At least cows get a quick death…

On the other hand, I suppose seafood (not farmed seafood, but seafood from the sea) at least gets to know freedom. Perhaps that’s consolation enough…?


• Monday, January 18th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'hiaka'.


  • (n.) octopus

Ka liwi ipe hiaka ie o’opo li’i poiu!
“That octopus stole my coconut!”

Notes: The octopus is a remarkable creature. If you’ve never seen one in real life, I suggest you take a look at this video (which, by the way, inspired the sample sentence above). I have a lot of respect for octopuses—partially due to the fact that there is simply no correct or universally accepted way to pluralize the word for “octopus” in English.

The glyph itself is actually comprised of the syllabic glyphs hi, a and ka. The older glyphs of this type were built in a particular way, and have evolved in bizarre ways over the course of the history of Kamakawi. With hiaka, look for the hi on top (the part that looks like a squiggly t), followed to the lower left by a great big “x” (that would be a), and then the whole thing is capped by the ka on the right.

Despite the fact that I created this iku and can still trace its origin, I look at it and think, for whatever reason, that it looks like an octopus. It doesn’t (there are only seven legs, after all, and it’s octopus, not septapus), of course, but I can’t shake it. That crazy glyph that kind of looks like an English upper case cursive “G” will till the end of my days remind me of an octopus.