Thursday, 5 January 2017

Hawaiian wave words

From the movie North Shore:
You probably heard that the Eskimos have several hundred words for snow, right? Well the Hawaiians have just as many words to describe waves and ocean conditions… Pretty soon it's going to be kai maloʻo, low tide, when the reef gets exposed.
I know nothing about Hawaiian, but I did a little looking in this Hawaiian-English dictionary. kai maloʻo means "n. Low tide, as when much of the reef is exposed. Lit., dry sea". kai is "sea", maloʻo is "dry". If kai maloʻo is one word, why can't low tide be one word as well?

The dictionary has 24 terms for "tide" altogether. There are two terms for "tide", four terms for "low tide" (altho three of them seem to be variants of kai maloʻo), four terms for "mid tide", six terms for "rising tide", three terms for "high tide", and five terms for "turn of the tide".

I did a search for the six terms for "rising tide". kai apo is "n. Rising or high tide. Lit., encircling sea", kai ea is "n. Rising tide; sea washing higher on land than usual. Lit., rising sea", kai piʻi is "High or rising tide, high waves", kai kī is "n. Tide beginning to flow in. Lit., shooting sea", and kai nuʻu mai is "incoming tide". The last term, ʻae, is a verb meaning "to rise, of the tide".

Almost of these items for "tide" are compounds or phrases containing the item kai "sea".

By the way, there's an exotic language called English that has a lot of ways of talking about waves and snow.

Also by the way, because I still talk to people who believe that Eskimo languages have 50, or 100, or whatever words for snow: they don't.

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