February 16, 2013
This extremely long word is the name of the official state fish of Hawaii. I have been exposed to this name in the past; my daughter and her friends actually used it as a password for their Internet at one time. Still, it is difficult to remember how to spell and pronounce. One of the restaurants we ate in while visiting Maui was called Humuhumunukunukupua’a, and our waitress was gracious enough to give us some tips on how to pronounce it. It’s actually very easy after you get your mind and mouth accustomed to it.
The Hawaiian language is fascinating in that it only contains twelve letters – a, e, h, I, k, l, m, n, o, p, u and w. Also used to help with pronunciation and to change the meaning of a word are the glottal stop or `okina (`) and macron or kahako (short line placed over a vowel). The language was unfortunately oversimplified by missionaries when it was first written down. According to scholars, no one really knows how the original language really sounded.
With the repetition of syllables and the two punctuation marks, Hawaiian is fairly easy to learn. If you’re up for the challenge, Mango Languages includes the Hawaiian language.
Hawaiian words you’ve probably heard include: Aloha: love, hello and goodbye; Hula: dance/music form; Lanai: balcony, terrace, patio; Lei: garland of flowers, feathers, shells, or other material; Lu`au: traditional Hawaiian feast; Poi: staple food made of taro root; and Kahuna: a priest, doctor, or other trained person of old Hawaii, endowed with special professional skills that often included prophecy or other supernatural powers.
An interesting note – Hawaii is the only state that has two official languages, English and Hawaiian. Hawaiian was re-established as an official language in 1978. It had become a dying language, but with the interest of the Hawaiian people in their roots and the formation of immersion schools, the language has experienced a revival.
Lone Jack Branch