Sharing Mana‘o

Today’s column is presented with Hawaii Creole English (HCE) translation, as a public service.

Last week’s “Sharing Mana’o” about the addition of the pidgin word “hammajang” into the Oxford English Dictionary generated so much feedback, I just had to revisit the topic. Through emails, Facebook posts and chance encounters at the mall, friends and strangers shared their personal history with the word and with HCE in general. Some offered their own nominations for OED inclusion, others just wanted to express their affection for our unofficial language. Most of the comments were delivered in pidgin; all of them made me smile.

HCE: Ho, you guys had so much stuffs fo’ say about las’ week’s Mana’o, was easy fo’ write today’s one. Cuz now, all I gotta do is tell what you guys wen tell me. I donno if get room for all, but. Cuz you guys was all ova da place. Nemmind. Was all good.

What surprised me was the number of non-native pidgin speakers who responded. I had expected to hear from kama’aina who consider HCE to be their first and favored language. But many Mainland transplants, especially those who arrived in the 1960s and ’70s, shared delightful stories about their initial encounters with pidgin and pidgin speakers. Even those who don’t dare speak it have gained an understanding of — and appreciation for — our local tongue.

HCE: Plenny haoles wen’ put in dea two cents.

As noted last week, “hammajang” goes way back, long before the 1988 date cited by OED. Folks my age concurred, it was popular in the ’70s among teens and young adults. Da Pidgin Guerilla, Lee Tonouchi, knows someone (a linguist!) who says he heard the word as early as the ’50s. But I haven’t found anyone who clearly remembers using it before the late ’60s, so maybe Lee’s friend was referring to his 50s.

HCE: Da histry of “hammajang” stay all hammajang.

In addition to the “hammajang” synonyms I quoted from Tonouchi’s Da Kine Dictionary (boroboro, junkalunka, had it, etc.), Maui News readers contributed “rackatooted,” “juggalugga,” “jam up” and “no can.” One of the rackatooted submitters (there were several) suggested that the word was derived from the English “wrecked.” Juggalugga is obviously a regional variation of junkalunka, which is obviously a reduplication of “junk.” “Hammaz” and “boddos,” also listed in the DKD, are derivations of hammajang and boroboro. No one, so far, has mentioned “toonted,” which I remember from my preteen years and was probably our shortcut for rackatooted. Maybe it was a Makawao School thing.

HCE: Us guys get choke ways fo’ say “all buss up.” But not all is da exack same-same. Ja’like how da Eskimos get ukumillion words fo “snow” and how da Hawaiians get plenny spa-cific kine words for all da different kine rains and winds, li’dat. You gotta know when fo’ use what. Like my car stay rackatooted cuz my machanic all hammajang. In fack, he one brokanic. Plus, depend on whea you from. And what year you wen grad.

While quite a few agreed that “da kine” should have been the first OED pidgin addition, a couple of folks nominated “futless,” which was actually a very close second in my reckoning. It’s cute and colorful, fun to say and to hear. Sadly, I don’t hear it very often these days. I don’t even hear the root word, “fut,” any more. For those unfamiliar with old school pidgin, a “fut” is an incident of flatulence. “Futless” means “frustrated” or “confused.” Someone asked me about the origin of the term; I can only speculate that the inability to pass gas might lead to confusion and, eventually, frustration.

HCE: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! But serious, we gotta bring back futless. Da word, not so much da feeling.

“Bumbye” (“later,” as in “by and by”), “use tuh too” (“accustomed to”), “wop yo jaws” (a sassy way of proclaiming, “See, I was right and you were wrong”), and a few other pidgin classics were suggested, but we’re running out of space. I do appreciate all of your comments and I welcome more, perhaps for inclusion in a future column. Or maybe even a Maui-centric pidgin glossary.

HCE: Tanks, eh, fo’ all da words. Sorry if I wen leave out yours. No get all futless.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is