Tuesday, September 12, 2017


This Chamorro expression is one more proof that language is not just a matter of vocabulary and grammar. There are modes of expression that go beyond ordinary logic.

Ma tåla' na påtgon means that a certain child is outgoing, speaks up, expresses his or her personality. He or she is the opposite of the shy child who is rarely seen and never heard. The underlying belief is that the ma tåla' na påtgon has confidence in him or herself, while the yomåhlao (shy) child has a lack of confidence and thus dislikes being seen or heard.

The curious thing is the use of the word tåla'. To tåla' means to dry in the sun. Your wet clothes are ma tåla', either hung on the clothes line or spread out over bushes. Salted meat is dried, or ma tåla', in order to preserve it for future use.

So, how is an outgoing child ma tåla'? Is he hung on the clothes line?

So I asked Påle' Jose this question.

So, just as our wet clothes or salted meat are exposed in the sunshine, seen and visible to all the world, in the same way, the ma tåla' na påtgon is not hidden. He or she is exposed, seen and visible to the whole world.

In fact, one of the older Chamorro dictionaries (1918) says that tåla' means to "expose or lay out." It doesn't state that tåla' specifically means to "dry out," as in clothing or food. But, if one exposes wet clothes and food to the sun and air, they will dry out. So, perhaps, the most basic meaning of tåla' is simply to expose or lay out.

Ma tåla' na påtgon. It's a mental image that came to the minds of our Chamorro mañaina and came into the language.

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