Friday, December 30, 2011


I was reminded recently just how overlooked an important little letter is in our language.  It is the Ñ.

It is called the enñe and makes the nye sound.  You may be one of those who call it "the n with the little curly thing on top."  The "curly thing" is officially called the tilde.  We got it from the Spanish.

The other day I went to a parish to tape their ma nginge' Niño activities.  This parish also has a youth leader who is godfather (nino) to so many people that his godchildren are organized as a group.  When I got down from the car, I saw a young man and asked him if he's part of the Niño Group.  He said "yes."  So I asked what time they planned on heading out with the Niño.  He looked puzzeled.  He said they weren't going out.  I said, "You don't bring the Niño to the homes on Christmas?"  He laughed.  He thought I had said Nino (godfather) and not Niño (Child Jesus).  The young man was indeed a member of Nino's group, but not the Niño Group.

Time and time again I see Agaña, Sinajaña and Yoña spelled Agana, Sinajana and Yona.  Then we laugh or correct newcomers who ask directions to A - ga - na, not Agaña.  I know some members of the Muña family who always put in the ~.  It is needed in other names like Muñoz, Mangloña and Dueñas.

In writing, it makes a big difference.  There's the island Dåno (Cocos Island) and there's dåño (to injure).  There's puno' (to kill) and puño (fist).  Låna (oil) and laña' (expletive).

Finally, pot fabot, there's a big difference between

THE NINO (Godfather) and THE NIÑO (Christ Child)

That's the Niño on the left
That's Kevin, who is Nino to many godchildren, on the right


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