Friday, February 4, 2011

Who Watches the Spiders?

 Today I learned a really awesome Hawaiian tongue twister. Take the simple sentence “It was he who was watching the spiders of him in Nānākuli”, translate into Hawaiian and you get:
Nāna e nānā ana i nā nananana āna i Nānākuli.
Try saying that three times fast!

Incidentally, I find it really funny that the word for “spider” in Hawaiian is “nananana”. Must be hard for arachnophobics. “He nananana!” “He aha?” “NANANANA! MA ʻŌ!”

When I did my grand investigation of the number of possible Hawaiian words a while back, I counted hypothetical words like this one formed of one syllable repeating over and over, but I wasn't sure how many actually existed. Two-syllable repetitions are fairly common (see nānā, “to look, watch”, above), but the only word I knew of with three or more syllables repeated prior to this was the word “pipipi”, which is a “general name for small mollusks, including Theodoxus neglectus.” Also “small or close together, as stars or pipipi shells.” Thus it is interesting to see that such words are not entirely hypothetical constructs, but actually exist.

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