Meaning of Tatau 2
Many ask about the literal meaning of the word Tatau. The most common answer is that the word Tatau stems from the word "Ta" which is the striking action of the au, the tool of the Tufuga Ta Tatau but this is only the start as it does not take into consideration the "u" or "tau' of the word "tatau".
The word "Ta" defined as the "striking action" can be considered the root (TA-TA) in TATAu or as it is used in Tufuga TA TATAu.
The word "Tau" has many meanings, used in context of tatau is has been well defined by Albert Wendt. Albert Wendt is a well known Samoan author and University professor. Among his translations of the word "Tau" as used in Tatau he has documented three: to reach the end, to anchor/moor a boat or canoe, to fight.
I have found that the first two (to reach the end, to anchor/moor a boat or canoe ) could easily be considered the translation of the word "tau" in Tatau
One reason is that the Tatau Samoa begins with the ulutao. The spear of the va'a or canoe and once the Tatau started, nothing is more import and then completing the Tatau.
Using his meanings for the words "Ta" and "Tau" In his paper - Tatauing the post colonial body , Albert Wendt has noted interesting meanings for the word Tatau. I have found the most appropriate to be:
Tatau- Striking till we reach a satisfactory conclusion or completion (of the Tatau)
In Samoa and Samoan Language there are other related words to Tatau
Tatau Samoa - is used with the same meaning as Tatau it just specifies the Samoan origin of the word and artform.
Pe'a - This is the flying fox found in Samoa. Pe'a is also the name given to the traditional Tatau of the Samoan Man. In casual conversation the word "pe'a" is used to generally describe a tatau both traditional and contemporary much as "tattoo" is used in English.
Malu - This is the traditional Tatau of the Samoan Woman. The Malu is also the name of the primary Tatau pattern of the Malu. Wendt defines Malu: to be shaded, to be protected, coolness, soft, to soften. With regards to the Tatau found on Samoan females the definition of Malu : to be protected : is accurate.
Soga'imiti - This word is given to describe the Samoan Man of has recently completed his Tatau. The literal meaning of the word "Soga'imiti" is not the artwork, Tatau, Tatau Samoa, or the Pe?a although in casual conversation it is used as such. For example the proper usage of the word Soga'imiti can be seen in the Tatau Samoa Song: "O le soga'imiti ua savalivali mai" which is translated : The (soga'imiti - young man with the Tatau) walking towards you.