Volume 40 1931 > Volume 40, No. 159 > Notes and queries, p 175-176
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- 175
Illustration
NOTES AND QUERIES.
[455] Korupe (door-lintel).

[See illustration at the end of previous article]

The following note, with illustrating photograph, has been received. from H. G. Beasley, of “Cranmore,” Chislehurst, Kent, England:—

This nicely-balanced example was one of the notable acquisitions of the Cranmore Ethnographic Museum in 1930. Apart from the general excellence of the design and productive skill, there appears to be only one noteworthy feature, viz., the treatment of the hands of the central figure. Although not unique, such treatment is not common.

For many years this piece ornamented a garden summerhouse in England, and when it came to the Museum was liberally coated with paint. However, an application of Pintoff revealed a lower coat of green, whilst the central figure had been gilt. Below the paint the old surface was practically untouched, and although one deprecates the use of European paint, yet in this instance it has been instrumental in preserving the old surface. The measurements are 76.5 x 35.6 cm.

[456] How the Hawaiian Instrument, the Ukulele, Received its Name.

During the year from June 1923 to June 1924, I was making a study of Ancient Hawaiian Music for the Folklore Commission appointed by the Territory, and in the course of that work came upon many bits of interesting information about the more modern music, which lack of time did not permit of investigating further. One of these bits came from such a reliable source, and yet is so little known, that it seemed worthy of being published as it was.

The story was related to me by Mrs. Dorothea Emerson, wife of the late well-known Hawaiian scholar, Joseph S. Emerson, whose brother, Nathaniel B. Emerson, wrote the Unwritten Literature of Hawaii. After I had put it in shape I submitted it for approval to Mrs. Emerson and to one of the surviving members of the family of the man for whom the ukulele was named, who gave his confirmation of its truth and permission to have it published.

In 1879 Mrs. Emerson, then a young woman, came from Europe to pay a visit to some English friends named Purvis, then living in Hawaii, or the Sandwich Islands. They had moved in a body to the islands some time previously, for the sake of a son stricken with tuberculosis, who had been a young army officer in India, where he contracted the disease. He had preceded them to this remote part of the world, thought to have such a beneficial climate for diseases of the lungs.

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At the time of Mrs. Emerson's arrival in 1879, the Portuguese were just beginning to come to the islands in fair numbers, and had brought with them three stringed musical instruments, of which the smallest was the model for the now famous ukulele. Those were the days of King Kalakaua, that jovial monarch who gathered around him all the wit and charm in his kingdom. The young army officer, Edward W. Purvis, aside from a natural charm of manner and much social experience, was a gifted musician with a genuine curiosity about, and love of, customs of the folk among whom he found himself. Not only was he a favourite at the king's court, but he became his chamberlain, and was much loved by the Hawaiians. Almost at once he manifested an interest in the quaint little stringed instrument which the Portuguese had, and which, probably because it was small, easily handled, and relatively inexpensive, was becoming popular with all classes. He soon became adept with it, and was always in demand among the Hawaiians to add his music to their fun. In fact, so devoted did he become to his little “guitar” that he was seldom seen without it under his arm.

He was slight and agile, in which respect he offered rather a contrast to the tall, heavy, slow-moving Hawaiians with whom he was so often in company. Humorously and affectionately they nick-named him uku-lele, literally “jumping flea,” a name which stayed with him until his death and which, readily enough, became associated with his beloved little instrument in the minds of all his friends, and has perpetuated his memory.

HELEN H. ROBERTS, Yale University.
[457] Exotic Customary Law.

We are in receipt of a communication from M. le Professeur René Maunier, 7 avenue d'Orléans, à Paris 14 e, referring to the provisional bureau for the study of exotic customary law which has been established in connection with the “Salle de travail d'ethnologie juridique” at the University of Paris. The bureau proposes to bring the students of this subject into contact and to publish information received in a bulletin to be published once or twice a year. Any readers interested are invited to communicate direct with M. le Professeur at the above address.