Auhea oukou e na hoa e pulama ana i ka olelo makuahine! Ina kakou, e noii nowelo i kona nani!
A few days ago, while working at my “day job” (processing Hawaiian language oral histories), one of the “informants” (a.k.a. kupuna or interviewees) mentioned the oleander flower, in Hawaiian of course. It sounded as if there was an okina, but I wasn’t positive, so, as per the usual, I turned to my hoa hana helu ekahi, the online Hawaiian dictionary (wehewehe.org). I was quite excited by what I saw, not because there is an okina, as I had suspected, but because of what my eyes met with under number 3:
1. n. A common ornamental shrub (Nerium oleander and var. indicum), native from south Europe to Japan. Its flowers may be single or double, white, pink, or red. (Neal 695.) Eng. Also ʻoliwa.
2. n. A variety of sugar cane, like lahaina in type of growth and color, but the pith dark-brown and the leaf sheath covered with red-brown hairs. (Eng., Oriental.) Also ʻoleana.
3. interj. Let me see! Show me! Also aliana, inane, ʻoia ana.
So I looked up: ʻoia ana! - interj. Let me see! Show me! I dare you (sarcastically)! (Usually shortened to ʻoiana or ʻoliana.)
Ok, now I feel like I have heard this word before, so maybe I just wasn’t paying attention, or maybe it is new to me. Either way, WOW! Basically another way to say “Bring it on!” and/or “Let’s go!” How cool is that?! I looked again at the entry and saw that it had the abbreviation “interj.” (interjection) before the meaning and let’s just say it was an “Aha!” moment (ha ha, so punny dat one).
SO, what the heck is an interjection? It is something very cool. One of the better descriptions I found on a writing website was this:
An interjection is a word added to a sentence to convey emotion. It is not grammatically related to any other part of the sentence. You usually follow an interjection with an exclamation mark. Interjections are uncommon in formal academic prose, except in direct quotations.
The highlighted words in the following sentences are interjections:
Ouch, that hurt!
Oh no, I forgot that the exam was today.
Hey! Put that down!
I heard one guy say to another guy, “He has a new car, eh?”
I don’t know about you but, good lord, I think taxes are too high!
Written by Heather MacFadyen
So, this is one of those beautiful features of spoken language that adds flavor and helps people express themselves. It is something that native speakers do naturally, but second language speakers, like myself, have to learn and integrate into our consciousness as we bumble along. The words “aue” and “ea” (with okina and kahako over the a) fall into this category and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one guilty of overuse because they are some of the only interjections I know. I thought to myself, “How many more of these little gems are there?” Well, I knew that the online dictionary could also provide an answer to that question in a quick and convenient way: a search of the full-text version (you gotta love that they made this a feature!). Just take a guess at how many interjections it found…116!
Oh the joys of discovery. Am I the only nerd that gets really excited about this kind of thing? I sure hope not. Below are a few of the Hawaiian interjections I found most fascinating (some edited down for brevity). Ea, e nana oukou i ka maikai!
ā.hē - vi., interj. To exclaim, to oh and ah; yes, so that’s it, so, oh. Āhē, pēlā kou manaʻo, ʻeā? So that’s your opinion, is it [in indignation]? ʻOia ka malama a ka poʻe mahi ʻai e āhē ai i ka ulu maikaʻi a nā mea kanu (Kep. 91), this is the month the farmers exclaim about the fine growth of the crops.
ʻai.kola - nvs. Interj. of scorn or derision, especially rejoicing over others’ misfortunes, with meaning “serves you right” or “I told you so”…
haʻi.kū.uma.uma - n. interj. A call to lift a canoe or to rally together in any work.
hā.nau 2. interj. Happy birthday (used in toasts).
he aha sana.nā - interj. of scorn. What does it amount to? It’s of no value. (Perhaps nanā is from he ʻahi kananā, a phrase describing a fierce fighter; cf. nanā.)
ʻī - 4. Interj. of scorn, used idiomatically. No hea ke aʻo ʻana i ka hula? I ka ʻī! Where learn the hula? Much [she] knows about it! Stuff and nonsense!
inā - 1. interj. Let’s go! Inā kākou, e hana kākou i nā pōhaku ʻula (Kin. 11.3), let’s get going and make bricks.
kaī, kaīī - Interj. of displeasure, vexation, annoyance, prolonged to indicate greater force. Kaīīī! Chā! ʻInoʻino
kī.au.au - 2. Interj. encouraging workers, as in drawing an unfinished canoe hull from the forest to the shed at the seashore where it was to be completed…Kīauau, kīauau, kīauau! holo auau, holo auau, holo auau! (canoe-hauling chant), fast, fast, fast! run quick, run quick, run quick!
kio – 4. interj. Word used in reply to a question one does not care to answer, somewhat like rude English “What’s it to you?” E hele ana ʻolua i hea? Kio. Where are you two going? Kio.
lolo – 8. interj. Serves you right! I told you so!
niu kū.lolo - interj. Stop talking! See niu 1. Lit., coconut-pudding.
ʻū - 1. vi. interj. To grunt, groan, moan, sigh, hum, coo, mourn, grieve, complain; grief, sorrow; an exclamation of delight or assent; to exclaim thus; to grunt ‘yes, yes (saying that you are listening)!’ Noho ʻū, grief; grief-stricken. Pā i ka ʻū lā (Kep. 71), touched by grief. Pōmaikaʻi ka poʻe e ʻū ana (Mat. 5.4), blessed are the people that mourn. ʻŪ ke kai o ʻEwa i ke ʻala o ka maile, the lowlands of ʻEwa exclaim over the perfume of the maile vine. E ʻū hele ana (Hal. 38.6), to go mourning. hoʻo.ʻū, hō.ʻū To grunt and strain, as with physical exertion (Kep. 159); to mourn. (PCP kuu.)
Wow. Our kupuna had a lot of ways to put emotion into expression, show what they were feeling in their naau (one of the things I find most difficult as a second language learner), and urge others to action. It is hard for me to not put more examples in this post because each one is so interesting and unique. The question is, how do we best move forward with this information? On one hand, it is hard to know if we will be using some of these “right” if we don’t first hear them out of the mouth of a native speaker. On the other hand, a lot of them may have fallen out of use, even for today’s native speakers. And how many native speakers do most of us get to interact with on a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly basis that we might actually get to hear some of these? Many may just fade into the pages of the dictionary and the passing of time unless we breathe life into them again, but how do we best do that? Some of the examples given by Pukui are clearer than others, making it easy to see where they might fit into our everyday lives. Others may never fit because the activities they are associated with no longer exist (see kapuo as an example). Searching in the online newspapers or just keeping an eye out when we read moolelo is another way to find more contexts for use. There is so much to consider when it comes to taking something off a page and putting it into our waha. Yet, the need to really articulate one’s thoughts and feelings is real – no matter what language you are speaking. Isn’t it neat to think that we have all kinds of options rooted in the way our kupuna saw the world (excepting, of course, the English transliterations, although what they chose to take from English is also fascinating, but a whole different topic)? Pehea ko oukou manao? Should we be putting more of these cool words to use, and if so, how?
E hoike mai i ka hua i ka umauma!