Like One Fish Out of Water

Pidgin

airplaneWhen I was nine I flew all the way to Salt Lake City, Utah from Honolulu, Oahu all by myself. I had to change planes in San Francisco, but I wasn’t worried. I had my snacks, a couple of good books, and I looked forward to the movie—any movie—on the plane. The stewardesses matter of factly handed me off to each other, and sitting in their airport lounge waiting for my last flight was eye-opening and educational, although I still don’t understand why bras that make points are better than bras that curve.

It’s amazing what people will say if you’re quiet and holding a book.

Everything was 5 by 5. I was flying under the stewardesses’ radar and hearing all about Brad and Belinda and something about a layover and cockpit that didn’t involve airplanes when I decided that what this live-action play needed was a couple of snacks. I pulled out a sandwich bag, untwisted the tie, and started to munch.

“Oh, #*^&*@#$^%$! What the hell is that?” screeched a southern bleached blonde with pointy tips.

“Cuttle fish,” I said, using my best company manners to shake the bag open wider and holding it out toward her. “You like?”

“@#$^&*@#&%$%^!!!”

Wow, I never know that was possible, I thought, filing the phrase away for future reference. Does that mean yes or no? “It’s ‘ono. I mean, it’s good. Packed fresh this morning.”

“Relax,” laughed a perky brunette, “I’ve tried it before. It’s dried and shredded squid. They eat it in Asia.”

“Fish jerky?!” The southern belle’s painted on eyebrows couldn’t go higher.

“No,” I said earnestly, thinking of beef jerky. “Jerky’s hard and tough. This is soft and kinda salty-sweet. A little chewy. You like?”

She shuddered and closed her eyes, the cat eyeliner and turquoise lids reminding me of King Tut. “I need a drink,” she said.

The brunette laughed again and reached under a counter for a mini bottle. “Hair of the dog?”

“A whole poodle, if you’ve got it.”

I thought about my other snack bags filled with kakimochi, iso peanuts, and crack seed. Should I bring those out to be polite? I wondered. Nah, I decided, anybody who eats dog hair but turns up her nose at cuttle fish doesn’t deserve them.

crack_seed_5_smallcrack seed

(KRAK-seed)

(n) Pickled, preserved, or dehydrated fruit snacks; can also refer to other local island snacks typically sold at a crack seed store.

Example

Jay’s favorite crack seed was rock salt plum. Char Siu loved lemon peel, but my favorite was candied ginger. ~ Zader, Niuhi Shark Saga

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

ponpb_cover

Being a kid is complicated. There are rules, most of them unwritten, unspoken even, and heaven help you if you can’t unlock the secret code. Darrell H.Y. Lum not only has the key to the boy’s room in his collection of short stories in Pass On, No Pass Back!, he also has the contraband cigarettes.

And maybe a little something else.

The title refers to a kids’ game I remember well: somebody punches you in the arm, yells, “Pass on, no pass back!” and you have to find someone else to slam and pass it on. The playground politics in who you hit and how hard would make the UN weep. And Lum gets it.

Better yet, he helps us get it.

To anyone who grew up in Hawai‘i, Lum’s characters feel real. There’s tales of da Bag Man, karate class, scouts, toads, and mongooses from hell that still give me chicken skin. The stories are written in Hawaiian Pidgin English, a welcome sound of home for native speakers that adds another layer of authenticity to his words. Non-Pidgin speakers will have a tougher time, but it’s worth the work.

As a bonus there are also the comic strip adventures of Booly, Bullette, and Burrito by Art Kodani.

If you’re looking for authentic island writing, Pass On, No Pass Back! is fantastic.

Pass On, No Pass Back! by Darrell H.Y. Lum is published by Bamboo Ridge Press and available as a trade paperback from the publisher, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

girls_sunset

Holoholo

(HOH-loh-HOH-loh) (v) Pidgin for going out and finding some fun.

Example

English: “Lilinoe, let us get in your car and drive up and down main street and see what others are doing. Perhaps we can meet young men with whom we can converse.”

Pidgin: “Lili! We go holoholo!”

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

 

junkalunka_smjunkalunka

(juhn-KAH-luhn-KAH) (adj) Pidgin description of something that is old, broken down, used up.

Example

English: Perhaps we should borrow your mother’s car since the road is steep and winding and your car tires are bald and the brakes are soft.

Pidgin: Pali road? In that junkalunka thing? No way!

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

 

daikon legs

(DYE-kon leh-eggs) (n) Pidgin description of legs that a short, fat, and white.

Example

English: “Interesting choice, Michi-san. Have you seen these floor-length prom dresses?”

Pidgin: “Michi, you blind? That mini shows off your daikon legs!”

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

 

Calabash

(cal-lah-BASH) A bowl or container often made of wood or a hollowed gourd. When used to refer to people, it implies a close friend or relative, i.e. someone so familiar he would eat out of the same serving bowl.

Example

English: “James is my father’s best friend’s son who grew up like a member of our family.”

Pidgin: “Jimmy? Calabash cousin.”

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

 

Kuleana

(koo-lee-ah-na) (nvt) Hawaiian word for right, privilege, concern, area of responsibility.

Example

English: “As responsible human beings we must take care of the earth! There are wastrels among us who must heed my words or our land will become  a vast wasteland of corruption and filth where none can live! I call on you now to change your ways before it is too late!”

Pidgin: “What you mean, ‘not your kuleana?’ You breathing, right? You living, right? Taking care of the ‘āina is everybody’s kuleana, brah!”

Note: ‘Ōlelo is a Hawaiian word meaning language, speech, word, etc.  To see the current list of Hawaiian and Pidgin words, definitions, and usage please click on

Pidgin Dictionary

 

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Living like a fish
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