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3 Apr 2018
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Hawaiian Culture

Many refer to Hawai‘i as the melting pot of cultures, and along with that comes a wide range of languages. In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau officially recognized Pidgin English (or Pidgin) as a language. 

Pidgin English is a language distinct from English, though the two languages share some vocabulary. Pidgin is believed to be a combination of the many languages that came together during Hawai‘i’s plantation era — and some describe Pidgin as the state’s local language. The unmistakeable, sometimes humorous, and often enchanting language uses phrases like ‘Da Kine,’ ‘Fo Real,’ and  'If No Can, No Can.'

A great way to prepare for your Hawaiian vacation and get used to Pidgin is to watch Disney’s Lilo and Stitch. Not only does it have a funny story line, is authentically Hawaiian, and features Hawaiian songs and Pidgin talk throughout the movie.

hawaiian beach families swimming

And, like other languages, Pidgin is also more than just the spoken word. Pidgin represents Hawai‘i, it represents local style. Pidgin is the local’s slang and its fun to listen to, but it could be disrespectful if you pronounce it incorrectly or don’t know the meaning of what you are saying.

Learn Pidgin English Words

It may be best for first timers to stick with frequently used Hawaiian and Pidgin phrases. Aloha and Mahalo are always welcome at business establishments and Mauka and Makai are commonly used for giving directions.

Heah’s da lesson fo da kine trip to Hawai‘i:

ALOHA (uh-LOW-ha) – A greeting. It can mean hello, goodbye, or love

AKAMAI (AH-kah-my) – Someone who is very smart

AZNUTS (AZ nutz) – Thatʻs crazy

BODDA YOU (BAH-dah-you) – Are you bothered by this?

BRAH – A friend or buddy

BROKʻ DA MOUT (BROHK-daw-mowt) – Tastes delicious, yummy!

BUMBYE (buhm-BYE) – Later. When I get around to it.

CHOKE – A large amount. A lot.

COCK-A-ROACH – To steal

DA KINE (da-KYN) – Used when you can't remember the word.

EH? – You know?

FOʻ REAL? (foh-REAL) – Are you really serious? Seriously?

GRINDS – Food!

HAOLE (HOW-lay) – A non-Hawaiian, usually refers to a caucasian

HOWZIT! (HAHW-zhit) – How is everything! Whatʻs up? Whatʻs going on?

KʻDEN (KAA-dehn) – Okay then. Agreed.

LOLO (LOH-loh) – Stupid, dumb, crazy.

MO BETTA (moh-BEH-tah) – A much better idea. Much better.

NAH NAH NAH – Just kidding.

NO CAN (NOH cahn) – No way, canʻt do it.

ONOLISICIOUS (oh-noh-LIH-shuhs) – Really, REALLY delicious.

PAU (POW) – Done, finished.

PAU HANA PUPUS (pow-HAH-nah PUU-puus) – Done with work, drinking and eating appetizers with friends.

SLIPPAHS (SLEE-pahs) – Flip-flops, rubber slippers

TALK STORY – To talk about something.

WIKI WIKI (WICK-ee-WICK-ee) – Fast

Speak the Local Language

Now, let's put your quick Pidgin lesson to the test and try a few phrases:

Eh Brah. No Worry. If can, can. If no can, no can. – Donʻt worry, Iʻll make every effort to be there.

Eh Brah! Bumbye you come ova and we grind din-ah. – Please join us later today for dinner.

Dis restaurant give choke kine food. – There are so many menu options at this restaurant; I just can’t decide what I want to order.

Braddah was all lolo out in da watta today. – While out surfing today, he caught some awesome sets.

Eh! Who wen take my slippah?  I may have misplaced my flip-flops, have you seen them?

Eh! I goin’ to da beach, you like come? – I’m going over to beach later, would you like to join me?

Pidgin English has been spoken in Hawaiʻi for a couple of centuries, and it’s great that it’s now “officially” recognized as a language. One of the best things about Pidgin English is the inflection; it's spoken like music and is often very light-hearted and inclusive. When someone says “da kine” and everybody in the conversation knows what that is, it shows that everyone is connected and on the same page mentally.

hawaiian swimming shaka at sunset

So this is da bes for us now… Gotta go get some catch some waves, den go grind – good sets and plate lunches for everyone… A plate lunch just like Pidgin – a mix and match any kine different stuff but always come out da bes kine - enjoy!