Monday, August 1, 2011



Everyone has seen this Chamorro word on many a car driving on Guam, the Marianas and abroad.  Not many people know the original meaning of this word which has taken on a new connotation in modern times.

The original word in Chamorro means "to distribute, to divide."  Simple as that.

A hundred years ago, our people used this word quite freely, and nobody giggled.  Its meaning was simply to distribute or divide something.

When fishermen caught fish, they would distribute the fish among the community.  The boat owner, the net owner, the fishermen and the whole community, especially the poor and the sick, got their shares of the catch.  Man ma fåkkai i taotao siha ni guihan.  Fish was distributed among the people.

Ti siña ma fåkkai.  It cannot be divided, or distributed.  The Three Persons of the Holy Trinity are separate persons but one God, not three.  Ti siña ma fåkkai. In terms of their divinity, they cannot be divided.

Na' gai fakkai yo'.  Give me a share of the distribution.  They're passing out free titles to surplus military land.  "Na' gai fakkai yo' pot fabot!"

Fast forward to today, hundreds of years after the word was originally used by our mañaina.

The modern meaning is "to beat up."  One modern dictionary defines it so.

Like many words that became slang, the origin of the modern usage remains a mystery.  Slang often begins with one, anonymous originator.  It catches on, becomes widespread, and the explanation of the word's origin takes on the nature of an urban myth.

The company that uses a stylized spelling of the word has also come up with their own definition of the word, as can be seen in one of their logos : exhaust the body, proceed the mind, cultivate the spirit.  My how far we've come.

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