“Are you pau?” asks
the waitress. “Am I what?” you respond. “Pau”,
she says again with a roll of her eyes. Don’t take offense. “Pau” is
one of those Hawaiian words substituted so regularly for its
English counterpart that users forget it is not actually part
of the English language.
If you’re new to Hawai‘i, then it may be a good idea
to take a little crash course to gain your bearings. Deciphering
the Local Tongue 101 should be a prerequisite for living here.
First and foremost are directions. You need to find your way
around, and how are you supposed to know where to go when the
gas station clerk tells you head mauka for two blocks and at
the second light go ‘Ewa. Now, you are more lost than ever.
Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. The directional
words used by locals are Mauka, Makai, ‘Ewa and Diamond
Head. Mauka translates into mountain and makai into water. So,
wherever you are on the island, look to the mountains and you
are heading mauka. Face the opposite direction, towards the ocean,
and its makai.
On the other hand, ‘Ewa doesn’t actually translate
into a visible landmark. ‘Ewa means “to go astray”,
and is the name of a town on the westside, but if you are not
from around here you probably don’t know where it is. The
best way to understand ‘Ewa and Diamond Head is to first
figure out where Diamond Head is.There are no hidden meanings
here. Look for Diamond Head Crater, right past Waikiki, and you’ll
be going “Diamond Head”.‘Ewa will be in the
Once you actually arrive at your destination, it’s time
to have some fun. It’s Pau Hana time! Shut down your computer,
pack up your briefcase; it’s time to go home. Literally
pau is finished and hana is work. Put it together and “work
is done”. Restaurants and bars often have pau hana hour.
This is that time right after work when most bars have a happy
hour with half-off pupus.
Pupus?” you ask. What am I supposed to do with a pupu?
Eat it, and eat it fast. You only have about an hour to order
a $3 plate of buffalo wings and $2 drafts. Pupus are cousins
to the appetizers. They are those pre-meal type dishes served
in most restaurants, but in Hawai‘i there is often no meal
to follow. There are just more and more pupus that are so ono.
(Delicious, if you were curious.)
Now it’s crunch time, time for some power studying: ‘Ohana,
mahalo, and aloha. Quick, what do they it mean? If you watched
Lilo and Stitch you would have learned that ‘ohana means
family. In Hawai‘i that could be anyone: your mom’s
coworker becomes your aunty, and your dad’s fishing buddy
becomes your uncle. The rule of thumb is basically that anyone
older than you should be addressed as aunty or uncle.
Mahalo, if you were wondering, does not mean trash, despite
the fact that every garbage can at the airport says “Mahalo.” It
actually means “thank you”.
The most popular Hawaiian word is aloha. You may think you
know what it means but do you know it in its entirety?