|The Hawaiian state flag is certainly a curious one for a U.S. state. It’s actually a hybrid of the British Union Jack and the American standard’s stripes, with blue ones thrown in|
Nope. America’s most ethnically diverse and distant state – farther from another landmass than any other inhabited place on earth – is Hawai`i.
And yes, what appears to be an apostrophe in “Hawai`i” is facing the wrong direction, according what English-users are used to.
It turns out that the reasons for the distinction – Hawai`i rather than Hawaii – are a lot more complex than I imagined when I began asking about them.
|This is the breathtaking view from Kaua`i's Pu`u o Kila Lookout|
|No apostrophe needed in this commonly seen Hawaiian sign, for a Wiki-Wiki (quick-quick!) convenience store|
Hawaiian – one of the state’s two official languages, along with English – has Polynesian roots, tracing to the settlement of the archipelago by Marquesans and Tahitians from even more distant Pacific islands beginning about 300 A.D. When certain vowels in certain places within certain words bump into each other in Hawaiian, those who are speaking the word take an almost imperceptible breath – something that linguists call a “glottal stop.” You hear it in English, for instance, when one puts a brief, breathy pause in “Oh-oh!”
|The human throat isn’t all that attractive, but as this old Grey’s Anatomy sketch illustrates, it’s functional. The glottis is the expanding and contracting opening leading to the trachea|
The glottis produces that slight sound during that ever-so-brief interruption in some
|Here’s Arthur Godfrey in 1953, strumming his ukulele. Godfrey was a headstrong fellow who routinely fired others on his show, including singer Julius LaRosa once, on the air!|
Now that you’re up to speed with the glottal stop (aren’t you?), a word about that funny apostrophe. It’s not an apostrophe at all. “Well I’ll be,” I can hear you saying.
|That’s the okina key, shared with the tilde (~). Usually it’s overlooked, up there next to the much more useful No. 1|
All of this, including the reference to a radio guy who’s been dead for 26 years, would be mighty arcane if it weren’t associated with a highly serious nationalist movement in the Hawaiian Islands. (The adjective “Hawaiian,” by the way, isn’t spelled with the okina – it’s not “Hawai`ian” – because it’s a purely English word; there’s no direct equivalent in the Hawaiian language.)
|This is a 1778 illustration, “An Offering Before Captain Cook in the Sandwich Islands,” by Andrew Middleman. Cook made three trips to Hawai`i. He was killed in a fight onshore after the third one|
King Kamehameha I – Kalani Pai`ea Wohi o Kaleikini Keali`ikui Kamehameha o `Iolani i Kaiwikapu kaui Ka Liholiho Kūnuiākea in Hawaiian – whom Hawaiians consider a founding father equivalent to the first U.S. president, George Washington – unified the islands in 1810 into a new and independent country, and his descendants and their families maintained control for a century.
|This view of a Hawaiian pineapple harvest was shot about 1920. The backdrop is beautiful, but the work was grueling|
In 1893, a revolution led by American pineapple baron Sanford B. Dole deposed Queen Liliuokalani and brought forth a short-lived Hawaiian Republic.
Three guesses as to its president.
You got it on the first guess: Sanford B. Dole.
This takeover, more than a century ago, infuriates Native Hawaiians to this day. To them, it represented a theft of their kingdom, their lands, and their identity. That identity is re-emerging, at least symbolically, with the appearance of so many Hawaiian word forms in official parlance.
In 1898, 11 years after King Kalakaua had given the United States exclusive use of Pearl Harbor as a naval base, the American Stars and Stripes replaced the Hawaiian flag when the United States, with President Dole’s blessing, annexed the islands as a territory.
Another guess: Who was the first territorial governor?
My, you’re a sharp one: Sanford B. Dole.
|Sanford Dole takes the oath of office as territorial governor of Hawai`i in Honolulu in 1900|
The islands have a rich 20th- and 21st-century history, too, of course, notably including the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that
|Fireboats pour water onto the U.S.S. West Virginia, burning at Pearl Harbor following the surprise attack by Japanese planes on Dec. 7, 1941|
|Dancers entertain at a luau on Maui, known as the “Valley Isle” or the “Magic Isle.” It’s the archipelago’s second-largest island, after (of course) the "Big Island"|
Even though full-blooded and part-Hawaiians now make up only 6 per cent of the state’s population, their nationalist movement, embodied in the prideful expansion of the Hawaiian language into official commerce, has grown many tentacles.
Native Hawaiians have so far successfully fought off court challenges to their Kamehameha School program – a system in which money from lands once ceded to private interests, such as big hotel chains, is set aside for excellent private schools exclusively for Hawaiians.
