When the first Europeans came to Tonga they brought coins with them, which the Tongans believed to be their shuffle stones. The Tongan shuffle stones were the seeds of the paʻanga vine. So the word paʻanga came in use also to mean 'money'.
Etymology[fatuʻi vahe | edit source]
Entada scandens, native name paʻanga, is a bean-like vine producing large pods with large reddish brown seeds. The seeds are roundish, up to 5 cm diameter and 1 or 2 cm thick. When strung together they are used as anklets, part of the kailao dance costume. They were also used as playing pieces in an ancient disc-throwing game, lafo.
On 1 December 1806 Tongans attacked the passing ship Port-au-Prince in order to take it over. They failed, as the crew sank the vessel. The chief of Haʻapai at that time, Fīnau ʻUlukālala II ʻi Feletoa (Fangupō), resorted to the next plan, plunder what ever was worthwhile. On his inspection tour he found the ship's cash. Not knowing what money was he considered the coins as paʻanga. Finally, not seeing anything of value, he ordered the remains of the ship to be burned. It was much later that William Mariner, one of the survivors of this attack and his protegé, told him that those pieces of metal were of great value and not merely playing stones.
When Tonga introduced decimal currency, it decided not to call the main unit the dollar because the native word, tola translated into a pig's snout, the soft end of a coconut, or, in vulgar language, a mouth. Paʻanga, on the other hand, translated into money.
Mariner also passed down the following statement of Finow (as he called him):
- If money were made of iron and could be converted into knives, axes and chisels there would be some sense in placing a value on it; but as it is, I see none. If a man has more yams than he wants, let him exchange some of them away for pork. [...] Certainly money is much handier and more convenient but then, as it will not spoil by being kept, people will store it up instead of sharing it out as a chief ought to do, and thus become selfish. [...] I understand now very well what it is that makes the papālangi [white men] so selfish — it is this money!