Friday, June 15, 2007

Meanings Are Keys

My memory of my time in Hawaii is mostly of meanings rather than actual words. So I need to explain how it is that I know that my friends were named Lani and Lono when I don't really have a direct memory of hearing their names.

I know their names thanks to knowing their meanings.

Right after Lani finished his ritual adoption of me, while we were still in the patch of woods, he stared into my eyes and said, in Hawaiian, that my eyes shined like the sky.

My eyes were very blue. Hawaiian, it turns out, doesn't really have a word for blue. There are phrases for different kinds of blue. Maka ālohilohi like me lani, eyes that shine like the sky, is such a phrase. Very blue.

But when I heard him say that, my answer was "Like you?" Because Lani's name was the word for sky. I hadn't known that. I never knew before then, that lani also meant sky. He proceeded to tell me other meanings of lani. It means heaven, it refers to the sky god. He said he was actually named for the sky god. rather than the sky.

When we returned to Lono I asked him if his name meant something. He mimed a plant growing. I didn't get it at first. I thought he was indicating a wooden stake being driven into the ground. Finally, I understood he was talking about plants growing. He was named for the god of fertility. Well, that's Lono.

That's it. That's how I know their names.

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