Honolulu Slang

by Sharon A. Takiguchi, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Aug 31st 2010 01:01 PM

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Honolulu Slang

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Understanding Honolulu slang means understanding the history and culture of Hawaii. In Honolulu, local language is a mix of dialects, vocabulary and accents from all over the world, thanks mainly to huge levels of immigration. Honolulu's local lingo is often referred to as "pidgin English" or "creole," meaning a combination of English, Hawaiian and other languages. Here are a few pointers to help you understand Honolulu slang terms and phrases:


1. "Haole"

In Honolulu local lingo, "haole" refers to a foreigner visiting the island and is akin to saying the person is fresh off the boat. Beware: it's not always used innocently. Sometimes, "haole" is used derogatively in Honolulu slang for a Caucasian man or woman.

2. "Shi shi"

Pronounced "shee shee," this word means to pass urine or use the bathroom. Locals say, "need to go shi shi before we leave the house." A nurse may ask a patient to go "shi shi" to obtain a urine specimen.

3. "Stink eye"

Honolulu's slang term "stink eye" means giving someone a dirty look if they annoy or bother you. For instance, if a driver of another car cuts in front of you on a busy road, you might give them a "stink eye" for such rude behavior.

4. "Mainland"

In Honolulu's local language, the term "mainland" is used to describe the continental United States. Don't refer to it as "the States," as this implies that Hawaii is somehow a separate country rather than a part of the U.S.

5. "Hawaiian time"

The phrase "Hawaiian time" is a major player in Honolulu slang phrases and usually refers to arriving late for an event. As in most places lucky enough to have warm weather and a relaxed environment, life can happen slowly. People tend to arrive later than the agreed time for a meeting or an occasion. Note that Honolulu lingo has another use for the phrase: "Hawaiian time" may be used to indicate the time in Hawaii compared to, say, Eastern Standard Time or Pacific Standard Time.

6. "Humbug"

One of the most popular Honolulu slang terms is "humbug," meaning a nuisance or annoyance. When your flight is delayed for two hours (remember what we said about Hawaiian time?), or the shop has run out of your favorite chips, you would say, "What a humbug." Locals use the expression to refer to the little inconveniences in life.

7. "Hui"

The word "hui" in Honolulu lingo refers to a partnership, club or union. It can also mean to unite or join together, such as forming a "hui" to pool money with other people in your workplace to buy a birthday cake or retirement gift. A sports or social club may also call itself a "hui."

8. "Bocha"

Pronounced "boh-chah," this Honolulu slang term simply means to bathe. Oddly enough, it originally comes from Japanese. Parents will tell their children, "it's time to bocha bocha before you go to bed."

9. "Da kine"

When words fail you (as they may well do when attempting to speak Honolulu lingo) just say "da kine." It is a slang term that can mean almost anything. For example, if you say, "we had a fantastic time at da kine's party," "da kine" refers to the person who threw the party. It could even signify an animal, such as in "Mom, da kine chewed up my pillow!"

10. "Ewa"

In Honolulu local language, "Ewa"is another word for "west." Natives would say that Pearl Harbor is located "ewa" of Honolulu. This local lingo is also used by newscasters giving traffic conditions in the morning rush hour, such as, "A car going ewa on the freeway has had an accident at the Pali Highway exit."

11. "Mahalo"

One of the nicest terms in the catalogue of Honolulu slang, "mahalo" means "thank you." You say "mahalo" when a friend gives you a ride to the airport or invites you over for dinner. Thank you cards often use the expression "mahalo".

12. "Makai"

Islanders use the slang term "makai," pronounced "mah-kai," to refer to the ocean (or in the direction of the ocean). Use it when giving directions or describing a location. For example, Ala Moana Beach Park is "makai" of Ala Moana Center.

13. "Mauka"

The opposite of "makai" is the slang term "mauka," pronounced "mau-kah." It indicates mountains or upland areas in the local lingo. Honolulu newscasters may refer to a car driving "mauka" on Ward Avenue, meaning heading inland towards the mountains. Similarly, the "mauka" side of a building is the side facing the mountain. You'll understand why "mauka" and "makai" are opposites in Honolulu local language if you come here: the mountains are in the middle of the island, as far as they can be from the sea.

14. "Malihini"

This word is enunciated "mah-lee-hee-nee" and means a visitor, newcomer or stranger to the islands. When someone moves here, he or she is referred to as a "malihini." To natives, "malihinis" can be a source of amusement: they tend to complain about the difficulty of pronouncing street names in Honolulu, or understanding the local language. Even more amusingly, they often stay in the sun for long periods and get as sunburnt as fresh lobsters.

15. "Kamaaina"

The opposite of "malihini," "Kamaaina" refers to a native of Hawaii or a person with a permanent residence in the state of Hawaii. The pronunciation is "kah-mah-eye-na." Businesses often give a discounted rate to a "kamaaina" citizen (and if you can't speak the local lingo fluently, you can't pretend to be one!).

16. "Kokua"

In Honolulu lingo, "kokua" means assistance or help. Natives will often say "mahalo" (remember that?) in response to your "kokua." The state government may ask the public for their "kokua" to save energy by purchasing solar panels. Road signs sometimes state, "Please kokua, children playing, drive slowly."

17. "Puka"

In Honolulu slang, "puka" refers to a hole or opening. Threadbare clothes have multiple "pukas."

18. "Pau"

When you hear the local slang term "pau" you can breathe a sigh of relief, because it means that a task is finished. Kids are glad when they can say "I am pau cleaning my room," and the word is commonly used in the local lingo to mean the end.

As in, this article is now "pau."

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splashbubble12

Numbers 7, 10 - 18 are all Hawaiʻi words. There are differences between native people here and locals (Given a tag native for being a Hawaiian born and raised on the Hawaiian land , and practicing Hawaiian traditions. Given the a tag local for being a resident of the land). And a common thing that people usually say is that Mahalo means "Thank you", but really it actually means Appreciative. Just thought I'd throw it out there... This post kind of bothers me, being a local/native(whatever I am) of Hawaiʻi.

May 09 2014 at 5:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Saniya B. Izbair

Learning Hawaiian!!! can't wait to use it there

August 25 2013 at 2:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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