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October 23, 2004

Bodda You?

Conversational Pidgin.

That’s the main page of a website I found to help me write this next piece. As a resident of Hawaii for over 12 years now I still have not succumbed to the temptation of speaking the local ghetto talk known as Hawaiian pidgin.

Although pidgin is an official language of some third world South Pacific islands, Hawaii locals have embraced it as a kind of Ebonics-like language. Unintelligible to most, pidgin is actually a complicated language to learn, if you ever feel the need to dumb down your vocabulary, because you have to take words you are familiar with and bastardize them to gibberish. Of course people who grow up here in Hawaii who speak it everyday may not even bother to learn proper grammar because pidgin is such a widely accepted “language”. Click here to read and hear Hawaiian pidgin

It is hard for most people to resist the urge to pick up even a little of the pidgin talk with the most likely phrase to be used “da kine”. This 2-syllable gibberish means nothing in translation but is representative of “the thing”. “Pass me da kine” and “do you have a da kine in here?” are all acceptable uses of this word.

While I have no problem with people talking like this I do have a problem with people talking like this to me and expect me to know what they are talking about. I am a redneck from Arkansas but I would never go into a store around here and say something like

“I tried talking ‘t that feller o’er thar ‘n I cuddint unnerstand a wurd he sed ... must be from some farn country. My brother from Jawjuh bard my all can, and I ain't herd from him in munts. Y’all sell tin dubbya thirty all?”

I worked at a nation wide hardware store for a while and had many customers who would hold up a part that broke off of something and ask me “Do you have another da kine?” Give me a freakin break. I would politely say, “This store has 180,000 square feet of da kine. Can you be a little more specific?” I would watch this person with a pained expression on his face try to find the word for what he was looking for but just couldn’t do it. I would ask some probing questions like “where did the part come from” or “what is it used for?” and that usually gave me enough information to at least point them in the right direction.

The pidgin has even snuck its way into federally funded programs now for the state of Hawaii. A teen abstinence program called “Try Wait” was started by Catholic charities in January 2004 Read about Try Wait!

I commend and applaud the efforts of this program because instead of teaching kids how to put a condom on a 15-year-old penis and then patting themselves on the back for teaching kids about sex, this program teaches and stresses the importance of abstinence. Great idea, hope it works; stupid name. Is this the only way that the State thinks it can get through to kids? Poor English and bad grammar in naming public programs with high visibility, in my opinion, while trying to solve one problem just perpetuates another.

“Our junior high school students pregnancy rates are dropping but then again so are their test scores.” Click here for Hawaii's educational ranking

It wouldn’t surprise me if someone started a “try Study” program. How ironic would that be?

Again, I want to emphasize that I don’t think there is anything wrong with people using this bastardized cultural language in general conversation with each other. I just don’t think it should be promoted on television and radio; it gives the subtle message that everyone uses this language even in a possible professional atmosphere. Then again, an argument could be made that since it is so cultural why not let them use it how they want? Even though it is, again, a very strong part of the culture here in Hawaii, not everyone uses or understand it and more importantly there is a time and place for it. Some business owners would think twice before hiring someone at a job interview that exclusively talked like that.

Interviewer: “Welcome to the interview. How are you this morning?”
Kimo: “An den? Ho pretty good, how you?”
Interviewer: “Right. So, on your sheet here it says you are a mixed nationality?”
Kimo: “I stay half Japanese and I stay half haole.”
Interviewer: “Alrighty then. Would you be able to work mornings?”
Kimo: “Eh, no can, brah. I go dawn patrol. Catch choke wave.”
Interviewer: “OK, then. So do you understand our policies for consideration of employment? They are all mandatory and along with a mandatory urinalysis test we could have you star-“
Kimo: “Nuff already. Talk story planny long. I so hungry! Ho, we go grind den. Pau hana already.”

One of the funniest times I can remember pidgin being used was when I caught a Movie on the Beach in Waikiki. There were some technical difficulties and this guy got on a microphone and started telling everyone what was going on. He was really going on and getting in too much detail when this local guy cuts the speaker off and yelled, “Ho, geev’um awready”. I don’t think I could have put it any better.

My parents are out here for along overdue visit so I probably won’t be able to update this blog for a while. I do it bumbye.


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