I was thinking this morning, with pleasure, of how pidgin English speakers can convey entire paragraphs in one, or at most, two, words.

A woman I know was talking about how a man’s loud voice, whether aimed at her or not, could immediately provoke the “Papakolea tita” in her. Her automatic thought: “Braddah, you not even half as big as my smallest braddah, so no even ack, cos I can!”

No ack. “Don’t even go there.” I can! “Because I can and will clean your clock!” (No ack — get over yourself, quit posturing.)

Then there is “Shoots!” Meaning “yes, sure, let’s go, I will, I can do that.”

And the all-purpose “da kine,” useful for indicating any noun, proper or common, that you can’t immediately access. I’ve heard entire nounless conversations between friends who are so ma’a (clued in) to context that there’s no need for doing any brain work to think of the word. “Ey, you know da kine, da one who lives odea behine my cuzin da kine? Yeah, he w’en go ax da kine fo’ da kine wit’ him!” “You know Junior Boy, the one who lives by my cousin Kawika? He made a pass at Honey Girl!”

You don’t hear this one much anymore but when I was a teenager, a boy’s way of asking you to “go steady” or go out exclusively with him was, “Get chance?” I remember one guy asking me that and, though I wasn’t really all that into him, I was so flustered, I said yes. He, of course, thought the matter was settled and when he saw me talking to another boy on campus, he almost w’en beef (fight) wit’ da guy. (“Wot!?? Like beef?” was the way one person challenged another to a modern-day duel back then. A while back, local boy chef Alan Wong made playful fun of this to name a menu making use of locally raised beef.)

Sometimes, we don’t even need words.

When I was a young girl, Lahainaluna boys’ way of saying “May I have this dance?” was a variant of what scholars of local culture call “the eye flash.” An arch of the right brow, an upward tilt of the head. The eye flash, still very much in use, is all purpose. It means “Howzit?” and “Yes” and “Do you want to” and it can serve as a way of indicating to another, “Yes, I’m local, too,” or even, “Ho, dis touris’ is really stupid, yeah?” — like a secret language.

“Yeah,” at the end of a sentence, is the local “you know what I mean?” or “are you listening?” I’ve noticed, in watching British films, that speakers of colloquial working class English there (NOT proper BBC
English) say “yeah” at the end of their sentences, too. But they pronounce it differently and it often has a slightly more challenging context.

Fun to think about. Good to have a culture in which I (mostly) belong.