Saturday, January 23, 2010

Growing up Hawaiian - Part 2 - Pidgin English Jan 2010

Remember how we said Hawaii was the melting pot of the nation?

Not only did we do things differently where I grew up,
we even had our own language!

Because so many different peoples populated the Hawaiian Islands,
— settled by Polynesians, immigrated to by Caucasians (Haole),
Filipinos (Buk Buks), Chinese (Pakes), Koreans,
Japanese (Buddha head)  and Portuguese (Portagees) —
AND had the need to to communicate with one another,
a unique combination of words from different languages
was created to become the language of the islands known as
 Pidgin English.  

My everyday conversations were peppered with words
that drew blank stares from San Franciscans some 15 years later.

Words like:

pau - finished
kokua - help
kapu - keep out
huli-huli - go 'round
mauka - towards the mountains
makai - towards the ocean
make - dead
kamaina - local person
malahini - newcomer
okole - butt
pupule - crazy
akamai - smart, clever
pilikia - trouble
bumbai - later
hapai - pregnant 

The list is endless. . .

I was not allowed to speak Pidgin at home,
but at school and with friends phrases like this were heard:

Where you was? - Where have you been?
Eh, bra, you like da kine?  - Hey, bro, you want. . .(fill in the blank)?
No make li dat! - Don't do that!
Hooo, get plenny fish today. - Wow, good fishing today.
An den? - And then?
Okole maluna - Bottoms up!  (a toast, when clinking glasses)
No make pilikia! - Don't make trouble!
Broke da mout - Delicious
Da buggah wen make. - The guy died.

'Political Correctness' didn't exist.
As kids, we sang songs and told jokes that playfully made fun of
our races, and ethnic cultures with a vengeance
that would get you jail time today.

Such as:

Ching Chong Chinaman
sitting on a fence
trying to make a dollar
out of fifteen cents


Red, white, and blue
stars over you
mama say, papa say
you Pake


What's the biggest library in the world?
Aala Park, 'cause that's where all the buk-buks (Filipinos) hang out.


 Knock knock
who's there
mema who?
(mahu - transvestite or gay)

I know.
I cringe as I write this. 
But that's how it was.  And it was a different time and a different place.
It was done in fun, sort of a verbal elbow nudge to the ribs.
Was it healthy?  I don't know.

I do know for sure tho, that we accepted each other and our
cultural idiosyncrasies with humor and good will.

I don't think we do that anymore. . .
And it breaks my  heart.



  1. Very good, I have always had an interest in slang and the like. Personally, I hope they
    (they?) don't come up with a new
    PC Revisionist History. Color,is what makes Life
    colorful, si o no? Love your folk's footwear.


  2. Thanks, Bill. Our conversation inspired this post. Wow, saddle oxfords. . .and argyle socks!
    How chic was that.

  3. I notice that your folks did not require YOU to put on shoes for the pix!
    Such memories, standing around with 5th graders chanting those rhymes at the bus stop after school...I wonder if kids there still do that today?