On This Tiny Island, Men Speak A Different Language

NASA Johnson Space Center, Wikimedia Commons

Sure, you might have rolled your eyes and joked that men and women speak different languages, but in a tiny atoll in Micronesia men actually do.

MentalFloss charted the history of this men-only language spoken on Sapwuahfik, an island northeast of Australia in the Caroline Islands formerly known as Ngatik. In the 1800s, an Australian captain ordered his crew and some Micronesian warriors to massacre all of the men on the island so he could take control of a valuable supply of tortoise shells there. Some sailors and warriors ended up staying, claiming the widowed island women as their wives.

The island has since repopulated and formed a new culture and language, a dialect of the Ponapean language of the region. But about 700 men on Sapwuahfik and the nearby major island of Pohnpei speak a special “men’s only” language, a mixture of the language of the island and English, called Ngatikese Men’s Language or Ngatikese Pidgin. Although women and children can understand it, the language is mainly spoken when men are engaged in activities like fishing and boat building, a kind of echo of the voices of those 19th-century sailors.