Hoʻopāhaʻohaʻo: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



Shapeshifting and more

Some ladies just have it. Ok, well, this is an akua wahine, a female diety, so she’s really got something special. That’s right, we are talking Haumea, the wondrous woman of multiple forms:

He wahine pahaohao wale keia

Hoopahaohao ana i kona kino

He kini, he mano, he lau, he lehu ke kino o ka wahine

This is a simply wondrous and incomprehensible woman

Who can shift her shape, change her body

40,000, 4,000, 400, 4000,000 are the forms of this woman

One of her most famous forms is that of the ʻulu tree. The story of Kamehaʻikana was penned by noted writer Joseph Mokuʻōhai Poepoe in 1906 in the Hawaiian Language Newspaper Ka Nai Aupuni, in his column “Ka Moolelo Hawaii Kahiko.” The following koʻihonua (genealogical chant) tells of the origins of this form of Haumea known as Kamehaʻikana. Here is the preface Poepoe gives:

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Approximation: Something that will be explained here is about the ʻulu: The ʻulu, according to this story, is a body form of Haumea. And in ancient times here in Hawaiʻi, the ʻulu became a deity for some people and was worshiped by the name Kamehaʻikana. And thus follows the genealogical chant of the ancients for Haumea and her ʻulu tree form:

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Today we begin a celebration of Haumea that will continue over the next few weeks as we look closer at this tale of amazing feats, danger, intrigue and mana wahine. We will be bringing you several tasty vignettes, translated for your reading pleasure. We hope the incredible feats of this wahine hoʻopāhaʻohaʻo *arouse wonder* in you…

Should you be interested in reading the original story in the nūpepa, click here. Click the word “Back” at the very top to get to the unclipped view and then use the arrows near the top next to “issues” to move to the next issue. You will see the title “Ka Moolelo Hawaii Kahiko” in the large view. Just click on that and then use the clip button on the left (the scissors icon) to clip the column and get a larger view.

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

ʻAnoʻai: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



More than just a greeting

There are certain moments in language learning where things click into place, where you learn something that just sticks and becomes part of your own speech and uderstanding. I wrote about the “messy mama bun” moment in my post on the word hikilele. A similarly funny moment of learning occurred for me in the office of my second year ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi teacher at UH Mānoa. It was probably funnier for him than me at the time, but now I can look back on it and have a good laugh.

Anoai nou kekahi aloha (Letter opening by L.M. Kamakau, Ka Elele Hawaii, 24 October 1848) – Greetings, for you a fond slautation

I didn’t realize it then, but I didn’t really know how to say “maybe.” He asked me a question to which I replied “Paha.” And he immediately replied, “Paha?! You can’t just say paha!” Ua piʻi ka ʻula (I turned red), and I remember feeling foolish, but in a normal beginning-language-learner kind of a way. He proceeded to  educate me on the fact that paha is not a word that can stand alone or start a sentence. It has to be in combination with other words, as in ʻae paha / ʻo ia paha (maybe, possibly), ʻaʻole paha (maybe not), hiki paha (maybe can), pēlā paha (maybe ladat), etc. 

O kela huaolelo, anoai he aloha imua o ke alii (He Moolelo No Umi, Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 8 March 1862) – That term ʻanoʻai is a greeting to be said in the presence of a chief

Funny language foible that it was, it represents how much our first language gets unconsciously overlaid onto subsequent languages we learn. But as I continued learning ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, I learned the kinds of “maybe” that I had tried out with paha; words that can begin a sentence with that tentative feel: maliʻa, malia, malie, malama, and even our word for today, ʻanoʻai.

Alia oe e pepehi, anoai hoi auanei, he ai no ka ia nei, he ia no hoi, he kapa, he hale (He Moolelo No Manamanaiakaluhea, Ka Hoku o Ka Pakipika, 10 October 1862) – Hang on and don’t kill her just yet, maybe she has some kalo, and something to have with it, clothing, shelter…

Dare I call Hiʻiaka and Wahineʻōmaʻo opportunists?  You know, being on the road is tough, so you gotta get what you need where you can. Hehehe. But I like Wahine’s use of ʻanoʻai. I could apply it to my process of making ʻōlelo for our shirts: Alia au e haku, ʻanoʻai hoʻi he mau manaʻo hou aku ko kēia huaʻōlelo – I will wait to compose, as maybe there are other meanings of this word. (That’s kind of what I tell myself if I get really excited about a word or idea but have not yet finished researching it.) I remember being surprised when I learned that ʻanoʻai functioned like the other “maybe” words listed above. I was so used to hearing or reading it as a greeting.

