The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 67
The Letter "V."
The Letter "V."
Vau, a nail.
This is the name given to the Hebrew letter V, whence sprung our F and V and Y (W). In the sense of "nail" it does page 358 not seem to have been of wide distribution, and perhaps the uncertainty of its sound, vibrating from F and V into P [unclear: and] made it difficult for the first scribes of language to fix [unclear: it] fluctuations. Under the name of "digamma" it was used in [unclear: one] Greek dialect, and has proved useful in philology in showing how transitions of words have taken place, as, to use the [unclear: old] school-boy example, F o˜νoς (i.e., o˜νoς) into Latin vinum, wine, was a fancied resemblance to one gamma [unclear: superimposed] another, F, which led the grammarians to relinquish [unclear: the] name of Fαΰ for this letter. As the name of a nail, it does not seem to have been adopted by the Aryan nations (so far [unclear: as] can ascertain). Taylor gives the meaning of van as "a [unclear: peg] nail," but says, "rather, hook, as a hook fastened into [unclear: the] for holding clothes." Farrar* gives van, "a tent-peg or hook The tent-peg would seem the more probable origin [unclear: among] pastoral and probably a tent-dwelling people, as once the children of Abraham were.
The Polynesians seem to possess a word of nearly the same sound and signification. Maori whao, "a nail, any iron tool chisel;" whaowhao, "to carve wood;" kowhao, "a [unclear: hole;"] whao, "leakage in a canoe through the holes made for the [unclear: lasings] of the rauawa" (attached sides). Samoan fao, "a [unclear: woolde] peg or nail; any kind of gouge used in making the sinnet-[unclear: hole] in canoes; to punch holes in the side of a canoe;" faofao[unclear: ,] long shell, formerly used as a gouge in making the sinnet-[unclear: hol] for lashing together two planks of a canoe." Tahitian [unclear: fao,] nail or chisel;" "to make holes with a fao;" faoa, "a [unclear: stoi] adze;" haoa, "a hard stone, of which adzes were formal made;" "an adze" made of this stone. Hawaiian hao, the [unclear: na] of any hard substance, as iron, the horn of a beast, etc. strained tightly, hard; haoapuhi, (puhi, "an eel,") the name of stick used instead of a hook for catching eels; ohao, (for [unclear: koh] "to tie," as a rope or string.
The last word brings us to the consideration of the New Zealand Maori words: whao, "a nail," and whau, "to [unclear: tie;"] fastening with a peg, and fastening with a cord. Whau, [unclear: w] Samoan fau, "to tie together," and Tahitian fafau (redup.), [unclear: "] tie together," have sister words throughout Polynesia. [unclear: belie] that the notion held by one or two Maori linguists, that the [unclear: w] fau, used as a verb, "to tie," arose from the noun naming [unclear: the] tree fau, (whau, or whauwhi,) is incorrect, as the word [unclear: fa] applied to different species of trees the bark of which is [unclear: use] for cordage, or clothing. The Hibiscus tiliaceus, the [unclear: Brousson] papyrifera, a species of Urtica, etc., have this word fau [unclear: appli] to them in different islands, a fact which points out that [unclear: f] was used as a word meaning "to tie," or "fasten together before the dispersion of the Maori race in the Pacific.
* "Language and Languages," p. 117.