Archive for the ‘N’ Category


• Friday, February 24th, 2012

Glyph of the word 'nuku'.


  • (n.) a go-between for married couples

E kaneko ie nuku oieika
“The cat is our nuku.”


Keli has a new chair, and she found herself a new little blanket to go with it:

Keli sleeping under a little pillow.

Today’s word is a unique one, I think. The word describes a person integral to Kamakawi marriage. See, when two Kamakawi get married, they have a nuku. This nuku is usually an older woman (though not always) who’s either a widow or has been married many years, and who usually is not directly related to either the bride or the groom. The job of the nuku (who doesn’t live with the couple, but drops by from time to time) is to not only help married people settle in to married life, but to covertly pass messages back and forth between couples—usually things that one doesn’t want to say to the other directly.

For example, let’s say the wife discovers that her husband snores loudly in his sleep, but doesn’t want to say anything. She tells the nuku privately, and then some time later (not the next day, but maybe a couple days later), the nuku comes by when just the husband is there and gives him several bits of advice. She might say, “Always rinse your hands after you’ve been cleaning fish”, and, “Don’t stomp around so loudly in the morning”, and, “Don’t eat opeope right before bed”, and, in addition to all that, “Don’t sleep flat on your back; you snore too loudly!” The husband won’t know which of those things is true, but he’ll know one of them probably came from his wife. Then it’s his job to try to take what advice he can and change things as he sees fit.

Now, due to the nature of their profession, the nuku has a lot of power, and must exercise caution and skill. So as not to be too obvious, the skilled nuku will often drop by with advice that wasn’t given by one or the other spouse. The best nuku will know both spouses well, and so will be able to figure out what advice makes sense for each one—and will also be able to dole it out efficiently over time so as to be able to couch all the real complaints in with the other advice. And, provided everything works out well, the nuku will eventually stop coming around often, and, finally, will simply be a friend of the family.

Of course, on account of the delicacy of their position, it’s pretty easy to be a bad nuku. The bad nuku won’t be able to disguise the true advice very well, which can lead to arguments or hurt feelings. But worse than that is the nuku who comes around too often (and at highly inconvenient times), and doesn’t know when to stop coming around (usually somewhere around year two, or after the first child has lived a full year). Then the nuku becomes a nuisance that the couple wishes to be rid of. Such a nuku is sometimes referred to (behind closed doors) as a paopu (“worm”), on account of the similarities between its iku and the iku for nuku.

Of course, the similarity between the two iku is entirely accidental. The iku for paopu is actually a combination of the iku for pa, o and pu (though it’s hard to tell at this stage). The iku for nuku is quite different.

In examining today’s iku, first take a look at the iku for ho, which is used to mean “man”. Keep that image in mind. That shape is the general shape used for a person (seen also in the iku for ei, “I”, and kupi, “sit”, among others). The iku for nuku actually has those shapes mirrored, facing each other. So rather than being built off pa, the triangle shape is an accident of the combination. The line in between the two essentially represents the nuku: the thing that’s in between the married couple.

And, of course, Keli has always served well in her role. We’re looking to keep her around for quite a while. :)


• Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Glyph of the word 'noka'.


  • (v.) to sigh
  • (n.) despair
  • (adj.) despairing

A kupi lea pe e noka kupae!
“He just sits there sighing!”

Notes: Today’s word is a simple ikunoala composed of no and ka. Of course, the ka could be doing double duty as the “bad” line determinative. I’ll neither confirm nor deny.


• Friday, February 17th, 2012

Glyph of the word 'noto'.


  • (v.) to be shady
  • (adj.) shady, shade-giving
  • (n.) shade
  • (v.) to be cool (coll.)
  • (adj.) cool, awesome

Au noto kaneko!
“Cats are cool!”


Here’s a picture of Keli greeting Erin’s fingertip:

Keli getting touched on the nose.

Today’s word means “shady”, but is used to mean “cool” by Kamakawi youth. I thought it was a pretty cool word for cool. I’d try to start using it in English, but I think it would give the wrong impression.


• Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Glyph of the word 'nivu'.


  • (v.) to drink
  • (adj.) drinking
  • (n.) liquid (archaic)

Oku nivu ei i ipe tou! Ae kavakava lona!
“I can’t drink that! It’s too hot!”

Notes: I’m listening to “Flashdance… What a Feeling” by Irene Cara right now. That means things are awesome. What a song; what a movie.

The iku for nivu is a combination of ni and fu, though it might not look like it at first. The spearhead on the bottom of the stick of ni is ordinarily something you’d expect of la were a part of the word, but it’s used here (in combination with the impromptu open square) to make the fu face of fu.

Common word, this one. It’s a wonder I haven’t really used it here…


• Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Glyph of the word 'nina'.


  • (v.) to be sweet-smelling, to be fragrant
  • (n.) fragrance (only pleasant)
  • (adj.) fragrant

Itilili heka! E nina!
“The air is sweet! And fragrant!”

