Archive for May, 2010


• Monday, May 31st, 2010

Glyph of the word 'foyo'.


  • (v.) to choose, to decide on, to select
  • (n.) choice, decision (the act or process of)
  • (adj.) chosen, selected

A foyo ei i ia, Pikatiu!
“I choose you, Pikachu!”

Notes: Hooray for Pikachu, the adorable little thunder mouse! In case it’s been long enough that you’ve forgotten who Pikachu is, here he is!


Isn’t he cute! He’s waving his little arm! I’m quite fond of that which is cute.

This is yet another setup word for translating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I think it’s pretty straightforward, today’s word. Just happened that way. It’s more to pick something than to decide between different options, if that makes sense. The example sentence is quite appropriate.


• Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'omoko'.


  • (v.) to reason, to use logic (or some form of rational line of reasoning)
  • (n.) reason
  • (adj.) characterized by rational thought or rational thinking

A omoko ipe katava tou!
“That palmtree is capable of rational thought!”

Notes: I think a palmtree would be a wise leader: Mighty, yet dancy.

I’ve had this word for awhile. It doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as “reason” in English, but it’s close enough for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s like reason/logic, but without the history. It’s about having reasons for thinking and doing things, as opposed to doing them without thinking about them. That’s why it’s built off omo, “to think”.


• Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'omo'.


  • (v.) to think, to cogitate, to comtemplate
  • (n.) thinking, thinker
  • (adj.) thinking

A omo ei ti fatu…
“I’m thinking of a number…”

Notes: If you guessed 27, you’re right!

This is another setup word for translating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The “real” world will come tomorrow. 8O

The iku for omo is a true ikuiku. There’s the thinking dude there with his furrowed brows, thinking about…something. Perhaps he’s thinking about ice cream. That’s what I’m thinking about. Mmmm… Ice cream. Love it. Can’t live without it. I think I’m going to go get some right this moment…


• Friday, May 28th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'hole'.


  • (n.) neck

A male take ei i ia pokane o hole.
“I shall wear you about my neck.”

Notes: Happy Caturday! :D

Today’s cat word comes from this picture:

Keli as a stole.

My wife Erin is fond of taking our cat and putting her about her shoulders as if she’s a stole. Keli is actually amused by this. What she likes best is getting off, where Erin has to bend down so that her back is flat. Sometimes Keli decides this is a good place to sit, and she’ll sit there comfortably for minutes while Erin struggles to maintain the appropriate posture.

I have no idea what the deal with this iku is. The Kamakawi face is there, as is the glyph for ho. I guess it’s positioned in such a way that it indicates where the neck…starts…? Or ends? I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense at all to me. It’s okay, though. I give it a 6/10.


• Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'aemu'.


  • (v.) to have within, to have inside
  • (v.) to bear, to carry
  • (v.) to come with
  • (adj.) inside, within

Aemu kata tie pale!
“The house comes with a pig!”

Notes: Kind of a strange word to translate into English, since the translations can themselves have other meanings. This means “comes with” in the sense of, “My box of Crispix comes with a toy surprise!” It doesn’t mean “comes with” in the sense of, “Ah, here is my good friend, and—oh drat, it looks like her husband is coming with her.”

In translating the second sentence of the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first troublesome word I came across was “endowed”. What the heck is “endowed”?! If you think about its etymology, it comes from the same root that gave us “dowry”. The Kamakawi word has absolutely nothing to do with arcane wedding rituals. This one is derived from ae, the word meaning “inside”. If something is physically inside of something else, then one might say (quite literally) that it comes with that something. I, for example, come with high cholesterol. Why? Genetics. I’m skinny as a whip and strong as an ox (or probably strong like a vervet monkey), but that cholesterol’s right in me whether I like it or not, and no matter how much I run. Thus have I been “endowed”.

This word signals the start of the second sentence. This one’s not as bad as the first, I think. But I don’t really remember the first sentence—or the second one, for that matter—so it may be a passing fancy. We’ll see as the days go by.


• Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'ikopuku'.


  • (n.) something one is allowed to do
  • (n.) right
  • (n.) a wave of one’s hand

Au emimu uila emi takemi u iema poe takoiki oi pou ikopuku.
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Notes: Okay! The first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is in the books. Huzzah!

Today’s word derives from kopuku (“to wave at” or “to allow”), which, in turn, derives from kopu (“hand”). As you can see, the word ikopuku doesn’t really mean “right” in the same way as English “right”. Rather, it’s seen as a kind of allowance. It doesn’t seem to me that the notion of “right” as it exists in the Western world really makes sense in Kamakawi. Certainly, one’s parents disallow one from doing certain things when one is young, but that’s because one is a child. There are a people that haven’t known slavery, or even oppression, and what one does and doesn’t do is governed by one’s ability, and social morae, not law. And while no group of people ever live in harmony, without true disenfranchisement, it seems like the idea of a “right” would never come to exist—or, at least, not with the same meaning as it has today.

Now that I’ve presented all the vocabulary found in the first sentence, let’s examine it. Here’s the sentence with an interlinear and a more literal translation:

Au emimu uila emi takemi u iema poe takoiki oi pou ikopuku.
/ person-inch. all person carefree even vanity and allowance/
“All people come into being carefree and they are even with respect to vanity and allowances.”

For those trying to figure out the syntax, it’s important to note that takemi there is acting as an adverb. Hopefully that should make everything make sense.

The idea, then, is that all people come into this world without worries (take that original sin!), and that, all things being equal, they’re equally vain, and are allowed to do the same things. Naturally, this is not true, at least as it’s written. If one is born male, one will never carry a child in one’s womb (Hollywood fantasies notwithstanding). But understood on a universal level, it holds.

