Monday, May 16, 2016


When I moved to Saipan in 1991 to live for three years, I was assigned to the northern-most parish, San Roque.

San Roque is only a mile or two away from the village of Tanapag, and many people now living in San Roque used to live in Tanapag in former times.

Tanapag was originally founded by a group of Carolinian islanders from a different area of the Chuukese region, speaking a different dialect of Carolinian from the kind spoken by Saipan Carolinians who live elsewhere, in Garapan, Chalan Kanoa and Oleai.  Over time, Chamorros also moved to Tanapag and there were many intermarriages between the Carolinians there and the Chamorros.

One of the unique expressions found in Tanapag is the word "Wets!"

One says "Wets!" when one is surprised, or to react with disbelief when someone says something unusual or incredible.

You walk into the kitchen and discover that someone has eaten all the food you put aside for later. "Wets!"

Someone tells you that you're being blamed for something you didn't do. "Wets!"

Someone you never expected to show up walks right into the room. "Wets!"

You think it's just 10AM and you glance at the clock and it's really 11AM. "Wets!"

And numerous other examples abound.

The two villages being so close to each other, and some families having once lived in Tanapag, I heard "Wets!" frequently in San Roque.

Moderns, whose spelling is highly influenced by English, a language they often know better than their native tongue, and who spell more in English than in their own language, often spell it "wettz."


Native speakers are spreading the information that the word has an original meaning, and its meaning makes the word taboo. Traditional culture would prohibit its public use.

It means "semen."

One person says that the original word is "wet," and that, in time, it changed to "wets."

But the meaning, they all say, is "semen," and thus the word was prohibited from public use in the past.

The debate will not be about its original meaning. That seems clear, as told us by native speakers.

The debate will be whether one should refrain from using the word, or if circumstances have changed now and the word has become just an expression, without literal meaning (for the majority of people using the word as an expression).

That, I believe, is where people will differ in opinion.

What is clear, from just listening to people, is that "wets" is used by a whole lot of people who do not intend to mean "semen" when they say it.


  1. i an from one of the outer islands of chuuk call Onoun and we also use that word or slang whatever you wanna call it. i don't believe
    there's a root word or it came from a greek word. It's simply a slang. if you're from Onoun you would spell it wech but that dose not change the meaning. besides wech we also use wet, again the meaning stays the same. after all it's all up to how you want to spell it cus it'll all mean the same. WET,WECH,WETS,WETZ, OR WETTZ, all the same to me, it's the sound not the spell. Thank, a just wanna share my oun opinion.

    1. And the Carolinians of Tanapag come from (their ancestors) Onoun and the neighboring islands.