At one Hawaiian-rights protest, “Mele Welte, a former Kamehameha teacher, carried a placard reading, ‘Honor, preserve, protect and celebrate the Hawaiian people,’ as she gave a mini lecture to a couple of tourists,” the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper reported. “’I feel that people who attack Native rights need to consider the diversity of our country,’ she said.”
|Water drops 134 meters (440 feet) down Akino Falls on Hawai`i’s Big Island. This is the island from which lava flows spectacularly into the sea from one of many active volcanoes|
And as a result of recent amendments to the Hawai`i state constitution, Hawaiian-studies programs are proliferating in lower schools and government departments as well.
|This was considered an “Eskimo” family when this photo was taken in 1929. Now these Alaskans’ own word for their people – “Inuit” – is preferred|
“We gather as Indigenous Peoples of our respective nations recognizing and reaffirming the educational rights of all Indigenous Peoples. We share a vision of Indigenous Peoples of the world united in the collective synergy of self determination through control of higher education. We are committed to building partnerships that restore and retain indigenous spirituality, cultures and languages, homelands, social systems, economic systems and self-determination.”
|Ice fishers make a good haul of muikku – a small but tasty variety of fish that they bake, fry, or pickle and eat whole – in the Lapland region of Norway|
And Carol and I could not help but notice another of the world’s notable and impressively successful language-preservation efforts on a trip that was closer to Norway than Hawaii – back to my ancestral home in Wales. There, Welsh names and signs and language courses are everywhere, not just as a matter of pride, but also as government policy bent on saving the difficult language at all costs.
Did I say difficult? Let me tell you, a few sprightly okinas stuck into prominent words in Hawai`i are a piece of cake to comprehend, compared with what those Welshmen have going. Try this one on for size: “Cynhaliwyd Eisteddfod Genedlaethol yn Llanelwedd.” I have no idea what that means – and no clue how to pronounce a single one of those words – but it has something to do with the town from which the first bunch of American Landphairs came: Llanfair-ym-Muallt.
You might think that most Hawaiians would be pleased, or at least benignly tolerant, of the renewed emphasis on the Polynesian-based Hawaiian language. It’s still easygoing Hawai`i, after all, fifty years into statehood, where, as the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” reminds us, “Blue skies of Hawai`i smile” and “Clouds won't hide the sun.”
|Because of its multiethnic population, Honolulu, on the Island of O`ahu, is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities|
Especially, they argue, in one of the world’s most multiracial crucibles, where official discrimination based on race or national origin has long been unfashionable. Just ask U.S. President Barack Obama, now the world’s most famous Hapa (Hawaiian of mixed racial ancestry). Son of a black African father and white mother from the American heartland in Kansas, he was born in Hawai`i, returns whenever possible, and considers himself very much a kamaaina – a native or local.
Or “p.p.s.,” as I sometimes write at the end of my long letters, never having checked “Miss Manners” to see if there really is such a thing:
If you can’t get to sleep at night, worrying yourself sick wondering whether there’s a connection between the Earl of Sandwich of Hawaiian Islands fame and the everyday bite or two that we call the sandwich, there is!
At least according to legend. John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), was a gambler so inveterate that he did not want to step away from the action for a heavy, time-consuming British meal. Kidney pie, potatoes and a pint, and all that. Supposedly he asked a waiter to bring him a hunk of roast beef stuck between slices of bread, so he could balance this edible in one hand while holding his cards or rolling the dice, grease-free, in the other.
Voila! The sandwich!
As to which child in which country first corrupted this into wanting a “sammich,” you’ll have to do your own research.
|This photograph, by Carol, of Hawaii’s “good life” has nothing to do with sandwiches. But I had to include it somewhere to illustrate, yet again, the beauty of this Pacific paradise|
TODAY'S WILD WORDS
(These are a few of the words from this posting that you may not know. Each time, I'll tell you a little about them and also place them into a cumulative archive of "Ted's Wild Words" in the right-hand column of the home page. Just click on it there, and if there's another word in today's blog that you'd like me to explain, just ask!)
Crucible. In concrete terms, a crucible is a strong vessel, often made of porcelain, in which materials can be combined and melted, even at extremely hot temperatures. Metaphorically, one who is thrown into a crucible, say a roiling controversy, had better be ready for some heat as well.
Gig. As I’ve used the word in a mention of Hawaiian entertainers, a “gig” is a job, often in some form of show business. The online “Word Detective” notes that “Every job is a ‘gig’ today. Calling your job a ‘gig’ is a way of saying ‘I’m not really emotionally invested in my job, which I find boring and soulless, and I’m only doing it so I can act/write novels/play jazz saxophone on the weekends.’” “Gig” also has many other meanings. It’s a small spear used to snare fish, for instance, and it was once an object that spins, such as the child’s toy called a “whirligig.”
Luau. A Hawaiian feast, originally named after one of the dishes served there: chicken wrapped in Taro leaves and baked in coconut milk. Guests who arrive are often greeted with leis – necklaces of flowers or shells. One of the traditions at touristy luaus, in addition to the strumming and singing of soft Hawaiian melodies, is the dangerous fire dance, borrowed from the Samoan Islands.
Skosh. A dab, a touch, a teeny bit. People often ask their tailors for a “skosh more room” around the waist, for instance, when getting fitted. (I know I would if I could afford a tailor.) Skosh, pronounded "SKOHsh," is one of a few English words borrowed from the Japanese, where sukoshi means “little.” Supposedly, United Nations troops heard the word while on leave in Japan during the Korean War of the early 1950s and mangled it, and the shortened version of the word became part of military jargon.