Monday, January 7, 2019


An older man was telling me how he would go on and on, talking to his mother when he was a child, making bold claims as he talked to her.

His mother was not impressed with what he was saying, as teenagers often become inflated with self-importance or become over-confident in what they are saying.

To cut him back down to size, his mother said to him, "Ya kao si Påle' Lottot hao?" "And are you Father Lottot?"

The thing is that the man himself had no idea what lottot meant. His mother used the expression, and she was born in the early 1900s. We knew that påle' meant "priest," but neither of us knew what lottot meant.

From the context we knew that "Påle' Lottot" was not a term of endearment. If by calling him Påle' Lottot, the mother was more or less telling him that he was full of baloney when he talked, we knew that lottot must have meant something disparaging.

According to all the more recent dictionaries, lottot means "full of lice."

But when I checked Påle' Román's older (1932) dictionary, he says that lottot means tina in Spanish, and tina in Spanish means a tub, or basin or a large jar. But this might be an error or a typo. Perhaps Påle' Román meant tiña, not tina. Tiña means a ringworm or a kind of mite that attacks beehives. That would correspond more with "lice."

But Påle' Román's dictionary solved the mystery by adding that "Påle' Lottot" means "a false priest or minister."

Those were the days of strong religious bias, with Catholics mocking Protestants and Protestants mocking Catholics. The Protestant missionaries came to Guam in the early 1900s claiming to be preachers of God's word. Catholic missionaries would have opposed that claim. Mockery and ridicule were found everywhere in the world, and Chamorros weren't outdone in that either. I am not surprised, then, that someone considered a false preacher was called a "lice-filled priest" in those days.

No comments:

Post a Comment