Hawaiian Pidgin English is a colorful dialect consisting of mainly Hawaiian and English words spoken with a unique syntax and rising inflection that is mastered by the island locals. The language is reserved for locals and is a natural progression of common phrases learned from growing up on the islands and interspersed into daily conversation. Tourists and newcomers should not attempt to speak pidgin as they will sound silly; however, completely mispronouncing the Hawaiian names of streets and places is expected and allowed!
Pidgin is derived from the plantation days in the Nineteenth Century when Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Filipino laborers arrived to work on the sugar plantations in Hawaii, and a common simplified language evolved to facilitate communication between the immigrants, native Hawaiians and English speaking residents.
You are sure to hear some of these common pidgin phrases during your stay on the island. Puka means a hole or opening such as a puka shell. Talk Story means to chat or gossip with friends. Pupu refers to an hors d’oeuvre, appetizer or snack. Ono is a term used frequently to describe food that is really tasty and delicious. Pau means completed or finished and Pau hana means done with work or a project for the day. This is a perfect time to relax with a pau hana cocktail. K’den or Shoots means OK, that you are in agreement. Bumbai means after a short while.