Hikilele: The Hawaiian Word of The Week
Got a really good shock, did you?
The thing I love about being a student of our ʻōlelo aloha is all the little (and big) learning moments that punctuate the somewhat steady routine and flow of my life. A particularly hilarious learning moment happened last week with my kumu/boss at one of my jobs.
The Skype rang like it does every Monday evening for our work session. I hit the button to answer with video and waited for both pictures to come through. When my own video came on and I saw what I looked like, I gasped from shock. I completely forgot that my hair was thrown up in the messiest “mama bun” EVER (yeah, long-haired mamas, you know exactly what I’m talking about). The thing was sooo pukalakī (mussed and tousled) with all kine bumps everywhere and was just generally tragic.
I whipped it out immediately and began re-bunning, while trying to make light of my kāpulu-ness. I said to my kumu/boss (in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi) that when I saw what I looked like I was “pūʻiwa.” To which he replied, “Ua hikilele!” – You gasped / were startled! At this point we are, of course, both cracking up, as I struggle to tame my mop.
I ka wa o ia nei i ninau hou ai i ke aniani ona, “Aniani uuku, aniani uuku, e hai mai oe ia’u owai la ka wahine ui o keia la?” A pane aku ua wahi aniani nei, “O ka oiaio ka’u e hai aku nei ia oe e kuu alii wahine, o Kahaunani ka wahine ui e ike ia nei.” Ia manawa, hikilele ua wahine nei i ka piha i ka huhu i ke kaikamahine, no ka nui loa o ko ia nei huhu, aole e hiki ia ia ke moe i ka po me ke ao. (Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 16 December 1861)
Approximation: When she again asked her mirror, “Little mirror, little mirror, tell me, who is the fairest woman today?” And the little mirror answered, “I will tell you the truth, O dear queen of mine, Kahaunani is now the fairest to behold.” At that moment, this woman gasped out of the anger that filled her towards this girl and because she was so furious, she could not sleep day or night.
This story should sound familiar enough that you can guess Kahaunani’s inoa haole (English name). Oh, so hard, so shocking for the wicked wahine to fall from her kūlana uʻi ʻoi kelakela (status as the most fair). Sorry, aunteh, that’s life.
After the bad bun episode, the word hikilele (and it’s causative form hoʻohikilele) kept rolling around in my head. Yep, sometimes moments of hilahila (embarrassment) can burn themselves indelibly into our consciousness. Aside from feeling shame about my sloppy bun, I kept asking myself why pūʻiwa was one of the only words I ever used to express surprise, shock, and the like. In truth, hikilele and hoʻohikilele are not commonly heard, but that is no excuse for me to just plaster pūʻiwa onto anything resembling those states of being and not search any further.
Aa mai la ke ahi, a wela iho la ka hale, a hikilele ae la laua. I mai la ke kane peneia; “Pau kaua i ke ahi!” A puka aku la laua iwaho. (Ke Kumu Hawaii, 23 December 1835) – The blaze caught and the house became hot and they were startled awake. And the man said, “The fire is going to kill us!” And they got outside.
There are many examples of hikilele for when people are startled awake from a sleeping state. The poor couple referred to in the above example, one of them put a lit cigarette on a rock in their hale and then fell asleep. No safe smoking campaigns around in those days. And there are examples of being awakened by nice things, too, as the following excerpt shows:
Ia manawa, kena koke ae la o Aiwohikupua ia Maile-pakaha, hele aku la a ku ma ka puka o ka Halealii; kuu aku la i kona aala, a hikilele mai la ko Laieikawai hiamoe, honi hou ana no i ke ala. (Ke Kaao o Laieikawai) – At that time Aiwohikupua directed Maile-pakaha to go and stand in the door of the royal house; she released her scent and Laieikawai stratled from sleep, as she smelled the fragrance again.
The physical reaction when we are startled is what helps to differentiate pūʻiwa and hikilele/hoʻohikilele. When we are startled by the crack of a gun, the sudden sound of thunder, or a disturbing voice, hikilele is what happens. All those things hoʻohikilele iā kākou – cause us to be startled.
i ka uhi ana mai o na eheu o ka pouli, ua hoohikilele ia makou e na ahi kao i lele ae i ka lewa luna, a pela i nalo aku ai ia la me kona nani lua ole. (Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 6 July 1865) – when the wings of darkness spread over, we were startled by the fireworks that leapt above in the sky, and that’s how that day ended with its incomparable beauty.
No laila e nā hoa, pēlā nō au i ʻike HOU ai i ka lawa ʻole o kaʻu mau huaʻōlelo – that’s the short story of how I was reminded, once again, that my vocabulary is lacking. But I mahalo the funny mistakes that lead to learning, as they can be really motivating. What motivates you to hoʻonui (increase) your vocabulary? Leave a comment below!
And, as usual, a couple of modern examples:
Ua lohe ʻoe i ka hekili i ka pō nei? I ke kuʻi mua ʻana mai ua hikilele loa au! Did you hear the thunder last night? When it first clapped I jumped out of my skin!
Ua kaumaha loa mākou i ka lono hoʻohikilele no ka hala ʻana o kēlā wahine. – We were really sad at the shocking news of the death of that woman.
E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!