July 21, 2006

Saipan Vernacular

In California, I once told some friends that just for kicks my best friend, we'll call her Ace, and I would sometimes go strolling through a Kagman village - we'd get lost and try to find our way out again. There were no street signs and if you didn't know the village too well, it was harder to recognize at night. My friends thought it was odd that we went strolling all the time. I think they pictured us in long dresses with pretty pink parisols walking along some beachfront path. Boy, would they have been wrong. On Saipan, strolling is basically driving around. You and your friends drive around, check other friends, and find a place to spot.

Recently, a friend mentioned the odd reaction she received when she told a stateside friend that she was going to "get down with him." They stopped at a store and she told her friend she was going to get down with him. He thought she wanted to dance. She just wanted to go into the store.

It reminds me of when people ask you to follow them. "Follow me, fan, I'm ashamed" means, "please come with me, I'm kinda shy." Has anyone ever asked you to "follow me smoke?"

So this same friend who wanted to get down, let's call her Mary; she told me about the time her high school English teacher was beginning his lessons on colloquialisms and vernacular. He told them that when he first arrived on island and people would tell him "on the light," he would confusedly look up at the light - what's on the light? He didn't see anything. When he finally understood what was being asked of him, he would respond with "TURN on the light." He also told the class that "open the light" was incorrect, as was "on the faucet". Mary and her classmates agreed with the teacher, "yeah Mister, we know that, open the light is wrong". Then her teacher gave another example: "nothing power." And the class was confused, "what do you mean, Mister, there's nothing power. It means there's nothing power."

One time James answered a phone call at work. It went a little something like this...
James: Hello?
Dude: Can I speak with 'Jamal'?
James: Who is calling?
Dude: This is the Godfather.
James: Who is this?
Dude: The Godfather.
James: *thinking, I'll give him one more chance.* Who is this?
Dude: This is the Godfather.
James: *click*
It was so funny hearing this story. I explained to James that people will often just say, this is the Auntie or this is the brother or whomever. So was most likely that the caller really was Jamal's godfather. But whatever, with the work James does, I agree that he should have properly identified himself.


  1. omg this is hilarious. i know, know, know that on the light is wrong, but i still say it. darn you cnmi pss!

    you forgot about tree. 'i saw tree trees.' lol

  2. Funny funny funny.

    I've had that problem with the "get down" phrase. I have to think sometimes whether what I'm saying is actually correct or is it something I learned back home.

    And people don't get it when you say, "Oh yeah, no?"

    I'm going to think more about this.

  3. Oh yeah, no? I forgot about dose tree, ike, I mean two. lol.

    It's a lot of fun talking with James and telling him about the different phrases that are Saipan. He always gets a kick out of massive and millard. A few months ago I heard a lady on her cell phone tell a friend, "that's so stale." I hadn't hear that in years.


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