Resolving To Get Hawaiian Right

Bob Jones
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Wednesday - January 03, 2007
| Share

I think we should start the new year by pleading mea culpa over our mispronunciations of Hawaii place names.

This is where we live, our home. We can start with the overly popular Hanauma Bay - a redundancy because Hanauma translates as a curved bay. I contacted place-names guru Keith Haugen, who assures me it is properly Hana-Uma and not HaNOW-mah. And no okina, either.

TheBus seems to use a single voice these days to make the street announcements via computer chip, but I’ve noticed the No. 1 bus calling Isenberg Street in McCully ICE-en-berg. Nope, it’s EES-en-berg. Named for Paul Isenberg, a German who became president of Lihue and Koloa sugar plantations and married Hannah Maria Rice of the Kauai Rices.

On the other hand, bus-voice Puakea Nogelmeier correctly pronounces a street that is misspelled without a Hawaiian diacritical on the sign in the Diamond Head area. The sign says Poni Moi. Nogelmeier says it correctly as Poni Mo’i, both syllables of Mo’i equally accented.

What else?

Ah, Houghtailing Street. Haugen says years ago he talked with a direct descendant of saloon-keeper George Washington Houghtailing - the first family member to come here - and was told the correct pronunciation for that street is Ho-tailing. Hough as in dough, not as in cough. But as Haugen says, “if I pronounce it correctly people look at me like I’m stupid.”

It should be Mick-Kinley and Mick-Cully rather than MahKinley and Ma-Cully, but that’s just normal linguistic laziness rather than true word mangling.

I still cringe, however, when people who live here call our city Hana-lulu or that Windward town Canny-0wee. It’s mostly Mainlanders who call this place Ha-wai-yah.

And even the mall’s own radio and TV ads sometimes call it Ala (as in the name Al) Moana rather than Ah-lah (as in a la mode.)

Haugen says he commonly hears Kahalui (for Kahului), Punene (for Pu’unene), Kaholawe (for Kaho’olawe), Kahumanu (for Ka’ahumanu), Layhui (for Lihu’e), Laia (for La’ie), Kalapapa (for Kalaupapa), and common mispronunciations of well-known Hawaiian family names. I have a friend named Ka’ohelauli’i but many just call her Ms. K.

You probably know that it isn’t Kai-mu-ki but you feel silly saying the correct Ka-imu-ki, right? And on Kauai, it’s really Po-ipu rather than Poi-pu. We’re thrown off because our eyes see two common words there, kai and poi.

And when I asked the Postal Service automaton for station information for ZIP Code 96816, I was given the phone number for the “Wai-ee-a-lee-ee” Kahala location. Try yours by calling 800-275-8777 and entering your ZIP.

Well, now we’ll see if I made any major boo-boos in this column besides not having proper Hawaiian diacritical marks in my word processing program.

Blame that on the AppleWorks/Macintosh makers. The Hawaiian palette crashes my applications.

Happy New Year.

E-mail this story | Print this page | Comments (0) | Archive | RSS Comments (0) |

Most Recent Comment(s):

Posting a comment on requires a free registration.



Auto Login

Forgot Password

Sign Up for MidWeek newsletter Times Supermarket



Hawaii Luxury

Tiare Asia and Alex Bing
were spotted at the Sugar Ray's Bar Lounge