“ʻO ka welina, he aloha nō ia, aia kā, inā hoʻi mai kekahi mea noho nō i luna o ka haka, ʻo ke aloha o ia ʻano, ʻanoʻai…Sometimes the spirit who possesses the medium, upon departure, that is the aloha, ʻanoʻai.” (Mary Kawena Pukui in conversation with Joseph Ilalaole)

And even as a greeting I thought is was just a “warm aloha” of some sort. Then I heard Tūtū Pukui talking about it on one of the many recordings she made for the Bishop Museum. I came across some notes I had from back when I worked with that waihona and was immediately inspired to write this post. The above quote is one of the few tiny bits I transcribed while re-indexing those recordings, but I wish I could transcribe them all. This particular quote is a prime example of how recordings of native speakers can help us to expand our understanding of the meanings of words.

Our ʻanoʻai post wouldn’t be complete without one of my other favorite meanings of ʻanoʻai, which is when something happens unexpectedly. I love this one because I feel like it filled in one of the little puka I had in my ʻōlelo. I needed the sentence below so that I had something to say for when I “ran into” someone by chance.

ʻAnoʻai kō māua hui ʻana – Our meeting was unexpected (Hawaiian Dictionary)

It is just crazy how many meanings there can be for certain words in our language. Oftentimes we glance them over in the dictionary, but they don’t stick. Seeing or hearing them used in other contexts is really the trick to getting them paʻa (fixed within us). No ia kumu nō, e noiʻi nowelo kākou! (And for that reason we must dive deep and seek knowledge!) Let us keep peeling back the layers of meaning of words and exploring them to their fullest. E ola ka ʻōlelo a nā kūpuna!

This week’s modern examples:

ʻAnoʻai paha ua haʻalele ʻē kou mau hoa – Maybe your friends have already gone

ʻAnoʻai ke aloha e nā makamaka – Greetings and regards, dear ones/close friends

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

Nowelo: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



Go deep

I have a friend I don’t get to see often, but when we do get together the hours just seem to fly by as we talk and laugh and kālaimanaʻo (discuss, analyze, carve out meaning together). It is so refreshing to go between cracking up so hard that your pāpālina (cheeks) come all sore, and delving into weighty topics like access (or lack thereof) to knowledge about one’s moʻokūʻauhau (genealogy) and one hānau (birthplace). No matter what the subject is, though, noiʻi nowelo aku nō māua – we always dive in deep. Ok, the wine helps, but garranz we would do it anyway.

Auhea oe e ka hoa noelo o nei mea he kalai manao – Harken here, friend who seeks this thing that is discussion (F. W. K. KAMAHUALELE, Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 25 October 1862)

It is no big secret that life is full of large questions. The very nature of human existence causes us to nowelo – to seek and delve, to search for answers to life’s mysteries, both large and small. Some like to do this more than others, but anyone who really builds skills in a particular area is inclined towards nowelo. Looking at the various uses of the word in the writings of our kūpuna gives me the impression that they had a lot of mahalo (appreciation) for nowelo and the effort it takes to really seek out knowledge and wisdom.

E ala mai ka noonoo, ka nowelo, ka halalo, no ka mea he ninau nui keia (Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 15 February 1873) – Let the intellect awaken, the search for wisdom, the process of deep thought, for this is an important question

Noelo 3. To reason in order to reach right conclusions; to search out the merits of a question; to prepare beforehand by study. (Parker Dictionary)

Nāu i noiʻi noelo aku, pau nā pali paʻa i ka ʻike ʻia – You sought and searched for wisdom, all the solid cliffs were seen (Hawaiian Dictionary, from a chant for Kalākaua)

I love the above song line because it reminds me about how much there is to learn and pushes me to keep going. Kalākau might have seen all those pali paʻa, but it feels like I’m still trying to get the sail up on my waʻa so I can even start. These lyrics remind me, again, that learning is a lifelong process.  Conversations with my hoa kūkākūkā I mentioned earlier always leave me feeling energized and motivated to noiʻi nowelo aku i nā mea aʻu e ake ana – to research and seek out what I am desiring.

Speaking of desire, some of the most beautiful uses of  nowelo came from love songs. The brilliant composer and musician John Kameaaloha Almeida used the word nowelo in his songs Kiss Me Love and Pānini Puakea. Iaʻu e nowelo ana i ka huaʻōlelo o kēia pule (while I was delving into this week’s word), I came across a song called Pili Aoao by John Meha in Buke Mele Hoonanea. In the hui of this mele (the last of the three examples below), you can see the metaphors and turns of phrase that Almeida drew on, honoring this earlier composer in his own music.

