I'm not really all that mysterious

false etymologies

I have a thing for trying to discover the underlying etymologies of proper names. It becomes a fun game to generate names in imaginary languages that have similar meanings to names in real languages.

Another amusing word game is creating kennings, which are essentially poetic but compact metaphors, but most often are used to express abstract concepts in concrete terms. An example of a kenning is “whale-road” for “sea”.

So in the midst of trying to figure out the meaning of someone’s name, I somehow stumble upon this comparative vocabulary list that includes words from different Austronesian languages. (One of the little side notes that I’m very interested in finding the source of is the idea that the ancestors of the Hawaiians came from near the Philippines.)

But what caught my eye is the comparisons for the word for “star”:

Indonesian bintang
Javanese lintang
Balinese bintang
Sundanese bentang
Madurese bintang
Sawu moto
Toraja bintoen
Acehnese bintang
Tetun fitun
Tagalog tala ALSO bituin
Hiligaynon bituon
Maori whetū
Fijian kalo-kalo
Hawaiian hoku
Malagasy kintana
Rapanui hetu’u

I always thought that tala and bituin in Tagalog came from different sources, but tala seems to be the odd-one out.

In any case, looking at the words for “star” from the Central Archipelago, bintang may be the original word. And interestingly, in Tagalog, the Spanish word for “window” has been imported into the language. So ventana becomes bintana. While clearly there is no relationship between bintana and bituin (or bintang), I find it amusing to construct a kenning for “window” like this: bintana = bituin tanaw = “star view”

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