Friday, May 15, 2015

Hawaiian Pidgin

First of all, people who don't live in Hawaii have some completely dead wrong ideas of what goes on here. Speaking pidgin is one of them. Locals don't go around speaking pidgin all the time. Sure, many lifelong locals who were raised in Hawaiian oriented culture, do indeed know how to speak in a local pidgin. If you're in the right circles, you'll hear it among pig hunters, fishermen, small farmers, though most will switch to English if you join the conversation. I've become aware of different levels of pidgin, some mixing more English pronounctions than others. Some pig hunters I've met are so strong in pidgin that I can barely understand them, while others just mix in popular phrases with the English. But where the fun comes in is when we speak some level of pidgin just to mess with the tourists, Some fun, eh? You bet! 

Much of the words are English words but pronounced differently. 
Three is pronounced tree, like in "I want tree hotdogs."
The becomes da, as in "I need da kine." 
Thing comes out ting. "No ting happen here." 

Lots of little pidgin like phrases slip into daily town talk.....
Store clerk, "Want one bag?" Customer, "No need." 
Person at post office, "I want one stamp." Postal clerk, "How many?" Person, "Tree". 
Person #1 "Cuz went off island." Person #2 "Aw, I never know." 

One of my friends is quite fluent in pidgin, far more so than I. I tend to think of her as being somewhat feral. While I couldn't hold up my end of a pidgin conversation with her, I have had fun incorporating pidgin into our conversations when we were on the mainland together a couple of times. Things like....
....I saw choke cars on da highway. 
....When we going shopping? .... (reply) Bumbye. 
....Don't talk stint. 
....Dis food is mo bettah. 
....They got pu pus on da menu? 
....Dis ono kau kau come wit choke fries. 

This makes me think of that story....
(First a bit of background. Kau kau used as a verb means to eat. Kau kau as a noun means food, cow and kau are pronounced the same.) 
A horse broke into a neighbor's pasture, where it ate up the neighbor's cow grain pellets. The cow owner confronted the horse owner about it--
Horse kau kau cow kau kau. 
Horse no can Kau Kau cow Kau Kau. Cow Kau Kau cow Kau Kau. 

Ha! Try repeating that one fast from memory! 


  1. I studied both pidgin and "true" Hawaiian, and essentially never heard the latter used, except in some slack key music. Try learn da hakala alphabet.13 letters, brah, can!

    1. Barry, I've never studied Hawaiian nor pidgin, but one of my feral friends is comfortable with them as a second language. She spends much of her time with the locals here. I just pick up stuff from her. I don't hear a lot of either language locally other than the usual words woven in -- akamai, pau, puka, kuleana, kokua, okole, huli huli, lolo, pauhana, ono, bumbye, choke, stink ...that sort of thing. The kau kau thing is just used for a laugh.

  2. TresJolie, sorry but I accidently removed your question.......What is "choke"? I have to see if my cousin in Honolulu knows the rest.

    Choke means a lot. As in, during rush hour there are choke cars on the highway.