so that not all those of sufficient talent to occupy such statuses actually achieve them” (1967:109). Those who achieve high rank, or big men, come to be held in considerable respect, envy, and sometimes even awe. The Siuai of Bougainville in the Solomon Islands heap considerable praise upon these men of high rank. They also show much respect for a high-ranking individual’s name and person. He is generally not addressed by name, but usually called instead by a kinship term or simply mumi (“big man”). Even in reference his personal name may not be used, and on these occasions he may be referred to by the name of his clubhouse or by the name of one of his assistants. The respect given his name typically continues even after his death. Big men are also usually given considerable deference. As the Siuai’s principal ethnographer, Douglas Oliver, comments (1955:401):
Leaders are usually spared menial jobs; others fetch water for them, and climb palms to get coconuts and areca nuts for their refreshment. Boisterous talk usually becomes quieter when a leader approaches, and boys leave off rough-housing. In fact, one of the sternest lessons impressed upon a child is to stay away from a leader, or else remain quiet in his presence. (“Never play when a mumi is nearby; you might disturb him or hit him with your toys.”) Females, especially, appear awed near the great men, often looking shyly to the ground. Men usually wait for a leader to open conversations, and take their cues from him concerning when to laugh, to commend, or to decry.
No supernaturally sanctioned taboos surround a leader’s person in order to insulate him from plain physical contact with other natives, but few people would assume enough familiarity with him to place a friendly hand on his shoulder – a common gesture among equals.