Sunday, March 18, 2012


Giving official names to typhoons didn't start until 1945.  And when they first started christening typhoons, they were all given girls' names (a custom started by sailors and navymen who named them after their girl friends), until male names were added in the 1970s. Then, all human names were avoided and typhoons started being named after flowers, or birds or what have you.

So, before that, how did Chamorros label the typhoons that hit our islands?

I know from one source in Saipan that they remembered each particular typhoon by the year it struck.  It was rare for more than one typhoon to hit the islands each year, so tagging them by the year they came was convenient enough.

One particularly bad one that hit Saipan in 1914 was spoken of by the man åmko' even sixty years after the fact.  That's how bad a typhoon it was.  And the man åmko' simply called it the Påkyon Katotse.  The typhoon of '14, meaning 1914.

I wouldn't be surprised if this is how all Chamorros identified each particular typhoon.

But in pre-western times, I wonder how our ancestors called each typhoon, if they did at all?  They didn't count years, as far as we know.  Maybe typhoons back then weren't big deals at all, as things could be easily re-built, and were soon forgotten in ordinary conversation.  But I would assume some typhoons did some pretty long-lasting damage to some crops that was followed by some food shortage, or to landmarks that changed the landscape or planting and fishing areas, and would have been remembered.  So how did they name them?  Curious.

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