No, it’s not a bird or a local delicacy. If you find yourself wondering about some of Hawaii’s great escapes and hear people referring to the Hawaiian Pidgin, they’re actually just talking about the language of the modern day local Hawaiians.
A blend of languages that settlers from around the world have contributed to, Hawaiian Pidgin is technically defined as Hawaiian Creole English. Used in everyday conversations by local Hawaiians, the language is a result of Portuguese, English, Hawaiian, Japanese, Cantonese and other influences from immigrants who have settled in the Hawaiian Islands over time.
If it’s the first time you’ve heard it, you’re in for a treat. It’s a remarkable and undulating language, spoken with deep resounding bass, and sounds as fun to speak as it is to hear. Full of vowel sounds and the slight twang of European and ethnic influence, you just might get a local to share a bevy of words with you.
Be aware that many locals believe that if a non-local attempts to speak Pidgin, it is equivalent to trying to speak with any other regional U.S. accent, thus mocking their way of speaking. You may want to ask a local if they speak Pidgin and are willing to teach you some, but don’t be offended if they won’t.
More than likely, however, they’ll return a question you posed with Pidgin, and you’ll be left scratching your head trying to decipher the message. If you like to go into these things prepared, however, here’s a brief rundown, just for fun:
brok da mout: broke the mouth; absolutely delicious. Ex: Ho, Tutu’s malasadas so ono, brok da mout.
da cute: Oh how precious! Ex: Did you see Pua’s new keiki? Da cute!
haole (HOW-lee): Person of Anglo persuasion. An actual Hawaiian word. Can be explanatory or insulting. Ex: My mom guys all haole, but my dad guys Hawaiian.
ono: Actual Hawaiian word, meaning delicious. In pidgin, this can also mean several other things. Ex: Ho, Junior, look at dat girl. She so ono, yeah?
So next time you’re in Hawaii, listen for Pidgin-speaking locals and see if you can understand what they’re saying. K’den, aloha!