This doesn’t seem to me like something that the Kamakawi would come up with independently. The real sticking point is that word ikopuku. I think that’s what one has to translate “rights” as, but “rights” implies external—and opposing—forces. I’m not sure if the Kamakawi would phrase it that way. Rather, I think the Kamakawi would use the word itou: a modified version of tou, “ability” (dang. I haven’t done either of those words yet…). This focuses not on what one is not (or cannot be) prevented from doing (and, really, that is the focus of the word “right”, as well as ikopuku), but on what one can do (and no external force is implied). That, it seems to me, makes more sense in Kamakawi.

Okay! Tomorrow, we embark on a new journey: The second sentence! Lots of fun in that one… Just wait and see! ;)


• Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'kopuku'.


  • (v.) to wave at
  • (v.) to allow
  • (n.) allowance (not that kind)
  • (adj.) allowing (perhaps “sanctioning” is a better English translation)

Oku kopuku ei i ia tou ae liwi ie katativa li’i poiu!
“I cannot allow you to steal my bacon!”

Notes: That’s me talking tough to an egret! Egrets, let me tell you, will walk right up and snatch your bacon right off your plate if you’re not stern with them. Granted, it’s adorable, but with only so much bacon to go around, one must draw a line in the sand!

We’re one post away from the word that was actually used in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This one, though, helps to illustrate something that’s a little different about the Kamakawi.

In America, if you wave at someone, you’re greeting them (or maybe just trying to get their attention; it depends on the type of wave and the urgency of the motion). On the Kamakawi islands, a wave means, “Go ahead!” So to “wave at” something means to allow it. And that’s how we get today’s term. As for tomorrow’s…


• Monday, May 24th, 2010

Glyph of the word 'kopu'.


  • (n.) hand
  • (v.) to touch, to feel (something)
  • (prep.) against

Au fiti kopu.
“Your hands are cold.”

Notes: It’d depend on context here; could mean “My hands are cold.” Anyway, this is the Kamakawi word for hand. It seems more fitting than English “hand”; don’t know why. In the coming days, you’ll see how it relates to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The iku is a straight-up ikunoala comprising pu and ko. I think it looks like an oven mitt.

Oh, hey, let me tell you about this wondrous invention! It’s called the Oven Squirrel. Here’s a picture:

A picture of the Oven Squirrel.

Isn’t it darling! It’s a little wooden squirrel, and you grab him by the tail to push the oven rack in, and then latch his little ear onto the under side of the rack to pull it out!

I got one for my mother as a present, but she lost it after awhile (she couldn’t appreciate something like the Oven Squirrel the way I can). Then it occurred to me—just now, in fact—that while I had no use for an Over Squirrel at the time I bought one for her, I do now! In fact, I know my wife would love an Oven Squirrel. And since she doesn’t go anywhere near my webpage, I can state here my intention to obtain her an Over Squirrel without her knowing it! Hoorah! :D


• Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'takoi'.


  • (v.) to be vain
  • (v.) to be dignified
  • (adj.) vainglorious
  • (adj.) dignified
  • (n.) dignity
  • (n.) vanity

Hava i takoiki.
“Food is vanity.”

Notes: Or I guess it could be “food is dignity”. The first seems more likely to me.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains the word “dignity”, and I had nothing for that in Kamakawi. I tried to think up some plausible derivation, and I couldn’t come up with anything. After all, what is dignity, really? The notion of “dignity” seems to assume that there are two selves: One that is “dignified”, and one that isn’t. The “dignified” self seems to be the self that one takes seriously. It seems to me, then, that the notion of “dignity” wouldn’t make sense in Kamakawai—at least not with the same connotations.

Anyway, that’s when I got to thinking. What is dignity really about? It seems to be about self-image: One’s impression of oneself. Or, to put it another way, how one imagines one appears to others (and applying that to others, it’s how one imagines someone else appears to themself and others). The whole concept revolves around appearances

The word for “dignity”, then, derives from the word takoi: yesterday’s word which means “to reflect”. With the magical abstract suffix which can mean whatever I want (hee, hee… Oh! And by that I mean which forms abstract nouns from concrete ones), the idea is it’s the abstract notion of reviewing one’s reflection. In English, it would seem natural to call that “vanity”. In Kamakawi, though, there’s really not much difference between that and dignity.

Thus was born takoiki. I guess it changes the meaning of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a little bit, but it still works. After all, we should all have a right to our own private vanity.


• Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Glyph of the word 'takoi'.


  • (v.) to reflect
  • (adj.) reflective (able to reflect)
  • (n.) reflection (not a reflection, but the phenomenon)

Ka takoi’u motu tie lelea.
“My face was reflected in the water.”

Notes: Or “by the water”; same thing, in this case.

I remember that I created the word takoi for a children’s story I was writing for my little sister. The story was written in verse, and I needed a name that was three syllables and ended in i, so I took advantage of my position as language creator and did it. Takoi, in the story, was the name of the moon: The Sun’s husband, who was sad because the Sun had been abducted by her father (a very strange individual).

The iku is supposed to be something reflected in a mirror, or something. Actually, come to think of it, that’s the iku for ta, isn’t it? Kind of looks like it. Let’s say it is.

(Update: Oh, I just got it. In the middle is the iku for ka, which is the mirror [why ka? Well, it’s straight and it has a k in it]. Then the glyph for ta is reflected by ka. Also, the top half of it looks like mirrored i‘s in a way.)

As for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this is a setup word. I didn’t actually use it in the translation, but I used something derived from it. What did I use? Check back tomorrow and you’ll see. :D