Nani wale ke aloha o ka ipo, nowelo i ka pili ʻaoʻao – The love of the sweetheart is simply beautiful, intently searching for ways to be at [her] side

He aniani wale ʻo Haliʻaloko, nowelo mao ʻole i ka puʻuwai – Fond remembrance comes so clearly, delves unceasingly into all corners of my heart

*Above translations mine


Auē ka nani o ke mele Hawaiʻi – Oh the beauty of Hawaiian music and poetry! All that wisdom, worldview, humor, and aesthetic all packed into this stunning artform. It is a dream of mine to really nowelo there, rather than just dabble. What about you, e ke hoa, what is something you want to noiʻi nowelo? Where do you nowelo now? How do you nowelo? Leave a comment below and share a little about your processes. Knowing how others seek and learn is great food for thought and discussion, especially when I am in the hale loulu with my hoa nowelo o ka pili aumoe! E kāmau kīʻaha e ka poʻe nowelo! – Let us toast, seekers of knowledge! May the wine and wisdom flow.

This week’s modern examples:

Aia ʻo ia ke nowelo lā i ka ʻōlelo Sepania ma Barcelona – S/he is studying/researching Spanish in Barcelona.

Nowelo wale kēlā kāne i ka pili i kou ʻaoʻao! – That guy is really searching for a way to get with you!

P.S. We have chosen to use the spelling nowelo, as this generates a far greater number of examples than the alternate spelling noelo when searching for this word in the online Hawaiian-language newspapers. The two are pronounced the same, the w just making obvious the vowel glide between the o and e. The latest version of modern orthography has let the w go, so noelo is what you will see in more contemporary writings.

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

ʻŪlei: The Hawaiian word of the week



Kuʻu sweet pua ʻūlei

You know, us Hawaiians, we are such flower fanatics. Beautiful and fragrant, pua are fashioned into lei and both are metaphors for children – kā kākou mau kama lei hiʻialo – our beloved children we carry on our fronts – kā kākou mau pua hiwahiwa hiʻikua – our precious children we carry on our backs.

In the early 1800s, the sweet and fragrant pink lokelani (Rosa damascena) was introduced to Hawaiʻi, likely by a sailors from New England or one of the early missionary women. Flower fans that our kūpuna were, they loved it. They planted it like mad (especially in Lahaina) and started to write songs for it. It became so popular that it was designated the official flower of Maui in 1923. Funnily enough, when the other islands followed suit, after the advent of May Day, they all got native flowers assigned to them (Yes, the pua kukui of Molokaʻi counts!).


Kuana Torres Kahele sports FABULOUS lei lokelani for the cover of his album “Piilani Maui; Music For The Hawaiian Islands, Vol. 3”

With this long history of lei-making and flower-loving, our aloha extends from the tender native blossoms of our islands to many types of foreign blooms, especially those with a lovely fragrance. While I am a fan of the modern mele that honor sweetly scented newcomers, I am also aware that our connection to our native flora needs nurturing too. How come nobody has written a song praising the sweet scent of the ʻūlei blossom?! After all, it is our native rose! Didn’t realize we had one, did you?

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PC: www.mauinativenursery.com

Because our native habitats have suffered such terrible degradation in the last 200 years, native plants are much farther away from most of us than they used to be. But at one time, ʻūlei was very close to us. It’s dense, hard wood was made into ʻōʻō (digging sticks), ihe (spears), iʻe kuku (kapa beaters), ʻauamo (carrying poles), ʻūkēkē (musical bows) and more. The mele ʻŪlei Pahu I Ka Moku talks about long poles made from ʻūlei wood that were used to push the waʻa out over the mud flats of Waimea, Kauaʻi when Captain Cook’s ship was anchored offshore. Its sweet fruits could be used to make a beautiful purple dye for kapa and were eaten in times of low food supply.

Supposedly the flowers of the ʻūlei were also made into lei, probably along with its pretty green leaves (the pua are a little lahilahi all alone). I would like to see a big fat lei wili made with ʻūlei! And what about a mele praising the scent of its blossoms? Or better yet, one for its hard strong wood that was used to hoʻowali ʻuala (soften the earth for sweet potato planting)? Tihihihi

O ka wai kau no ia o Keʻanae; o ka ʻūlei hoʻowali ʻuwala ia o Kula – It is the pool on the height of Keʻanae; it is the ʻūlei digging stick for the potato [patch] of Kula (ʻŌlelo Noʻeau)

The full story from ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: “A handsome young man of Kula and a beautiful young woman of Keʻanae, on Maui, were attracted to each other. She boasted of her own womanly perfection by referring to her body as the pool on the heights of Keʻanae. Not to be outdone, he looked down at himself and boasted of his manhood as the digging stick of Kula.” Now that is mele worthy. Hehehe.

Look at all the uses of ʻūlei! Sorry lokelani, but all you do is noho nani mai (sit and look pretty). Sure you might have flashy pink colors and a super ʻauliʻi (cute, dainty) appearance, but can you give me a digging stick? Just sayin. And can you imagine an ʻūlei with a trunk big enough to carve an ʻōʻō? The plants we see today are usually brambling bushes, but they did grow into trees back in the day (dryforest species are notoriously slow-growing).

