Wassup Wit Dat!
Universal Language?
August 31st, 2011

If you were born in Hawai'i - you know it, heard it and probably did it.

If you transplanted to Hawai'i - you've gotten used to it, tried to understand it and probably got funny looks for doing it.

If you're visiting Hawai'i - you're thrown off by it, haven't a clue about it and wonder what podunk part of the island you're at.

No, it's not da "you numbah one" sign lolo.... it's Pidgin.

So what's "Pidgin"? Depends where you at.

Here, I've always thought Pidgin was a "local" thing - an 808 thing - but in actuality it is a local thing anywhere. A quick search on Wikipedia actually brought up a definition:

"A pidgin ( /ˈpɪdʒɪn/), or pidgin language, is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common. It is most commonly employed in situations such as trade, or where both groups speak languages different from the language of the country in which they reside (but where there is no common language between the groups). Fundamentally, a pidgin is a simplified means of linguistic communication, as it is constructed impromptu, or by convention, between groups of people. A pidgin is not the native language of any speech community, but is instead learned as a second language. A pidgin may be built from words, sounds, or body language from multiple other languages and cultures. Pidgins usually have low prestige with respect to other languages."

Doesn't that sound exactly like.... "our" Pidgin? It also goes on saying how "each pidgin has its own norms of usage which must be learned for proficiency in the pidgin" which is so very true cause we all seen/heard those who try and don't sound so good.

Whether you know it or not, this blog is unique in the sense that Pidgin will be written and "spoken" here freely. For most people here in Hawai'i, it's like a switch you can turn off and on. Unfortunately, as stated in the definition, Pidgin is usually looked down upon in every aspect of respectablity and status...

Wassup Wit Dat!

I can see if you speak Pidgin 24/7 and at inappropriate times, but c'mon, communication is communication. Only in Hawaii can kama'aina - young and old - talk any kine with each oddah and we going understand. It's a special "language" we have in Hawai'i that literally takes years to learn and develop. You can't just pick it up. You can't just learn vocabulary. It's almost an art which some will never learn or understand.

But did you know - ok, I'm making it up but trust me it sounds good - that we must be da only state, da only island chain, da only place in da world wea we can talk several different languages interchangeably and not skip a beat?

Everyday whether you know it or not, along with English, we talk Pidgin. We mishmash English with Japanese or Hawaiian or Korean or Spanish or Filipino and hence Pidgin and its own vocabulary. The very phrases and words that are mixed in our day to day conversations are said so fluently that you probably aren't even aware of how you actually sound to virgin ears.

Growing up, you learn 'em from all ovah - your grandparents, moms, dads, uncles, aunties and friends. You either going get 'em.... or get left behind. If you're a transplant to Hawaii, you quickly learn to pick up on these phrases and words bumbye you going keep scratching your head because true proper English in local circles doesn't exist.... unless you're in a room full of hardcore English teachers.

We can all talk chop suey and still get along since Pidgin includes so much of our island diversity. We say things like, "Dylan-Girl (local term we add either 'boy' or 'girl' after the name) bocha (shower/bath - Japanese) time yeah?", "I going do 'em manana" (tomorrow - Spanish), "Hui!" (Hey - Pidgin), "Psst" (a Filipino call but ironically if you hear that and you're local, you immediately turn and look). We don't think of it so much in terms of nationality but in terms that it's "local".

I by no means am a foremost expert on Pidgin nor am I ashamed of it. I speak "fluent" when I want and been told it's my native tongue especially after knocking back a few. Da Wife at times gives me a look as to make sure she didn't accidently marry a moke and there's da signal to turn it off. 😆 Pidgin is so much more than a "language" - it's totally about mannerisms as well especially the way you speak Pidgin. You can tell when you're talking to someone who only knows Pidgin and one who knows more than Pidgin.

What I worry about is that Pidgin will soon diminish and fade away. It'll be one of those "traditions" that will soon not be practiced and lost because of it being of "low prestige". Think about who talks it the most: your uncles, grandparents, uh, "matured adults". The younger generation now has shmall kine hard time understanding their own older relatives and it's not a bad thing whatsoever but it is/will be another thing Hawai'i will lose eventually. That's why I'll treasure Rap Riplingers "Rap Hawai'i" forevah!

