When you visit Hawaii, regardless of the island you’re on, you’re going to hear some pidgin. It might throw you off at first, but you’ll get used to it very quickly.

Rule One: Even after you get comfortable with some of the idioms, DON’T TRY TO SPEAK PIDGIN TO LOCAL PEOPLE. If you do, you’ll sound really silly and identify yourself as an ignorant tourist.

The following might help you with some of the more basic pidgin terms that are used all the time by all of us who live in Hawaii, even if we’ve lived here for a relatively short period of time:

• Akamai
Intelligent, smart, knowing what’s going on.

• Babooze
Screwup, someone who does something really dumb.

• Brah or Bruddah
As you would guess, it’s the local way of saying “brother” or “pal.” You’ll hear it most often as, “Eh, brah!”

• Broke da mout’
Delicious tasting.

• Buggah
This could be a guy, girl, or thing. Its connotation could be friendly or describe someone or something troublesome.

• Bumbye
Later on; “by and by.”

• Bummahs
“Bummer.” Expresses disappointment or commiseration.

• Chicken skin
The bumps on your skin when you get the chills or an eerie feeling (“goose bumps”).

• Da kine
You will hear this more than any other term. It’s a lazy way to replace words that can’t be remembered or are unknown while you are speaking. Can literally mean anything and everything.

• Fo’ Real?
Are you sure? You’re not kidding?

• Give ‘um
Go for it. Try your hardest.

• Grind
To eat, usually with gusto.

• Grinds
Good food.

• Hana Hou
One more time. Do it again. Encore.

• Hele On
Let’s go. Get moving. Move on.

• Huhu
Mad. Frustrated.

• Kay Den
Okay then, if that’s the way you want it.

• La dis; la dat
Like this or like that.

• (What,) You Like Beef?
Do you want to fight?

• Lolo
Dumb. Slow. Crazy.

• Lua

• Moke
Big, tough local guy.

• Okole
Buttocks or butt.

• Pau
Finished. (You’ll be using this by the time you go home, and you may never get rid of it.)

• Shaka
This is the hand gesture with the thumb and pinky extended. It can be a greeting, a sign of acquiescence or a gesture meaning “hello.” It’s always used in good spirit.

• Tita
A very tough girl who flaunts it.

• Wassamattayou?
As you would suspect, “What’s the matter with you?” or “What’s your problem?”

No need to memorize any of them, but you will become familiar with them as they are spoken by servers, merchants, concierges, or anybody else you encounter who lives in Hawaii.


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