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PC: Kim & Forest Starr, Auwahi Maui (Their shots of native plants are awesome!)

All kolohe jokes aside, the ʻūlei goes deep into our history. It is the land dwelling entity that guards the umaumalei fish in the ocean. You know how us ladies at Kealopiko love us some Kumulipo action. For this second half of Kū season, we bring you two different designs to honor this illustrious pair. Below is the latest arrival – the women’s umaumalei boatneck. The ʻūlei tops are coming soon, no laila e hoʻomanawanui i ka ʻono! Oh, and please let us know if you haku a mele for this fabulous plant.


Justine Kamelamela sports the new umaumalei boatneck, soon to be available on the shop!

He lei ko ka uka, he lei ko ke kai – The uplands have a lei, the sea has a lei

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

Lalau: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



Let’s stray just a little

Ever have trouble staying on track? Does your curious nature lead you off the beaten path, whether physically or mentally? If so, you are in good company and we can lalau together.

Ua lalau aku i kauhale o Hikaua mā – He has wandered off to So-and-so’s house. (Hawaiian Dictionary)

Hang on, let me be clear about what I mean, lest my kāne (husband) get upset. I am not talking about the kind of lalau that one kupuna talked about in her conversation with Kepā Maly when she explained that she was one of many children:

“We had seven plus, plus. You know that time! [chuckles] They go lalau here and there and get this one, get that one.”

That kind of lalau, though common even until my great grandmother’s time (aloha nō ia mau lā), is pretty much a “no go” these days (unless you want your belongings tossed in the street). The kind of lalau I mean is innocent and about wandering mentally – lalau ka noʻonoʻo – or in conversation. Some of us are just that way. We think in many directions at once and can get off the subject. Some people think that is a bad thing, but to that I say:

He lalau! Nonsense! [Hawaiian Dictionary]

The side roads we take can lead to wonderful discoveries and connections, whether alone or with others. Some of the best things I find in the nūpepa (Hawaiian-langauge newspapers) I find because I am, once again, straying from what I am supposed to be concentrating on. I look at one thing and something else catches my eye. The nūpepa is an especially easy place to get sidetracked like that, though. And while I want to be more efficient, I think that it is just in my nature to have a slow and meandering process. Not with everything, but with researching, writing and creating, I go all over the place. 

Hōkai ʻo Wawaia ke kūkini holo lalau. – The runner, Wawaia, who ran out of his course, caused hindrance and delay. (ʻŌlelo Noʻeau)

More on this ʻōleo noʻeau: Said of one who does not concentrate and wastes considerable time. Wawaia was a runner who, instead of running on the errand assigned to him by his chief, went on a visit before completing the errand, thus causing delay and rousing the ire of his chief.

Call it wasting time, but some of my best discoveries have come out of lalau. I get it, though, that going off-course and wasting time is just a total aberration to some. The place name Kalalau, for the verdant Kauaʻi valley, literally means “the straying,” so many ʻōlelo noʻeau that have to do with blundering or going off-course incorporate this place name. I distinctly remember Aunty Malia Craver using an ʻōlelo noʻeau about Kalalau in our hoʻoponopono class when talking about how the process can sometimes get off track:

“Hele loa aku i Keʻei, ʻo Kalalau nō ma ʻō. Going way out to Keʻei, Kalalau is far over there. Nothing is accomplished.” (Aunty Malia Craver)

In the context of what we were learning, it made total sense. It was also really fun to hear a native speaker use an ʻōlelo noʻeau that isn’t in “the book.” Her words stayed with me and they ring in my head when I am getting a little too far off task (or a little too “out there” with my thoughts). I am thankful that I can draw on that small piece of wisdom because today’s world can be UBER distracting. From social media to text messages, it can be easy to lose focus and lose precious minutes when we lalau too much.

I guess the take home (since there’s gotta be a hua, o lalau loa auaneʻi) is that a certain amount of lalau will breed discovery and creativity, but too much will result in getting very little done. So lalau when and where it is appropriate, but try not to kui lima (hold hands) with miliʻapa (slow, dilatory), hoʻopaneʻe (procrastination), or lele pā (fence-jumping), cause then you will be off course in a way that doesn’t serve you or anyone else.

E kau pono ka noʻonoʻo i ka hana o lalau! – Concentrate on your work or you are going to make a mistake!

Ma hea lā ʻoe i lalau aku nei? – Where did you go wandering (off course) to?

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

Wali: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



The notion of fluency

Wali. Wali. Turn it over in your mouth a few times. Feels good, yeah? The definition above speaks of smooth poi and supple bodies of dancers. What it doesn’t show, though, is the common colloquial use of this word to talk about a person speaking a language well or fluently.

Ua wali loa ka ʻōlelo iā ia – S/he speaks with such fluency/so well.