Wat do you think about Pidgin? Wat foreign word(s) do you use regularly? Wat were you brought up with? Are you keeping it alive and passing it down to your keiki? Admit it, you have at least one relative that only talks Pidgin. 😛
TIP OF DA DAY: Here are just a few grammatical "rules" of Pidgin as thoughtfully described by Wikipedia -

*** Pidgin has distinct pronunciation differences from standard American English (SAE). Some key differences include the following:
The voiced and unvoiced th sounds are replaced by d or t respectively—that is, changed from a fricative to a plosive (stop). For instance, that (voiced th) becomes dat, and think (unvoiced th) becomes tink.

*** The sound l at the end of a word is often pronounced o or ol. For instance, mental is often pronounced mento; people is pronounced peepo.

*** Pidgin is non-rhotic. That is, r after a vowel is often omitted, similar to many dialects, such as Eastern New England, Australian English, and English English variants. For instance, car is often pronounced cah, and letter is pronounced letta. Intrusive r is also used. The number of Hawaiian Pidgin speakers with rhotic English has also been increasing.

*** Generally, forms of English "to be" (i.e. the copula) are omitted when referring to inherent qualities of an object or person, forming in essence a stative verb form. Additionally, inverted sentence order may be used for emphasis. (Many East Asian languages use stative verbs instead of the copula-adjective construction of English and other Western languages.)
Da baby cute. (or) Cute, da baby. The baby is cute.
Note that these constructions also mimic the grammar of the Hawaiian language. In Hawaiian, "nani ka pēpē" or "kiuke ka pēpē" is literally "cute, the baby" and is perfectly correct Hawaiian grammar meaning in English: "The baby is cute."

*** When the verb "to be" refers to a temporary state or location, the word stay is used (see above). This may be influenced by other Pacific creoles, which use the word stap, from stop, to denote a temporary state or location. In fact, stop was used in Pidgin earlier in its history, and may have been dropped in favor of stay due to influence from Portuguese estar.
Da book stay on top da table. The book is on the table. Da water stay cold. The water is cold.

*** For tense-marking of verb, auxiliary verbs are employed:
To express past tense, Pidgin uses wen (went) in front of the verb.
Jesus wen cry. Jesus cried.

54 Responses to “Universal Language?”

  1. sally:

    whoa! I had to triple check that it was really ankles writing all that. I can't even picture those words coming out of his mouth.

    oh, 'scuze, dis WWD. I had fo' make shua was ankles up dea. I no can beleeeve doze words was stay coming from his mout.

    wow, that was kinda hard work.

  2. Seawalker:

    Hey @ankles, weren't you at the game with 107 degree weather? So that explains it. Or is it because of proximity that you're living too close to a certain character living in Oregon, as in @DiO? LOL. Sorry BL, this is all because of the "bird" talk. WWD!

  3. DIO:

    Seawalker: Don't blame me for ankles speaking in "tongues." He and I speak different "bird" dialect. quack quack fat choy to you!! 😉

  4. Braddah Lance:

    ...part of the reason i wanted him to speak proper english was that he thought in pidgin, so he'd write in pidgin as well!

    Ok, now dat is a little bad. 😛

    my favorite pidgin word: pau. i pau now.


    My nephew was 2 yrs old when he was adopted from China. His first English word was pau. I was so proud. lol

    He wasn't asking for a bun?

    ...my kids Nada......on their first visit to HI, each of them said "they talk funny here dad" Sorry to say they know more Spanish than pidgin.

    WE talk funny? 😆 I can only imagine.

    BL, do I receive credit for this "class"

    Once I get tuition payment....

    One of the exercise machines at our gym used to display the word "pau" when you completed your routine. I had to look twice to make sure it really said that. Don't think the bike was manufactured or assembled in Hawaii. See, everybody says or uses the word, pau!

    Really? Maybe it was programmed in but in any case I wondah for those who don't know wat 'pau' means must be thinking da machine broken.

    whoa! I had to triple check that it was really ankles writing all that. I can't even picture those words coming out of his mouth.

    I know! Whoa....