Wednesday, June 13, 2018


This is one of those Chamorro words which makes your nåna say, "Heiiiiii!!!!" or may even win you a slap in the face (patmåda).

Chatfino' means "swearing, cursing, cussing, profanity" and the like. Fino' means "speech" and chat means "defective, imperfect, faulty, flawed" and so on. Chatfino' literally means "deficient speech."

Karåho is borrowed from the Spanish carajo and, depending on the country, it can be an extremely offensive word, or it can be less so.

In Chamorro, there is no literal meaning for karåho among modern Chamorro speakers. We just know it as an expletive, a word to express anger, whether it be a mild disappointment to a strong opposition.

Some older people think it comes from a mixture of the Spanish word cara (face) and the Chamorro possessive suffix -ho, meaning "my." "My face."

But the word we borrowed is purely Spanish and there are many theories where the word originated. It goes back at least to the 900s AD. Different regions of Spain pronounce the word differently and there is a Portuguese version, too. In many places, the word is used for the male organ.

Whatever the different origins and usage, in most cases, carajo is a taboo word. It shouldn't be said in polite company. Different places in the Spanish-speaking world soften the word to caramba, caray or carrizo.

Many Chamorros shorten karåho to karao. Even karao would have earned you a slap in the face from granny in the old days.

Because it is (traditionally) a very impolite word, many Chamorros also modify it karåmba, karånchot, karambola, kalachucha and other forms.

The fact that the Juan Malimångga comic strip felt free to use it in a newspaper shows that modern generations are not attuned to the gravity this word had for the older generations.

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