Sunday, December 3, 2017

Easter Islands?

Easter Island's Rano Kao and the islets  
Motu Iti, Motu Nui, and Motu Kao Kao

Did you ever hear people to talk about the Easter Islands? No, it isn’t plural, it is singular. I must admit that I’ve heard it more often by Germans – Osterinseln (plural) instead of Osterinsel (singular). Why do these people use an incorrect plural?

You might argue that the small islands like Motu Iti, Motu Nui, and Motu Kao Kao are the cause for it, but I doubt that these persons even have heard about these islets. Or is the Island Salas y Gómez [1], which lies 391 km northeast of Easter Island, cause for this plural form? Salas y Gómez has been declared a nature sanctuary. It is lacking a constant source of freshwater. But it has been known to the Rapanuians [1]: “The Rapa Nui name for the island is Motu Motiro Hiva or Manu Motu Motiro Hiva, meaning (Bird's) Islet on the way to Hiva.” So, not Easter Island but Salas y Gómez marks the farthest point in the southeast of the Polynesian triangle. Still this has nothing to do with Admiral Roggeveen, who named the big island Easter Island – which leaves the question, why people use the plural, still unanswered.

Maybe, we’d better leave Easter and look at Christmas, as there are Christmas islands. One Christmas Island lies in the Indian Ocean and is Australian territory [2]. The other Christmas Island is the atoll Kiritimati, which belongs to the Republic of Kiritimati. So, I guess it would be farfetched to assume that someone knows such facts on two equally named Christmas islands and then would be ignorant to Easter Island.

My guess is that people know about so many groups of islands in the Pacific that they presume that there has to be a group of islands called Easter Islands. They cannot imagine the remoteness of the one and only Easter Island. I hope that people will now use the correct forms: Easter Island or Osterinsel or even better Rapanui.

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