Friday, November 18, 2016


Rev. & Mrs. Joaquin Flores Sablan sitting on comfy siyan gai kanai.

Long before the Europeans, our ancestors sat down. But not necessarily on chairs.

Tå'chong is the Chamorro word for "seat." We can sit on many things. The ground, a rock, a tree stump. Those can all be tå'chong.

When we sit, we make something our tå'chong, so "to sit" is fatå'chong. Fa' (to make) and tå'chong (seat). To make something a seat!

But the piece of furniture we call a "chair" probably did not exist here until the Europeans brought them to, or made them on, our islands. And thus our word for "chair" is borrowed from the Spanish word for "chair" - silla, which becomes our Chamorro siya.

Once again we see a link to the Latin language of Rome, because Spanish silla comes from Latin sedes or sedis by way of Italian sedia. Think of the word sedentary. Someone who sits down all day long is a sedentary person. From sedes/sedis, Latin for "chair."

Well, an arm chair is a chair that has arms. So, for us, it's a siyan gai kanai.

Kånnai is the hand but also the whole arm. The word gai ("has") changes the pronunciation of kånnai. The stress is on gai, the å becomes an a and the extended N in kånnai is eliminated.

As an aside, the first ordained Chamorro Baptist minister, Joaquin Flores Sablan, is sitting next to a Spanish Capuchin friar, at this public event. The friar could be Påle' Gil but that pith helmet makes him harder to identify.

In any event, you can bet that the minister and the priest weren't saying much to each other. That was the way it was back then.

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