Monday, February 20, 2017


Påle' Román's 1932 Chamorro-Spanish dictionary
"Manana si Yu'us" means "it has already dawned; it is already daytime."

We live in a time now in Chamorro history where there are less and less fluent speakers of Chamorro, and yet there are now greater differences among Chamorro speakers than before, and a bit of confusion and even irritation.

There have always been differences among Chamorro speakers in the past. These differences have occurred between the islands and even between villages. When I was pastor of both Malesso' and Humåtak at the same time, I noticed a few differences in the words and manner of speech used by both villages, and these two villages were just a mile apart!

But these differences of the past were differences between communities.

Now, individuals are taking it upon themselves to introduce innovations and novelties in the language, under the claim of being more proper.

Not everyone agrees.

Some years ago, since around the 1990s, some people stopped saying "Buenas dias" as a morning greeting. From what I heard, they did this to eliminate from the language a Spanish greeting. Before we go any further, I'd like to point out that it may be a Spanish greeting in origin, but we Chamorros already changed it! In Spanish, the phrase is buenos días. Buenos, with an O.

Chamorros don't say buenos días. They say buenas dias, or buenas for short. We changed it. If a Chamorro said "buenas dias" in Madrid, he or she would be corrected.

Second, not everyone agrees that we should eliminate every Spanish-origin word in our language. Those borrowed words did not bother our grandparents 70 years ago and they don't bother a whole bunch of Chamorros to this day. No identity crisis need arise from the borrowing of foreign words, which happens across the globe to nobody's great anxiety.

Third, coming up with an indigenous replacement does not necessarily mean we have revived an ancient usage. I have never seen in the early accounts what our ancestors said to greet each other in the morning. Maybe they didn't even have a specific morning greeting. Not every race or community does.

So, what phrase was chosen by those people wishing to replace the Spanish-origin phrase buenas dias.

They chose manana si Yu'us.

Manana si Yu'us is not a new phrase. Our grandparents and their grandparents have been saying it for at least a couple of centuries, at least since early Christian times when the concept of Yu'us was adopted by Chamorros. Thus, that phrase has had an established meaning for some 200 or more years, held by an entire community and not just individuals. It means "daylight."

The word manana itself means "clear, visible, obvious, evident, certain."

Ti ya-ña yo' si påle'. The priest doesn't like me.
Mananana ha'. That's clear. That's obvious.

Yu'us means God and is the Chamorro pronunciation and form of the Spanish word Dios, meaning God. When Sanvitores translated some prayers into Chamorro, he still used the word Dios even when writing in Chamorro, because, at the time, Chamorro had no word for God (the idea of God in the Judeo-Christian sense did not exist among our ancestors). Sanvitores had no choice but to use the Spanish word Dios. Since Dios was a new word among the Chamorros, it took a while for the people's modification of it to come down in written form.

(As an aside, in the Philippines, the concept of God was named Diyos (sometimes Dios) in their languages, taken from the Spanish word Dios, and in Chuuk, where American missionaries worked long before Catholic missionaries came, their word for God is Kot, taken from English "God.")

Even the Spanish word adios (farewell) was changed by Chamorros to ayu'us; further indication that Yu'us comes from the Spanish Dios. Thus, if we dropped buenas dias because we don't like Spanish, then we've got to somehow take care of that Spanish derivative Yu'us, too.

So does manana si Yu'us mean that God is clear? Obvious? Evident? As if God were hidden at night?

I don't think so. That would be bad catechesis.

Instead, I believe the Chamorro sense is that, once it is daylight, the things that God made, creation, is now visible. That's why the man in the video looks around the area he is at and says "while it is daylight, we are in the pasture and the farm working," because God has made daylight reveal the things of earth with which we work.

Perhaps, "manana i nina'huyung Yu'us," "the things made by God are seen."

This is why older Chamorros chuckle or shake their heads when younger people greet them with manana si Yu'us. That phrase is a statement of fact, not a greeting. It means that daylight has come. One can imagine a younger person meeting an older person, saying :

Younger : Manana si Yu'us. (It's daylight.)
Older : Mananana ha'. (That's obvious).

At a time in our history when we could be uniting more closely as we face linguistic and cultural loss, we are introducing new ways of speaking that create greater divergence among us. By introducing these neologisms, Chamorros are becoming less able to understand each other when we speak to each other.

1 comment:

  1. Good point Pale Eric. As a kid going to elementary school in Agana Heights in the 60's, we were physically punished for speaking the "Chamorro" our grandparents and parents spoke. I would be glad to have been able to converse with by Dad's mother without threat of punishment. She did not (or would not) speak English.