Honolulu Havoc


The Hawaiian Language

There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian Language – the five vowels found in English (A, E, I, O, U) and seven consonants – H, K, L, M, N, P and W. All Hawaiian words end in a vowel. All letters are pronounced and there are no diphthongs where the sounds change because two vowels are together in a word. Vowels are generally pronounced as follows:
     “A” sounds like “ah” as in father;
     “E” sounds like “ay” as in the Spanish language;
     “I” sounds like “ee” as in the Spanish language;
     “O” sounds like “oh” like a long O in English;
     “U” sounds like “oo” or “you” as in English.

Five common Hawaiian words to jump start your vocabulary:
     Aloha – hello, welcome, goodbye
     Mahalo – thank you
     Wahine – woman
     Kane – man
     Keiki – child

Customs — Leis
Flowers are an integral part of life in Hawaii and their importance has been incorporated into daily life by the giving and receiving of a lei. Most leis are garlands strung together seamlessly of local flowers like orchids and plumeria or non-indigenous flowers like carnations. Leis may also be made of vines or nuts like the kukui. These are often presented to men, but are appropriate for either gender. Leis are presented to mark special occasions like birthdays, graduations or funerals. They are also given to honored individuals at ceremonies as well as to emcees and guest speakers at an event. It is customary to give a kiss on the cheek when presenting a lei to someone.


  • Diamond Head – to the east
    To find the Outrigger Canoe Club, go Diamond Head on Kalakaua.
  • Ewa – to the west (pronounced evah)
    Pearl Harbor is near the airport, ewa of downtown Honolulu.
  • Kapu – forbidden; keep out
    Better not go into that burned out building – it’s kapu.
  • Makai – toward the ocean
    Parking on the makai side of the street is kapu.
  • Mauka – toward the mountains
    Rain will stay mauka unless the winds shift.
  • Ono – tasty; so good
    The kalua pig at the luau last night was ono.
  • Pau – over; done
    He cheated on me. Our relationship is pau.
  • Poke – marinated raw fish with rice
    Times Market has three new poke bowls on sale this week.

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