Friday, May 31, 2013


Today's Catholic feast of the Visitation reminds me of a Chamorro word that no one uses any more.

The word is yegon.

Påle' Román is the only one that I know, so far, who uses the word.  It means "to visit."

Neither Ibáñez nor von Preissig have it in their dictionaries, which are older than Påle' Román's.

Today, we uniformly use the Spanish loan-word bisita.

So imagine if we said today,

"Håfa na un yeyegon ham?"  "Why are you visiting us?"

"Nihi ya ta yegon i sementeyo."  "Let's go visit the cemetery."

"In yegon meggai siha na lugåt." "We visited many places."

We could also say fatoigue, which means "to come to."

Or, less likely but still possibly, e'ga'ga', which means "to look for, to inspect, to verify" and so on.

Some people today want us to get rid of all Spanish loan-words and go back to purely Chamorro words, but it will take a long and arduous effort to do that.  Try getting some 50,000 or more, many of whom have been speaking Chamorro all their life, to drop a word they've been using for 60 or more years, to switch to a word they've never seen or heard before.

Påle' Román uses yegon in one of his devotional books, and several techa have come to me completely bewildered.  When I explain the meaning to them, they still balk at using the word.  We are creatures of habit.

God only know where Påle' Román learned the word.  He may have had notes written by Padre Palomo or other older missionaries, or he could have been able to speak with a very old Chamorro who hadn't died yet in the influenza epidemic of 1918 which killed many old-timers.

Finally, from what I know of the preferred sounds of Chamorro, I would wonder if the word should be spelled yeggon.  It 's still quite possible that the word was pronounced ye - gon.  Since Påle' Román did not use the glota ( ' ), it's also possible that the word was actually ye'gon.  That's the difficulty of reviving lost words.  How were they truly pronounced?  No one is alive to tell us!

1 comment:

  1. That the word has survived for us to learn and use is enough for me. Lost forever are the hundreds or thousands of ancient Chamorro words that will never part from the lips of modern speakers. We celebrate what we have and may come to have.

    Nahong para guahu na ti mafnas i palabra kosa ke sina ta eyak umusa diariomente gi kuentos-ta. Manmalingo gatus-siha pat mit-siha na palabras antigu na fino' Chamorro ni ningaian nai ufanmalakngos ginen pachot Chamorro na tiempo. Ta selebra hafa na lengguahi guinaha-ta pago yan gi manmamamaila'.