“Excuse me, please. How do you say…?”

girl bookHave you ever said something, thinking you pronounced the word or phrase correctly, only to hear someone use the same word or phrase entirely differently? You’re not alone. Many words and phrases on Guam are not what you would expect.

Here are a few that stumped me when I was “Fresh Off the Plane” (FOP).  I’ll try to use common sounds and words to break them down. Again, these are from my perspective. However, if you’d like to comment and/or correct me, please comment below. If you have a few you’d like added, throw them my way!


For the purpose of simplicity, the villages are categorized as Northern, Southern, or Central. Even though these names all begin with ‘Y’, the sound each represents is unique.

Yona = joan-ya                             Southern village

Yigo = gee-go                                 Northern village

Ypao = ee-pow                               Public beach in Tumon

Mangilao = mang-ee-lau            Central village

Toto = toe-two                                Central village

Maite = my-tee                               Central village

Agat = ah-git                                  Southern village

Piti = pee-tee                                  Central village


Below are a few phrases my husband broke out when we first moved to Guam.

“Off the light, fan.” =  Simply means “Turn off the light.”

“Who’s own?” =   A more local rendition of “Who does this belong to?”

“Off the air-con, fan.” = “Please turn on the air conditioning, Dear.”

You Say Potato, I Say Potato

If you’re like many of us who can’t wait to beat it down to the nearest beach, you’ll most likely wear a pair of flip flops in the sand. On Guam they are called “Zories” or slippers. I guess thongs have taken on a new meaning and are rarely referred to as footgear!

And finally, newcomers to the island are often heard saying “Chamorran” to describe food and language. Wrong! “Chamorro” is the correct designation. Though “Guamese” sounds like a real word, it isn’t. Instead, people from Guam are “Guamanian.”

About Kym

Kym Pangelinan has lived on Guam for 27 years, moving to the island with her Chamorro husband shortly after the fish head debacle. She is a happily married mother of three. Knowing what it’s like to be FOB/FOP (fresh off the boat/fresh off the plane), Kym shares her humorous insider quips and tips.

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