Was does this phrase really mean? Does it mean a person has a fluidity to their speech? That their language is of a desirable consistency to the ear? That it has been so long in their mouth that it comes out smoothly when spoken? That their tongue is supple and limber, able to manipulate the language in ways that sound really ʻono, like how well-pounded poi tastes? No lumps and bumps, but a smooth and lovely finish? Like how finely mixed ʻawa slides down the throat?

ʻĪ akula ʻo Kamalālāwalu iā Lonoikamakahiki: “E hele kāua i ka heʻenalu a hoʻi mai ua wali ka ʻawa.” (Ka moʻolelo o Lonoikamakahiki) – Kamalālāwalu said to Lonoikamakahiki, “Let us go surfing and when we get back the ʻawa will be mixed.”

Those images are the way I like to think about wali. It is a great visual for me when trying to improve my own ʻōlelo: smoothness, a fine consistency, good texture and flavor, pleasant going down. Sometimes I feel like it’s just ʻūʻū and ʻāʻā when I try to express myself. Harsh, I know, but the reality of being raised in one language and trying to become fluent in another. 

O ka hapanui o na olelo o ia leka, aole hiki ia Eseparana ke hoomaopopo he ai paakiki wale no e hiki ole e ai e wali ia ia (Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 24 November 1927) – The majority of the statements in that letter were unintelligible to Eseperana, like tough food she could not chew soft

Listening to native speakers has been my saving grace. I think I might have lost steam along the way had that not become a major obsession. All thanks are due to my Hawaiian 101 & 102 teacher, Kapulani Antonio, who handed me a stack of Ka Leo Hawaiʻi cassettes back in early 2002. That simple gesture of gratitude changed the course of my life entirely.  The practical, grounded wisdom of the kūpuna helped me to find my footing at a time when I was still unsure about certain parts of my identity and how to articulate all that swirled around inside of me. Neither of us knew I would go on to get a masters degree in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi using those same tapes for my thesis project.

In retrospect, and all frankness, it feels like all that degree did was take the training wheels off my bike. Now I am free to wobble around and explore, supposedly on my own steam and using my own balance. The main thing I learned is that there is SO much more to learn. And my teachers would probably say that they were successful if that was the outcome.

But I feel like that was just the beginning. Since I graduated in 2014, I have been wishing there was somewhere else I could go to be around other speakers and up my game.  2014 also happens to be the year that Te Panekiretanga o Te Reo, the school for excellence in te reo Māori (the Māori language), celebrated a decade of existence

This place of learning helps deeply committed students to attain a level of excellence in te reo Māori that is hard to get elsewhere. Co-founder Pou Temara says, “We take our students from a level of fluency [in the language] to its mastery.” I think speakers like this might be a step or two above wali, or poeko or ʻōlelo paheʻe. Maybe mīkololohua? This very question is proof we need a school like this.

And my hopes for one might soon be answered. Kaliko Baker is one of several people interested in starting a school modeled off Te Panekiretanga. A nice piece on it aired not long ago on the Māori language news show Te Karere that you can watch here with subtitles. Te Wānanga O Aotearoa also did an awesome piece you can watch here.

What about you, e ke hoa? What helps you to build your fluency? What do you need to help you on your language learning journey? Pehea e wali ai ka ʻōlelo iā kākou? Leave a comment below.

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

Pohu: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



A calm to remember

This past weekend I went to the most beautiful place I have ever been in my life, hands down. When we anchored the boat and the engine stopped, I sat for about 5 minutes in total awe, tears rolling quietly down my cheeks. Nearly everyone else was off the boat in the first two minutes, but I had to make myself get into the ocean because I was nearly paralyzed by the mind-shattering gorgeousness of it all. But it wasn’t just the place, it was the calm windless conditions, the pohu of that day, that really allowed the natural beauty to shine unhindered.

Huli ʻole ka waʻa ke holo i ka pohu – The canoe does not overturn when it goes in the calm (Ke Aupuni Mōʻī / Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 30 May 1868)

A whole day of those kinds of conditions doesn’t happen often in our islands of prevailing tradewinds – especially during the summer months. The smoothness of ocean and clarity of sky were incredible. In order to remember it wasn’t a dream, I had to pinch myself. I thought about how much less we would have enjoyed it if the winds were high and the ocean was rough.

A ike o Kuapakaa, ua make na enemi o kona makuakane o Pakaa, alaila, popoi iho la ia ia Laamaomao, o ka malie koke iho la no ia a pohu haalele loa. (The Legend of Kuapakaa, Fornander Vol. 5) – And Kuapakaa saw that the enemies of his father, of Pakaa, were dead, then he closed Laamaomao (the wind gourd) and things quickly calmed and the wind quieted completely.

