Language Skills


If you’ve been to Hawaii, you know that there are only thirteen letters in the Hawaiian alphabet. So they had to get really creative and repeat the letters, which led to each word being about sixteen syllables long. Street names you eventually get used to: Kamehameha, Lahainaluna. The language itself and how it’s used casually was another thing entirely when I moved here.

For instance, at the end of my first day of work at the tennis courts, my boss showed up and said, “You’re all pow.” I’m what? Is this a way of saying I did a good job? I’m fired? What?” I must have had a stupid look on my face because she repeated it. Again, me, with the stupid look. Boss: “Pow. Pow. All done.”

So after work, I asked an aquaintance. “The word for all done is Pow? Like, bang, zoom?” She laughed. “No, it’s P-A-U. All pau means “all done.” Pau hana means “work is over.” Hana, like the town? Oh my, this was confusing. Then the next day my boss said she was going to run the marathon on the Pauley, and to be prepared for extra traffic. Okay, I really suck at this. This time I just asked her, because she apparently was going to just keep speaking this foreign language and expecting me to keep up.

Pauley was actually Pali, and it means “Cliffs” in Hawaiian. So the place on the road into Lahaina (where the tunnel is) has cliffs on either side of it. So that’s the Pali, the name of the road. There is also a Pali on Oahu, but there it goes over the mountain, and the superstition is: “You don’t take pork over the Pali after dark, or something bad will happen, like you’ll wreak your car.” Okay, so I guess you need to get your grocery shopping done and high-tail it back over the mountain pass before the sun goes down.

That, or you just don’t eat pork.

A hui hou! (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

3 thoughts on “Language Skills

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