Note: Many words in Hawaiian have multiple, seemingly disconnected meanings. The definitions below are how I have used them in 'The Punatics'. Most of them are fairly common, and most I try to define in the story, either overtly or through context.

Hawaiian Words and Phrases in 'The Punatics'

An intimate male friend of lower rank involved with a man of ali'i (noble) rank. (i.e, "It's complicated". Read your E.M. Forster for a western view on aikane.)

The land. Note: Watch your spelling. Without the diacritical marks, aina can mean sexual intercourse.

Yes, it is used for saying Hello and Goodbye. But it's much more than that. Aloha is spoken with the heart as well as with the tongue.

A hula school / troupe. A hula halau is led by a hula kumu

a foreigner; generally a caucasian

To move forward positively. Accept things as they are and keep moving on, despite the difficulties.

A pit for roasting pork

A local person

Kanaka maoli
Full-blooded Hawaiian person


A patch of land that is surrounded by lava. For whatever reason, Pele went around this patch of land and left it alone.

A type of nut tree. The tree has many uses. See:

A teacher. Of hula or of any discipline. To get its full flavor, think also of the terms foundation, model, root, trunk, origin...

Ancestor, grandparent.

Meat and fish wrapped and steamed in ti leaves. See this article: Bundle of Joy (Hana Hou). Not to be confused with Lau Lau, Uncle Billy's son. Lau Lau the person is beef wrapped in muscle and tattoos.

Thank you

A man who lives outwardly as a woman

adj. A direction: towards the ocean.

From "An intimate friend with whom one is on terms of receiving and giving freely." I'ilani the cook has an intimate friend in the hot male hula dancer Kamoku.

A loincloth.

adj. Dried up.

adj. A direction: towards the mountain.

Not Hawaiian. Sanskrit. Or Hindu. Colloquially it means 'thank you' but technically it's more like 'I bow to you'.

Nui loa
Generally speaking it means 'very much', as in 'mahalo nui loa' = 'thank you very much'

Generally speaking it means 'family', including blood relatives and non-relatives equally. It is commonly used to denote a guest house.

Japanese. Woman. Violet refers to herself that way in episode 4.4: "Do an old on'na a favor."

adj. It means what is "right", as in 'do what's right'.

Paka lōlō
Marijuana. Literally, numbing tobacco.

A district in the east/southeast part of the Big Island of Hawaii.

A play on the words Puna and lunatic. There are various and unflattering definitions of Punatics. (Go to Prudence and I prefer our definition of what a Punatic is:

adj. Crazy.

Not Hawaiian. According to Google: "(In Tibetan Buddhism) an incarnate lama or highly respected religious teacher (often used as an honorific title)."

A very common and intrinsically important part of Hawaiian life. Chop it off, stick it in cinder rock and watch it grow. See this summary for a primer: "The Ti Plant Called Ki".



We've all heard this phrase: "It's hard to translate."

That's the beauty of other languages. Certain words and phrases can't be directly translated into English and still retain their full meaning. The reason being that language is a reflection of the people who speak it; the culture within which the language used; and the context in which the word or phrase is employed. For these words and phrases you can't separate meaning from context. Therefore, they have to be used in their original language to evoke the full force of their meaning.

I regret to admit that I don't speak Hawaiian. In order to infuse my English-language prose with a bit of relevant Hawaiian phraseology, I rely on the following: things I overhear; books and magazine articles (Hana Hou is Hawaiian Airlines' excellent in-flight publication); and I'm forever querying the online dictionary at Mahalo nui loa to the creators and maintainers of all these resources.

Preserving the Hawaiian Language

Hawaiian is one of many languages at risk of being lost. When a language as rich and lovely as Hawaiian disappears, a part of our humanity, a piece of our collective richness, disappears along with it.

Fortunately, Hawaiian language immersion programs are more common, but the number of Hawaiian speakers is still very low. The University of Hawaii at Hilo has a one-of-a-kind Hawaiian studies programs at the Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language and other groups are hard at work trying to keep the Hawaiian language alive.