After I got over my shock, I enjoyed one of the best days of my life with a group of wonderful people. It went something like this: Swim in the ocean to a waterfall. Swim in the pool by the waterfall. Eat a mango while swimming in the pool. Stand under the waterfall and get a lomilomi (massage). Bask in the sun on a rock like a moʻo. Swim in the ocean some more. Jump off a rock into the ocean (repeat 5 times if you are a keiki). Eat lunch. Pick ʻopihi. Eat those. Swim some more. Pinch yourself. Marvel, again, at the windless, cloudless pohu that is the unbelievable magic of the whole day…It still seems like a dream.

Ou mau makua i ka poko i ka loa,
o Hamakua poko a me Hamakua loa, i ka
nome a ka la i ka pohu o Maliko.

My parents in the short and long,
Hāmākua poko and Hāmākua loa,
where the sun gradually consumes the calm of Māliko.

(From the story of Kamiki, Ka Hoku o Hawaii, 11 March 1915)

The biggest gift of that day is how soothed I felt inside after experiencing the outer calm. I really want to know how to have that kind of pohu without having that epic of a day (like while parenting my arguing kids, or driving in traffic, or…). I feel so thankful, though, to have had an unexpected moment of inner peace triggered by an equally unexpected adventure on one of the nicest days this year. And the pohu stayed with me as I transitioned, reticently, back into suburbia (sigh).

I think Kekauʻōnohi said it best in her closing lines in her paukū (section) of a mele for Lunalilo (to which many chiefs contributed) that was bequeathed to Kalākaua and published in the book Na mele aimoku, na mele kupuna, a me na mele ponoi o ka Moi Kalakaua I (Dynastic chants, ancestral chants, and personal chants of King Kalākaua I). Her wisdom reads (approximation mine):

Maikai ka nana ana i ka pohu, e—ilaila, – It is good to observe the calm – there
O ka pohu lai’a o ke kanaka, – It is the peaceful calm of the person
O ke kumu ia e maikai ai ka manao, – It is the reason the thoughts are well
Oe anei—e.

Her sage words are still relevant today – inner calm is the key to clear thinking and a healthy mind. Any ideas on how to maintain that on a daily basis? Leave a comment below! And take a couple of modern examples with you:

Ua nui wale ka pohu o ka Lāpule – Sunday was SO calm!

Ke noho nei lākou i Kona, ʻāina i ka pohu. – They are living in Kona, a calm place.

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

Manaʻolana: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



On being buoyant 

Hope is tricky. On one hand, it is this beautiful thing that propels us forward. It can be a lifeline when times are hard and can give rise to brilliant creativity. We could even say it is essential for our survival, or a defining feature of our humanness.

ʻEkolu mea nui ma ka honua. ʻO ka manaʻoʻiʻo, ka manaʻolana, a me ke aloha… – There are three important things in the world. Faith, hope, and love… (Robert J.K. Nawahine)

On the other hand, being realistic is important. Writers like Paul Hudson say we should hope for things that aren’t entirely out of our control: “It’s knowing when you can affect the outcome that is most important…If your actions have a chance of tipping the scales in your favor, then hope hard and hope often.” But humans that we are, we hope for all kinds of things we can’t control:

Ua lana ka manao o ka makuahine o kekahi kanaka ui e lilo ia i kahunapule, aka mahope loa hooholo iho la ia i kona manao e lilo i loio. – The mother of a certain young man hoped he would become a priest, but much later he decided to become a lawyer. (Ke Alaula, 1 June 1866)

When it comes to other humans it is easy to get tripped up. We might hope things will change with people in our lives, but it isn’t entirely up to us. Too many dashed hopes in that area can lead to despair. Interestingly, the opposite of manaʻolana is manaʻo pohō, at least according to the Parker Dictionary:

Manaolana v. 1. To be buoyed up, as the mind; not to sink, in opposition to manao poho [pohō], to sink; to despond…

Also interesting is the fact that the word manaʻolana and its good buddy manaʻoʻiʻo were created to describe the concepts of hope and faith as they were written in the bible. Sheldon Dibble noted: “…manao means thought, and io means true or real; —so the combination, manaoio, is used for faith. Again, manao means thought, and lana means buoyant,—so the combination, manaolana, is made by us to express hope.”

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. – Emily Dickinson

We forget that these words, though commonplace now, were created expressly for the purpose of communicating Christian concepts. Hawaiians used them in a biblical context and adapted them to other contexts they saw fit from a Hawaiian point of view. In a discussion on faith and the effectiveness of lāʻau kāhea, Mary Kawena Pukui says:

Kekahi kahuna pule haole i kākau ai he puke a ʻōlelo ʻo ia He mana i loko o ka manaʻoʻiʻo. Power in the positive thinking. Auē. A he mea hou ia iā lākou. Iā kākou, mea kahiko. – A white minister who wrote a book, he says [There’s] power in the positive thinking. Oh goodness. It’s a new thing to them. To us, it’s an old concept. (HAW 168.6.1)

Where faith seems sure and solid and hope much more malleable, both require “positive thinking” in the English sense. Both are oriented toward seeing the good, which is what we want to focus on in life. He mau mea nui nō ia – They are indeed important things.

