Before my husband and I moved to Hawaii, I knew that the official languages of Hawaii were English and Hawaiian, and I somewhat knew (ok, barely!)that they had a 3rd and unofficial language called Pidgin English (or locals call it Pidgin – pronounced like “pigeon”). It’s used among the locals in everyday conversation, perhaps not so much in their work places, but it’s pretty commonly used in their daily lives especially among friends and family.
First, a little history for you (and me)…Pidgin originated from the old plantation days (mid 1800s) where there were many immigrants who came to Hawaii to work in the sugar cane fields, alongside Hawaiians. The groups consisted of Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese, Portuguese, Okinawans, Puerto Ricans, and Koreans. In order for them to communicate with each other and their English speaking plantation owners, Pidgin was created, which borrowed words, phrases, grammar and intonations from each of the different ethnic groups. Back then, it was referred to as Pidgin Hawaiian, since the majority of the population was Hawaiian.
Beginning in the 1900s, Pidgin started to evolve. The Hawaiian population was decreasing due to illnesses and the children of the immigrant plantation workers were attending English speaking schools. Eventually, these children, who spoke English, outnumbered their foreign born parents. So again, in order to bridge a communication gap, Pidgin English was born.
In Pidgin, English formed the foundation of most of the vocabulary; Hawaiian, Cantonese, Portuguese formed some of the grammar; while English, Portuguese, Hawaiian, and Japanese influenced the vocabulary the most.
Here are a few Hawaiian and Pidgin words that are used frequently by both locals and visitors alike.
Let’s get started!
1) Aloha: Hello or Goodbye
2) Howzit?: How’s everything going?
3) Mahalo: Thank you
4) Ohana: Immediate Family, Extended Family, Friends
5) Ono: Delicious
6) Broke da Mouth (broke da mowt): Extremely delicious
7) Chicken Skin (chicken skeen): Goosebumps
8) Choke: A lot
9) ‘K Den: “Ok then…goodbye”
10) Shoots: “Ok” or “I strongly agree”
So there you have it, folks. Have fun and Mahalo (Thank you) for reading! Stay tuned for some “broke da mouth” food recommendations from local restaurants on the island!