Say what? Lessons on Hawaiian lingo

[caption id="attachment_1463882" align="alignnone" width="604"]©istockphoto/sweetlifephotos ©istockphoto/sweetlifephotos[/caption] When it comes to language, Hawaii has a dialect all its own - an alchemy of Hawaiian, English, Japanese, Filipino, Spanish, Mexican and other influences. Best known as “pidgin,” the state’s unique and richly-rooted way of speaking can make for some confusing—and often hilarious—scenarios. Here are some of the best communication mix-ups “made in Hawaii.” When first arriving in the Islands, I had more than a few fiascos ensuing from Hawaiian enunciations and/or the interpretations of them. Here are just a few examples of ways I learned that, “What you hear is not always what you get”  - at least here in Hawaii. Lesson 1: It’s “Brah” not “bra”
Not to be confused with racy or lacy lingerie, when you hear the word “brah” in the Aloha state, the only intimate thing they’re referring to here is a brother or friend. So the only “brah” you should be making chest contact with are the homies you be huggin’. Lesson 2: To “Grind” involves dining, not dancing
Where I come from, “grinding” involves bustin’ out some steamy, sexy moves on the dance floor. But when Hawaiians in the Islands are “grinding,” you can bet those surfers and surfettes are “chowing down” on good eats like there’s no tomorrow. Lesson 3: “Choke” is a quantity, not a felony
Contrary to the way it sounds, “choke” does not mean a physical assault. It’s actually the pidgin word meaning “ a lot” of something, rather than the way you’d like to react when you find your boyfriend cheating on you with your best friend. But I guess you could correctly use both—and “choke that man choke, brah!” Lesson 4: “Brok’ Da Mout” isn’t as violent or painful as it sounds
When I first heard that the sandwich I was about to eat was “brok’ da mout,” I wondered what exactly in that slider gave it such a menacing description—only to discover the fact that it was so delicious was the only criteria in achieving such a culinary classification. Apparently, I was learning, what’s broke in the world of ono grinds (yummy food) doesn’t need or desire fixin’. Lesson 5: “Dirty Lick’ns” are kid-tested and mother-approved
Surprisingly, in Hawaii, “dirty lick’ns” are for kids and by parents. Specifically, it means spanking, and—sorry to disappoint some—the type that you’d find in a nursery, not an after-hours nightclub. Lesson 6: Getting “Lei’d” involves getting—rather than giving up—flowers
A Hawaiian lei is a traditional garland of flowers or vines usually worn around the neck and bestowed on loved ones, guests or honorees at special island occasions or celebrations. So when someone speaks of “getting lei’d” in the tropics, you just keep your mind out of the gutter and put all misconceptions about any other meaning to bed. Lesson 7: “Pu pu” does not mean doo doo
The Hawaiian nickname for an appetizer, snack or hors d’oeuvres, “Pu Pu” is synonymous with the Spanish tapa and could range from anything such as cheese and crackers to chips and salsa or sushi. You can imagine this newly arrived transplant’s relief when I discovered that “pu pus” were delicious things associated with culinary (not bodily) functions! Putting all of this together, if someone says, "Hey brah, like grind? Dey wen' bust out choke pu pu for dis' party! The poki broke da' mout." You'll know you are being invited to eat at a party with good snacks, especially the poki. Regardless of what language you speak, in Hawaii as in all places, suffice to say, choose your words carefully, brah. —Andy Beth Miller  

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