|Previous Page||Next Page|
This Hawaiian use of the examination of words to strengthen a thought is often misinterpreted by Westerners who think that the description of the word itself is the point rather than how the word is used to make a point, give a feeling, etc. An example of this is the word 'ohana, meaning "family." Since the word 'ohana has the sound hana (work) in it, the speaker in traditional Hawaiian usage believes that the family should work together, and uses the connection of both words to emphasize a point that 'ohana should hana together. Each spoken affirmation of familial relationship then also affirms the willingness to work together. A Western thinker listening might seize upon the connection between 'ohana and hana made by the speaker and prominently proclaim that one word derives from the other. Such a Western thinker would then tend to disapprove of other interpretations of the word 'ohana or even call ignorant a person who used the similarity in sound between 'ohana and aloha (love) to emphasize love in a family. The traditional Hawaiian who connected 'ohana and hana in the first place, however, would likely accept the connection between aloha and 'ohana as well as hana and 'ohana because he is thinking in terms of the power of the word 'ohana, and such positive associations provide greater power. This is not to say that Westerners cannot understand the concept of word power, or Hawaiians the concept of historical derivation of words, but confusion over which concept is used has resulted in calling Hawaiians inconsistent and calling folk etymologists and Westerners dumb. 8/
An excerpt from an interview of a Hawaiian speaker on the radio 9/ goes as follows:
Interviewer: (L. Kimura)
- No hea 'oe?
- (Where are you from?)
Interviewee: (K. Kaleiheana)
- No Hanalei o Kaua'i au. Ma laila i kanu 'ia au ko'u 'iewe, aka 'o Kalihi ko'u 'aina i hanai 'ia ai.
- (I belong to Hanalei of Kaua'i. 10/ It is there that my placenta was buried, but Kalihi is the land where I was raised.)
The interview shows both the Hawaiian attention to detail in immediately identifying two locations, even though the speaker was taken to the second location soon after birth. The reference to the first location in Hanalei shows the typical Hawaiian pride in an ancestral homeland and emphasizes this with reference to traditional Hawaiian practice involving the placenta of a newborn child. This causes a Hawaiian-speaking listener to recall poetic usages relating to the placenta and navel cord of babies as connecting ascending and descending generations in a family homeland. The reference to the area in which she was raised, Kalihi, expresses a neighborhood pride common to all people.
Such an exchange would, of course, sound silly in English and the associated poetic connections to the placenta would be lost. Hawaiians do not speak this way in English because it cannot be done properly in that medium, an example of losing the power of words if translated.
A slightly more poetic example involves the funeral of Princess Ka'iulani reported in a Hawaiian newspaper under the headline Eo ia Hawai'i Moku o Keawe ("Hawai'i Isle of Keawe Supersedes All"). 11/ The
|Previous Page||Next Page|