Kauai Slang

Kauai Slang

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The Garden Isle of Kauai, and for that matter all of Hawaii, has a local language all its own. A form of pigeon English, mixed with select words from other dialects, creates the uniquely Hawaiian shorthand known as Pidgin. Found across virtually every corner of Kauai, from suburbs to supermarkets, the local lingo Pidgin is the primary means of communication for many island residents. To the newcomer, this can cause some confusion and a quite a few chuckles until a better grasp of Pidgin is reached. To start you off on the right track, here are ten common, misunderstood Pidgin and Kauai slang terms and phrases you'll hear quite often:

1. "da kine"

Pronunciation: "dah kai-n" (rhymes with nine)
Usage: "Da kine went to the da kine to get da kine and da kine with da kine's truck."
If any one word or phrase were to define the local Pidgin lingo, without a doubt it would be "da kine." This Kauai slang term, used in everyday conversation, can be defined as anything at all depending on context. People, places, things, even actions can be defined by "da kine" (i.e., He did da kine (put work into) to my car last night.) It sounds confusing at first, but once you start to hear it and use it, you'll get the hang of "da kine" in no time.

2. "eh brah"

Pronunciation: "ay bra"
Usage: "Eh brah, you got the time?"
This one causes quite a few grins and confused looks when you first hear it. Calling a big, burly Hawaiian a female undergarment doesn't sound like a good idea at first, until you find out "eh brah" is really just shorthand for "eh braddah," which is Pidgin for "hey brother." So, if someone calls you "a bra," take it as a compliment, that means they think you're a good guy.

3. "ainokea"

Pronunciation: "I know kay ahh"
Usage: "Eh brah, ainokea what they think of me."
A perfect example of condensed words in the local Pidgin language of Kauai, "ainokea" is a one word compression of "I no care . . ." / "I do not care . . . ."
When written out, "ainokea" becomes something of an inside joke as it vaguely resembles a real Hawaiian word's spelling. Spell it with a capital A (Ainokea) and you have the name of a very successful island lifestyle clothing company whose merchandise can be found in shops and on residents across the Garden Isle. So as ubiquitous as the Ainokea clothing line is, your first encounter with this local lingo is likely to be via one of their many bumper stickers stuck on a car leaving the airport.

4. "Mahalo"

Pronunciation: "ma ha low"
Usage: "Aloha and mahalo for flying our friendly skies!"
If you've ever been to Kauai, you've likely heard the term "mahalo" on numerous occasions; usually on your flight before departing into Lihue. Recognized as the Hawaiian term for "thank you," "mahalo" can be heard and seen all around the island. However, this commonality has led to some rather funny misinterpretations over the years. Chief of these would be the misconception among visitors that "mahalo" really means "trash." How would one go about associating the traditional word for "thank you" with "trash?" Simple – many trash cans commonly are/were stamped with the word "mahalo" on their tops, thanking you for disposing of your trash properly. Seeing as not everyone had been paying attention to their two-minute in-flight Hawaiian local language lesson, soon the idea that "mahalo" stood for "trash" became a prevalent visitor misconception and a joke among locals. As such, many public trash bins no longer greet you with the traditional "mahalo," opting instead for the standard English "thank you."

5. "Eddie would go"

Pronunciation: "Eddie would go"
Usage: "See that wave brah? Eddie would go."
A world wide Hawaiian surfing legend, Eddie Aikau was a surfer and lifeguard known to jump into surf, either for fun or for rescue, regardless of how big and dangerous the waves may have been. Tragically lost at sea in 1978, Eddie's spirit has lived on throughout the years via the phrase "Eddie would go," which has come to mean the showing of true spirit and courage in the face of adversity. This endearing quote lives today not only through the spoken Kauai local language, but also through apparel and merchandise emblazoned with the "Eddie would go" slogan.

6. "I wen stay go"

Pronunciation: "I when stay go"
Usage: "Eh brah, no need come cause I wen stay go ahready."
"I wen stay go" is one of those common local Pidgin phrases that are made up of language contradictions that seem to make no sense. Basically, "I wen stay go" translates to "I was there ("I wen stay") however, I have already left ("wen stay go")." As you can see, not only does there seem to be contradictions, but the contradictions also seem to have double meanings. Once again, hearing it used in context will help to acclimate you to these types of Kauai slang phrases, which are the cornerstones of Hawaiian Pidgin.

7. "beef"

Pronunciation: "beef"
Usage: "Ho brah, u like beef?!"
In Hawaii, there are two types of "beef" - teriyaki beef, delicious thin sliced beef marinated in teriyaki sauce and served with rice, and "beef," meaning "to fight." If you ever hear someone ask you "Braddah, u like beef?" particularly a stranger in a dark parking lot, they are not likely to be asking if you are a vegetarian.

8. "bus up"

Pronunciation: "bus up"
Usage: "Cuz, your car stay all bus up."
If a friend says their car/house/etc., "stay all bus up," it has nothing to do with mass transit. What they are trying to say is the object is "busted up" or, more correctly, in poor (usually physical) condition. This can also apply to important things such as roads; if you're told that "Lio Road stay bus up" you may want to avoid traveling that road or only go in that direction with caution.

9. "choke"

Pronunciation: "choke"
Usage: "Eh brah, no go Kuhio Highway right now, get choke cars."
When something gets stuck, it's commonly referred to as it "choked," right? Well when someone uses the Kauai slang phrase "get choke," they mean there's a large amount, enough to "choke" on, so to speak. "Get choke cars" is another way of saying "there is quite a bit of traffic in that area at the moment." Or "Get choke chicks there" is the local lingo for "there are plenty of beautiful women at the party."

10. "grind"

Pronunciation: "grind"
Usage: "Ho bu, aftah dis we go da kine and grind?"
To "grind" in Kauai is not to dance but to eat. "Eat like there's no tomorrow" may be a more apt description as, when you "grind," you eat, and eat, and eat until you're about to explode. Then you eat dessert.

This is just a small sampling of the plethora of Pidgin to be found not just in Kauai, but in all the islands of Hawaii. To find even more sayings, just step outside your place in Kauai and absorb the local language wherever it presents itself, using the above examples as a starting point.

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