I guess getting older has made me turn these concepts over in my mind in a different way than I did as a young person. Life’s experiences can be jading if we are not careful. Being reminded to focus on the positive is essential sometimes, as there is plenty of negative that can drag us down if we let it. In the end, I think the man with a dream said it best:

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Here’s to hopeful pursuit of all things important to us, especially ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi:

Lana ka manaʻo e paʻa maikaʻi ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi i kaʻu mau keiki. – I hope that my children will have a good grasp of the Hawaiian language.

ʻO ka mau aku o ka ʻōlelo nani a nā kūpuna, ʻo ia ka manaʻolana. –  The continuance of the beautiful language of our ancestors, that is the hope.

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

Minamina: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



Value in multiple meanings

I’m not sure about about you, but I am used to hearing uses of minamina that draw on the first meaning listed in the dictionary (to regret or feel sorrow; “too bad,” “what a shame”). It is easy to forget one of the other meanings: to value or prize greatly.

He mea minamina ʻia ke keiki – A child is to be prized (Hawaiian Dictionary)

He minamina ko’u i na keiki opio e ulu nei, ke kumu o ko’u pane ana ma keia mea (Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 14 June 1862) – I place great value on our growing youth, the reason I am responding on this subject

That first example is my favorite, because I am crazy about my kids. I’m not saying they don’t drive me up the wall sometimes, but “up the wall” is about my issues, not them or their behavior. The other day I was at the beach and a mother was speaking venomously to her kid while she yanked him around in the shower. It seriously crushed my heart because the go-slap-his-head school of parenting seems so opposite to the kind of aloha that our kūpuna had for their children and each other.

He wahi kanaka minamina nui ia oia ma keia apana mai o a o…no kona kupaa mau mamuli o ka oiaio, a me ka pololei (Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 24 January 1863) – He was a person deeply valued everywhere in this district…for his standing firm behind the truth and what is correct

He kamaaina oia no keia kulanakauhale, a ua minamina nui ia hoi no kona piha oluolu a heahea (Ka Leo o ka Lahui, 7 January 1891) – He was a native of this town and was indeed greatly prized for being fully gracious and hospitable

Humans are walking contradictions, though. We love and cherish some people then go and make war on others, or turn a blind eye to their suffering. I wanted to tell that mom in the shower at the beach to stop abusing her kid, but I wasn’t sure if I should cross that line. Instead I thought about what a shame it was and how precious my own kids are to me (without even realizing that both these sentiments are contained in minamina).

ʻO Kaʻaialiʻi, he keiki ʻōpiopio kanaka uʻi ʻo ia a he pūkaua i minamina nui ʻia e Kamehameha. (Kāʻala, Paradise of The Pacific, 1904) – Kaʻaialiʻi, he was a handsome young man and a war leader deeply prized by Kamehameha

Like makeʻe, minamina has meanings that might seem disparate at first glance, but they make a lot of sense if you think about them. We feel deep sorrow and regret when we lose something we highly value, so we cling to things we love to keep that from happening – even at the risk of being called covetous or miserly. All these things are rolled into this one word. Our ancestors really understood the complex and often contradictory nature of humans!

ʻO ka makeʻe a me ka minamina aliʻi, a ʻo nā rula ia o ke ʻano o ka noho ʻana o nā aliʻi o ka wā kahiko. (Kamakau, Ke Aupuni Mōʻī) – To covet and prize chiefs, these were the rules of the way chiefs lived in ancient times.

Ina minamina oe i kou ola kino, me kou ola uhane, mai hele oe i na hale kuai lama (Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, 25 April 1885) – If you value the health of your body, and the health of your spirit, don’t go to liquor-selling establishments

Why pay attention to words with meanings that seem both “positive” and “negative”?  If we shy away from words that have both (in favor of ones we think are only “positive”), we run the risk of alienating certain parts of our language. I have a theory (needs testing) that there are plenty Hawaiian words like this and that it is part of the sophisticated worldview of our kūpuna. If we want to maintain some link to that worldview, we must make an effort to understand it and, at the same time, examine the biases that being native English speakers brings (like binary concepts of positive and negative). All that aside, it just feels good to make room for many meanings – like a party with a diverse set of guest; always spicier and more fun.

Speaking of fun, here are this week’s modern examples:

Minamina nō hoʻi au i kuʻu wahi keiki – My little child is just precious to me

He minamina nui ʻia ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi e lākou – The Hawaiian language is deeply valued by them

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!