Notes: A quote from one of my all time favorite movies. Today’s iku doesn’t look too bad for an ikunoala. I’m actually surprised I don’t use this word more.

Today I was having a discussion about terms for “smell” (in English). For me, to say something “smells” is almost always bad (unless it’s followed immediately by a “like” phrase), and the word “stink” is always bad. This isn’t the case, I guess, for a lot of people. For example, lots of people say that garlic “stinks”—people that eat garlic. To me, that’s like saying that a rose is flashy—or even that a rose stinks. The description just doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense. If something stinks, you do not eat it. PERIOD. Not only that, no one could possibly eat it. It’s not a matter of taste. Garlic has an aroma that carries and is distinctive, but so do jasmines. And if you say one stinks, then so does the other.

I swear, people be crazy!


• Friday, January 20th, 2012

Glyph of the word 'nevi'.


  • (v.) to give
  • (n.) giver
  • (n.) giving
  • (n.) beneficence, charity
  • (adj.) given
  • (nm.) a man or woman’s given name

A nevi ei i ia ti kaneko.
“I give you a cat.”

Notes: Sometimes things just fall neatly into place.

Today is, of course Caturday (HAPPY CATURDAY!!!). It also happens to be my birthday. As those who follow the blog know, I’ve been trying, recently, to focus on foma to try to finish presenting the rather large orthography of Kamakawi. Could there be some way to take care of all those things at once…?

Remembering that, for some crazy reason, I hadn’t yet done an entry for the word nevi (one of the oldest and most frequently-used Kamakawi words there is—and one of my favorites), I took a look at the entry, and found as a part of the entry the example sentence shown above.

And then looking through the pictures on my phone, I found this as one my most recent Keli pictures:

Keli emerging from a box.

Happy birthday to one and all! Your present is a cat! :D

The iku for nevi is built off the glyph for ne, with a little fi made out of the descending bill of the ne seagull. I didn’t think much of this iku at first (it looks slanted), but it’s grown on me. Now when I think of the concept “give”, I think of nevi.

Grammatically, the example sentence is not the usual way you’ll see nevi used. Usually nevi is used serially, with some sort of object from a previous clause taken over as the assumed “object” of nevi. In reality, the grammatical object of nevi is the recipient.

That said, in rare situations (can’t think of a context where this would be the natural form of expression), you can introduce the theme/patient of the verb nevi by means of the preposition ti (the leftover argument marker). And I’m sure that’s why I included the sample sentence I included in my dictionary/grammar document. Why it included cats? Well, they’re pretty outstanding, by all accounts. Had to give something. :)


• Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Glyph of the word 'natio'.


  • (n.) rack
  • (n.) spear rack

Toko ia ie la li’ia ie natio.
“Put your spear on the spear rack.”

Notes: This was a fun one. The iku for natio is the same as the iku for lave, “rain”, but it has the “identity” determinative beneath it. The reason its iku is used is because, coincidentally, the iku for lave (which is an ikunoala) looks kind of like a spear rack (after all, it’s got la right in there). Thus, the iku for natio was born.


• Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'natita'.


  • (v.) to snap one’s fingers
  • (n.) a finger snap

Oku natita ei tou.
“I can’t snap my fingers.”

Notes: Or at least not very well.

Today’s word is likewise onomatopoeic, but the iku has a different story. Those that remember way back to the word hela (which means “to leap”) may note that the iku for natita is identical. This is because I took a look at it and thought, “Hey! That looks like a hand snapping its fingers!” And so it became the iku for natita (with the identity determinative below it, of course).


• Friday, November 18th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'nekamelaye'.


  • (v.) to explore, to search through
  • (adj.) explored
  • (n.) exploration

Pale lapa i nekamelaye!
“A new house to explore!”


The next couple of Caturdays will feature photos of Keli on her new adventure hut:

Keli in her new little house.

Isn’t it fantastic?! Keli loves it! And she has Sylvia Sotomayor to thank! She recently moved, and realized she didn’t want to take her cats’ house, so she gave it to me. I installed it last Saturday, and after a few moments initial hesitation, Keli took right to it, and it’s become her new spot. She climbs all over it and has had a good time playing with the little toy at the top (video forthcoming).

Today’s word is a pretty cool word, I thought, but you need to see the word it’s derived from to make sense of it, and that’ll have to way. Enjoy this fabulous Caturday! ~:D


• Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Glyph of the word 'nupa'.


  • (n.) triggerfish

Ka ni’u nupa i’i!
“The triggerfish bit me!”

Notes: The triggerfish is quite the curious fish. Check it out here (nice pictures!). I’ve never swum about with triggerfish, but I imagine if I did, I’d try to give them their space.

By the way, I think this would be a cool crest—and nickname—for a soccer team. For colors, I’m imagining white, gray, gold, black with teal accents. Hmmm… Maybe I’ll have to try to create some uniforms… I think that would be a productive use of my time. ;)