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Growing Courageousness of the Chuukese Language … Before jumping deeply into our main topic, let’s talk briefly about Alfred Korzybski, a Polish engineer-mathematician  who, after emigrating to the US, continued his advance studies at Harvard and became a celebrated philosopher. Among his scholarly work is his “Manhood of Humanity,” first published in 1921 by EP Dutton  & Co in 1921 with several subsequent editions. It was not until sixty-one years later that I came across the book when, in the winter semester of 1982, I was made to purchase a copy of it as it was a required reading in an undergrad class.

The author explained that the book was “primarily a study of Man and ultimately embraces all the great qualities and problems of Man and takes into consideration all the characteristics

which make Man what he is.” AK went on to note that in the book “great pains have been taken not to use words insufficiently defined, or words with many meanings.” Here lies his fondness, if not propensity, to push around his students in his linguistic experiment labs at Princeton and charge to them: “whatever you say it is, it ain’t.” AK was acclaimed as the father of the specialized field of general semantics, a philosophy of linguistic aimed at developing “Man’s time-binding capacity.”

Suppose AK was risen from his grave in America tonight and brought to Tolensom in Chuuk. To be sure, the kindhearted folks of Feup are apt to invite him: “eto sipwe mongo rais mei Kikkoman” (“come, let’s eat rice with Kikkoman soy sauce”). Listening to the natives around him, the Polish general semanticist would scarcely miss the growing courageousness of the Chuukese language, to wit:

1) “I love you” — Many Chuukese speakers understand this English expression. Do me a favor by translating it into Chuukese. Not as easy as it first appears, and it sounds awkward saying it, except when you borrow the Ifalukese word “faiyo” but please use extreme care in using the Polowatese/Houkese “faumehom,” a crude, if not disrespectful, reference to one’s eyes to express “love” where “sapoulum” would do the trick — as far as the Pollap-Fanatopweans and Paremese are concerned. The point here is that direct translation of “I love you” into Chuukese is abnormal, indigenously unacceptable. Indigenously speaking, it is awkward for a man to express joyfully his “love” to his sister and vice versa like the folks in the so-called liberal societies do. Why? It violates the “wall of separation” that is expected to exist between siblings of opposite genders or those generally categorized as brothers and sisters.

SOTIS (Semantics of the islands)

I don’t know whether it was a good thing to avoid appearance of intimacy between siblings of opposite genders. it’s just how life was lived. Nowadays, however, sisters cannot wait to pronounce unto the world their “love” for their brothers, tearing down the curtain of separation. Indirectness in addressing or recognizing siblings of opposite genders has begun to fade away. It is an index of being modern. You don’t tell your brother that you love him; rather, you tell a bird somewhere in the tree that you: “fayeou perhen mwaanemu” (achingly miss the feet of that man, who happens to be your brother or male cousin).

Similarly, you do not directly refer to your sister by her proper name. The Chuukese language thrives on contextualization and indirectness. You refer to your sister simply as “kena rhopwut” or “ekena fefin” (those women, usually speaking in plural form, even if there is only one female in question. It is a way of showing respect that is seldom understood or appreciated.

2) “En” or “You” is another expression that has gained linguistic courageousness by further striking down the virtue of indirectness upon which the Chuukese culture operates. The “En” expression is used conspicuously in informal convo and social media even by honorable ladies in the form of “Kapong En” (Greetings to You!).

Chuuk Governor and wife

AK and the likes of him would regard this invasive or interruptive expression almost as a curse, that is, pointing the pointing finger, if not the middle finger itself directly at somebody. It looks like something is drifting out beyond the reef. We are accustomed to demanding something instantaneously and directly. Nuance and indirectness tend to lose ground.

3) I’ve made observations twice or thrice on various appropriate and mischievous usages of the respect-showing word, Rewe, used chiefly in the outer islands of Chuuk and Yap. Those who are not from the NW could be forgiven for their ignorance about the social usage and nuance of the word — except when using it intentionally in a crude or disrespectful manner.

But what can be said about the native NW folks who simply do not know? Do you penalize downright ignorance, such as a fellow who addresses most of those whom he runs into as a “Rewe” as a NW equivalent of a Filipino who addresses almost every American as “Sir”. Sometimes the dividing line between the colonists and the colonized becomes too blurry and indistinguishable. The Cooked and the Raw, the French anthropologist Straus used to remark.


At the dock in Seattle, Washington. 

About 400 Tuna Fish Left

Was sleeping and Chaz texted and woke me up! Chaz, see what you did? On a peaceful sunday? Hahaha. Not really. I was just surfing all morning long. Chaz was inquiring about the location of St. Jude and he found it. I am sure he got himself tuna and enjoyed a bowl of sashimi under that beautiful afternoon sun. 

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CONGRATULATIONS to His Excellency, Ambassador Akillino Susaia, DCM Jackson Soram and their wonderful team at the FSM EMBASSY DC office on the LAUNCHING of their new website, Please take some time to visit their website and learn the features that they have. 

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The Fijians brothers are here in Seattle and they brought lots of TUNA!

Tuna from the South Pasifik. Yes. They brought tuna from the South Pasifik. And many people might have been scared away thinking of that very very long line last year, so it is a perfect chance for you and your whole clan, whole village, whole island to walk straight up to the ship and get tuna of all sizes. The best thing is, it’s still that same cheap price of $3.50 per pound. 

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Oregon and Washington have their specific programs to help COFA migrants. If you are in Oregon, please CLICK HERE to go to the COFA PREMIUM ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. If you are in Washington State, please CLICK HERE to go to Washington Health Plan Finder.

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Dear Parents

You know, sitting here drinking and tapping and dreaming, I couldn’t be more happier to see how far our FSM people have come. I know. I know. There’s still a lot of challenges and many mountains and hills to climb, but we must acknowledge that we’ve made pretty good progress. I can now point and say a few names of my role models and my list have exponentially grown over the last several years. And it’s so humbling and a good feel to know that our people have made some headways here on the mainland and elsewhere. 

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