Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WHY "ICE" IS "AIS" IN CHAMORRO


The Ice Plant in Hagåtña

The island of Guam did not see ice, at least locally-produced ice, until the year 1900.  That was less than a year after the American Navy moved in for good.  The Americans were in a hurry to get their ice.

It was on October 6th of that year that the government Ice Plant was opened, amidst great fanfare.

Since the Spaniards were now gone, Chamorros didn't turn to that language for a word for this new treat.  They just went with the English word "ice."  But one could spell it ais in Chamorro.

Later, in 1921, Pedro Martinez opened his own ice plant as a private business.

When I was growing up, it was still in business and did a very good business especially after typhoons when the power would be out for weeks and months and there would be no refrigeration.

Spanish "Ice" Would have Been a Problem

The Spanish word for "ice" is hielo.  In Spanish, the H is silent so it is pronounced I - E - LO.  That comes out to about YELO.  That's just how our neighbors to the west, the Filipinos, say it.  They use the Spanish word for it.

But remember we don't have a Y sound.  Our Y becomes DZ.  Had we used hielo, we would have pronounced it DZELO.

And that's just how we would have pronounced English "yellow."  DZELO.

Am glad we stuck with ais.

Even though ais is just how we say English "eyes."

The way we pronounce English, we don't say, "I love your aiz (eyes)."

We say, "I love your ais."

So sometimes we're not sure if they're loving our organs of vision or the cubes in our glass.

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