Maliu: The Hawaiian Word of The Week



Hear me, my love

A few weeks ago, I took my grandmother to a gig my mother was playing. As she often does, my grandmother stood up to sing a song or two. In the last few years, however, she has become very selective about what she will still sing. One song that has stuck with her all these years is “E Maliu Mai,” by Aunty Irmgard Farden Aluli.

E maliu mai, e kuʻu ipo, me ke aloha pumehana – Listen to my call, my beloved, with warm affection (Aunty Irmgard Farden Aluli)

Even though I had heard her sing it several times, on this particular day it made me cry. Maybe it was seeing my two young daughters (2 & 4) watch wide-eyed as their kupuna wahine kuakahi (great-grandmother) sang softly into the microphone under the shade of a massive monkeypod tree. But really, I think it was the feeling in the music – the tugging on the heart strings that Aunty Irmgard wanted us to feel, that she felt when she wrote this love song.

E maliu mai, e kuʻu ipo, me ke aloha lei makamae – Listen to my call, my beloved, like a never fading lei

Funnily enough, Aunty Irmgard said she didn’t even really know what the words she chose meant, but they just came out of her along with the rest of this beautiful love song: “…I was composing the words in Hawaiian. It was something because I don’t speak Hawaiian. I didn’t even know what “e mailu mai” meant, but I kept adding phrases, whatever came to mind” (Haʻilono Mele Newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 7 July, 1977)

Koʻu ʻiʻini, naʻu ʻoe, me kou leo nahenahe – My desire is that you become mine, with your sweet and gentle voice

Her statement should give one pause. She may have thought she “didn’t speak Hawaiian,” but someone who writes a song this elegant and emotionally complex possesses skills in the language that they don’t even realize are there. Her young life must have been steeped in music, poetry, and some level of spoken Hawaiian that she absorbed without even realizing, then was able to draw upon as her own artistry developed. When she called her aunt to check on the lyrics and meaning for “E Maliu Mai,” they only changed two of the words she had come up with. Kupanaha nō (unreal).

And though she did not realize it, Aunty Irmgard was drawing upon a long tradition when she chose the words “e maliu mai.” It was a phrase many before her had used:

E Laka e, e maliu mai oe, e maliu mai oe, i pono au (Mele Kuahu, translation mine) – O Laka, hear my call, look upon me favorably, that I might be well

E ka Lani ē, e maliu mai i ka leo – O Chief, hear [my] plea (Holoʻae begins his plea to Kalaniʻōpuʻu in the story of Kekūhaupiʻo)


E maliu mai oe e ke aloha, – Listen to me, my sweetheart

Kuu dear love o ka po lai, – My dear love of the tranquil night

Buenos once more e ke hoa, – Well wishes once more, my companion

Koʻu time huli hoi keia. – This is my time to return

(Lanihuli, Buke Mele Hoonanea)


Ia Kahalaomapuana e uwe ana no kona mau kaikuaana, ia manawa kona noi anaʻku ia Aiwohikupua, e hoihoi ia ia me kona mau kaikaaana; aka, aole no he maliu mai o Aiwohikupua. (S.N. Haleole, Ke Kaao o Laieikawai, 1863) – While Kahalaomapuana was crying for her older sisters, at that time she asked Aiwohikupua to return her to them, but Aiwohikupuna did not heed her request.


Nui nā leo hoʻomalimali – Many were the flattering voices

A ka ʻili puakea mai ʻo Maleka, – Of the fair-skinned of America

ʻAʻole naʻe he maliu aku. – But [he] didn’t pay heed (From a mele for Nāwahī by H. S. Nāhuina, 1896)

All this and MUCH more formed the backdrop that made “e maliu mai” come out of Aunty Irmgard. This example of collective knowledge giving rise to creativity should give us much inspiration as we move forward – faith that when we do all we can to surround ourselves with ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi it forms a fertile soil from which many beautiful things can grow.

Sure, we might not be like this prolific composer of hundreds of mele, with native speakers at her fingertips and the natural gift of music bestowed upon her at birth. But we can make like her and maliu the creative voice inside of us and we will be and do just what we need to and at just the right time. The collective knowledge we surround ourselves with will come out in what we do.

So every chance I get, I listen to my grandmother sing. And I speak and read and listen to as much ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi as I can fit into my busy-parent-of-two life. It never feels like enough, but I try my best to create spaces in my life for it, in hopes that it will create a rich soil in which good things can take root and grow. With that thought in mind, here are some modern examples:

Ei nei, e maliu nō ʻoe i kou naʻau, o pilikia mai auaneʻi! – You you, listen to your intuition, lest you get into trouble!

ʻEā, e maliu aku ʻolua i ka leo o Pāpā! – Hey, you two listen to Daddy!

E ola ka ʻōlelo o ka ʻāina!