Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mysterious Misi Luki

Best banana ever

In my previous post about Mr. Oliver's essay on Samoan food, I claimed that the banana cultivar known as Misi Luki was not native to Samoa. I based my claim on the presence of the k.

The k sound has actually been in the Samoan language for a very long time. The Reverend George Pratt and others considered it a corruption of the original language's t sound, a change that has also occurred in Hawaiian.

Exactly why Samoans and Hawaiians have shifted from a t to k sound is a mystery, though I've heard that Samoan orators prefer to speak in k to increase the volume at which they speak, an important consideration since much of their traditional speech making takes place out on the village green or malae.

But until recently, the k was never written out, hence my claim that Misi Luki wouldn't likely be Samoan.

I thought I'd turn to a Google search to see if I could find more on our mystery Musa.

Two sources caught my eye, one from the Royal Society of New Zealand, the other from a gardening blog, Garden of Edendale.

The Royal Society post claims that Misi Luki means Mr. Rudi (Rudi -> Ruti -> Luki, when pronounced in K-style), whereas Edendale gives Mr. Lucas, apparently a missionary who might have served in Samoa. Misi was a title given to old-timey missionaries to the islands, hence Misi Paine from my earlier post about my distant cousin who also served his mission to Samoa.

I like to think that the banana was named after Mr. Rudi/Lucas because, like the fruits, he was short, fat, and had a very sweet disposition.

Whether Misi Luki comes from Mr. Rudi or Mr. Lucas, the evidence points to a post-European contact introduction of the apparently fungus-resistant cultivar from somewhere in India.

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