Here is yet another example of how languages, like so many things in life, are forever changing.
In Saipan and, because of its influence, in Luta and Tinian as well, it is common to hear people say paire or pairere (same word, but extended to give emphasis).
But, if you said paire to older people on Guam, you would get an icy stare, especially from the older women.
Here's the reason why. In Guam, the word paire has an exclusively sexual connotation.
SAIPAN, LUTA, TINIAN
THE BEST, NUMBER ONE
How did this difference come about?
FROM GUAM TO SAIPAN
From around 1740 to about 1815, Saipan had no human settlement. The island had been depopulated by the Spanish.
So where do the Chamorros in Saipan today come from? There were only two other islands inhabited by Chamorros : Guam and Luta. Tinian also was depopulated in Spanish times (except for a small number of men from Guam who took turns temporarily working on the government cattle ranch there).
So 90% or more of the Saipan Chamorros come from Guam Chamorros who moved to Saipan from the 1850s till the early 1900s. A few people from Luta also moved to Saipan during this time and also during the Japanese period and after.
So the Chamorro spoken in Saipan a hundred years ago was the very same Chamorro spoken in Guam. Thus, at one time, paire meant the same exact thing both on Guam and Saipan - a stud bull, valued by farmers for the breeding qualities it had.
SAIPAN CHAMORROS EXTENDED THE MEANING
If a certain bull was paire - the best male for breeding purposes - then some Chamorros in Saipan began to apply that idea and word to the best in anything else.
We do the same in English. Literally, a king is the ruler, the top man, of the government of the land. But we also call some people the King of Rock 'n Roll, or the King of Pop, and a certain brand is called the King of Beers.
The use of paire in Saipan to describe someone or something very good, the best or number one became so common that the word lost its ability to make people blush. From Saipan, its use spread to Tinian and Luta.
But not to Guam. On Guam, it retains its original meaning and thus its taboo in public discourse.
Tan Escolastica Cabrera, born in 1930, is from Saipan but she remembers that paire was not a nice word to use in public when she was a child.
In this interview, Tan Esco relates that, when she was a child, paire was used exclusively to refer to cattle, specifically a bull who was good in impregnating cows.
|Pic courtesy of Sam Santos|