Folk were discussing the meaning of 'wanpis' on Asaonet. Can we
help out? I haven't really thought about it but (obviously 'wanpis' means solitary) I have
the idea that because, fish swim about together, when you see one swimming by itself, you
can talk of 'the only fish in the sea'.
Is this something like how 'wanpis' has come about?
John Burton 15 Mar 2002
Here's a stab at wanpis, at least the image it always conjured up
for me: a school-less fish. Rough English glosses that could work are /singleton/, or in
the less than felicitous newspeak, /unpartnered/. Interesting to hear that in PNG
Highlands it works out as only child. Other usages from the Ok area point to orphans or
widow(er)s or unmarried people, and sometimes sole survivors (as of a village wiped out).
Thinking about Orphan in Oliver's Siuai stuff and about the place that /imbatekas/
(odd, non-reciprocal, odd-man-out) has in Burridge's Tangu stuff (see also orphans), one
wonders if it can be used to talk about folks who can't find exchange partners (thinking
especially of Abelam and other Sepik-type folks)...?
Dan Jorgensen 15 Mar 2002
I don't have my Steinbauer with me, but among my UPNG and
Highlands friends "wanpis" was always used literally - one fish - which you
don't often see, so it meant solitary individual, which is a sad thing to be in Melanesia.
I found that when used self-deprecatingly by an unpartnered researcher it would prompt a
laugh and sometimes rebuttal. Obviously people with nasty skin conditions could become
wanpis ... though that never held back one of Moresby's great lovers in the seventies.
Bill Standish 15 Mar 2002
My understanding from Bougainville tok pisin is the same as
John's - 'single fish.' It seems to me that I actually had it explained to me in that way.
Don Mitchell 15 Mar 2002
From Morobe I know 'wanpis' as similar to 'wanpela', to mean
single or 'by myself', such as 'mi stap wanpela tasol' or 'mi stap wanpis tasol' which can
both mean (contextually) I am here by myself or (more categorically) I am single and hence
are here by myself. When I was going places and was asked whether I was by self ('yu tasol
i kam?') and replied 'yes, mi stap wanpela tasol' people could reply 'oh yu wanpis tasol,
ah?' trying to find out whether I was living with someone or was married. 'Wanpes' on the
other hand, in Morobe at least, means to resemble someone, to have the same face -- e.g.
meri ya i kisim pes bilong papa bilong en, tupela wanpes.
Claudia Gross 15 Mar 2002
Where I lived in PNG (Enga) it meant 'only child' - there was only wan pes (one face)
in the family. It was a not-uncommon proper name.
Alex Golub 15 Mar 2002
The last time I was in Port Moresby I saw a child's tee-shirt. In the center was a
drawing of two fish, nestled side by side. Above the image, it says: TUPELA PIS. Beneath
the image it says: INO WANPIS!
Bob Foster 18 Mar 2002
"wanpis" means in English "one fish". In the New Guinea Islands
region it means "turagu" or "ap turagu", "turagu means poor
fellow" someone you feel real pity for him because he is lonely. You show sorrow for
someone being left alone for some unknown reasons. Those who are being isolated become,
"wanpis" thus people feel sorry for them. Sure, you can become
"wanpis" too, if you are cross about something, and tell those your opposition
that you do not care although you are alone "wanpis" which means that you can
hit or fight regardless of numbers going against you. In a cross manner, you can call out
"mi wanpis tasol, kam na traim mi".
Mesulam Aisoli 30 Mar 2002
"wanpis" like Mesulam said literally translated in
English means "one fish". In English it could mean "all alone"
"alone" or it is the idea of someone being felt sorry for or someone feeling
sorry for themselves. I think that's how it is used in the New Guinea Islands region.
'wanpis' is also used to mean 'single' as in not married or not in a relationship.
Jenny Xomerang 30 Mar 2002