When I started calling myself Hamo Geek Girl (omg, almost 10 years ago) it made some people uncomfortable. “Do you know the history of the word ‘hamo’?” some asked. “Isn’t that offensive to Samoans?” asked others.
Yes I know. Hamo was not my most favourite word, either, but I took it back! For a number of reasons, it just felt appropriate for me.
Let me explain.
“Hamo” is slang for “Samoan”. It comes from the Tongan word, “Ha’amoa” which just means Samoa or Samoan.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
Weeeeell, some of us are still a little bit sensitive about the fact that Tonga ruled Samoa for 100 years, like, ages ago. Some losers – Samoan and Tongan – even use that historical fact as an excuse to continue Tongan/Samoan beef today… but that’s another story for another – maybe never – time.
Anyway, because of all that, amongst some groups of Samoans around the world, the word hamo is seen as a derogatory term.
I obviously don’t have the same kind of issue with it.
My father spent a few years of high school in Tonga, where he became fluent in the Tongan language. I actually learned the word hamo from the friendly, back-and-forth mocking sessions he had with his many Tongan friends.
Also, like so many Samoans, my mother’s family history is full of Tongan ancestors…so much so that if you do the maths, she’s almost as Tongan as she is Samoan – and her very Tongan maiden name proves it.
(Her father comes from a Tongan family who settled in Fagaloa, Upolu, generations ago).
So the word reminds me of my dad and my mom and the many Tongan ancestors in my family history. I decided to embrace it – to take it back in honour of my parents and also of the intertwined bloodlines of all Samoans and Tongans.
Besides, it’s the 2000s. Why can’t we all just get along?