Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fina'na'an Siha

There are stories that several hundred years ago in Guam, the names of individuals were very fluid. While you would be identified with a clan, your name could change, and also the reputation of your clan based on your individual exploits, along with other family members. So for example, if you exhibited bravery during battle, you might be called matatnga or taima’å’ñao, to carry these exploits with you, possibly generated social capital for your family as well. If, however you exhibited less socially generous or respectful behavior, such as not sharing your catch achokka' menha hao, people might refer to you as chattao or sarcastically as taiguihan.

Or, if there was some part of your body which demanded attention then maybe your name would reflect that. My great-great grandfather from my grandmother's De Leon side was called bådu because of his crooked, hunched back. Sometimes however, the behaviors which inspire a particular name need not be bad social practices or heroic gestures, but maybe just curious quirks. The naming of a particular family pao chada for instance could be derived from any number of reasons, but one family that I know of was given the name because of the fact that un amko' gi i familia had a habit of smelling eggs at the store before buying them.

Crucial in recognizing here is that these are not simply fina'na'an or nicknames. These were not just play or fun names which accompanied your real name. These names, as they changed were your real names. As opposed to reflecting a static and concrete moment into which you entered into the symbolic network of meanings and norms and can therefore always be referred back to, this constant naming and renaming, reveals the clear inconsistency and fluidity of symbolic meaning.

Today, these names remain however in more concrete and fixed forms. Certain families bear names sometimes now for generations and do not produce new family names. Most family names today reflect, honor or commermorate an ancestor. From my grandfather I have such a family name, Bittot which is derived from Victor, a member of my family long past who is rumored to have started the tradition of blacksmithing in my family, which sadly may die with my grandfather. I would not necessarily say that this sort of naming is somehow uncreative compared to stories about family names such as cha'ka. But only that as time passes on, the stories that make it necessary to either honor or demonize that ancestor and name his or her descendants such disappear and only the name remains.

Here we see the difference between preservation and revitalization. We can preserve family names with little difficulty. Merely write them down and maybe add a few notes about why this family has this particular name, ya maolek ha' esta todu. Revitalization means taking another, more difficult step. It means keeping alive not just the content, but the form. It means continuing to produce family names. Revitalizing this practice means promoting and taking up this activity to give texture or paint the social fabric of not just an individual but an entire family or village, which is sadly disappearing.

It is for this reason that I am committed to not simply accepting existing family names for Chamorros, but work to make new ones. Although I have been slacking off, I did commit last year to making sure that for at least the next generation, my friend Mari belong to the familian Bleach, because of her love for the anime Bleach. Naturally this is not something which I can do alone, I will need to enlist the aid of several dozen people to ensure that the symbolic network is restructured around this name, and so that it can take on a life of its own.

I hope that you all will make similar gestures in your own lives and those around you. It is the difference between seeing culture as a static thing which you are given, preserve, and then pass on, as opposed to something which you play a huge role in creating, destroying, preserving and reviving. I love the network of fina'na'an that Chamorros have, but its survival in any meaningful form (as opposed to surviving in museum form) will depend on us reinvigorating it and not simply accepting existing labels, but working to forge new ones.

One thing which I do in order to keep my mind in this fluid mode, is to not have anyone's "birth" or "Christian" name on my cellphone, but instead an ever changing network of nicknames, random names, associated words then translated into Chamorro. I'm listing them below, in part because I'm getting a new cell phone and so I'm worried that all of my contacts will get erased in the transition.

If you know me and know you're on my cellphone, scroll down and see if you can find out which name you are. Some are easy, merely common Chamorro nicknames such as "Bina" or "Pepe." Others are the results of multiple translations. For instance finayi is Chamorro for "wisdom" and the person who has this number, in her language her name means "wisdom." Oh and a couple are just people's middle names.

Akagueiatdao – Chamorro for “left of the sun”
Alåhas – Chamorro for “jewelry”
Asuka - A character from Evangelion
Benny – Nickname for Benedict Anderson

Bobby – A famous Bollywood movie
Bosa – Chamorro word for “voice”
ChamoruTimes – A Chamorro newspaper from Seattle
Chådapa’ka – Chamorro for “white chåd”
Eevee – One of my favorite Pokemon
Famfamiliayan – Chamorro for “the place of family”
Fangguahanan – Chamorro for "the Guam place"
Fegurgur – A Chamorro last name
Finayi – Chamorro for “wisdom”
Gachong – Chamorro for “friend, companion”
GALAIDE – A Chamorro canoe
Gaseta – Chamorro for “newspaper”
Ga’mumu – Chamorro for “someone who likes to fight”
Gimå-hu – Chamorro for “my house”
Gima’Jack – Chamorro for “Jack’s house”
Guahu – Chamorro for “me”
Hagaschechohu – Chamorro for “my old work”
Kayu – Chamorro for “someone with the same name”
Kilu’us – Chamorro for “cross”
Klingon - A race from Star Trek
Korason – Chamorro for “heart”
Ladrone – Spanish for “thief”
Maga’haga – Chamorro for “eldest daughter of a clan”
Ma’lak – Chamorro for “bright”
Mañainå-hu – Chamorro for “my parents or my elders”
Mañainaneevees - Chamorro for "Eve's parents"
Mew2 - A powerful psychic Pokemon
Minagof – Chamorro for “happiness”
Mumu – Chamorro for “fight”
Nanå-hu – Chamorro for “my mother”
Nananjulian - Chamorro for "Julian's mom"
Nenkanno – Chamorro for “food”
Palao’an – Chamorro for “woman”
Pilan – Chamorro for “moon”
Ponyta – A fire horse Pokemon
Prim - Chamorro for "cousin"
Rodamus – Character from Battle for Kamchatka
Sasahara – Character from Genshiken
Tale’ – Chamorro for “string”
Tatå-hu – Chamorro for “my father”
Tinalo – Chamorro for “middle, Center”


Angie said...

if i am my guesses are

1. bento
2. Klingon
3. AngieChina- I don't think this is me but I do think that there is an argument for it, like I am visiting China or something? Lost in Asia?

Sahuma Minagahet said...

You guessed right Angie. You're Bento. You used to be "AngieIndian" to differentiate you from "AngieChina," but changed you a few weeks ago.


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