Living in Hawaiʻi you pick up a few additions to your vocabulary. For centuries the islands have been a stew of languages, each borrowing words from one another. Hawaiian, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, English, Spanish and more have all added to the flavor of these islands. Everyone uses a few words from other languages in everyday conversation. Then there are local folks who grew up speaking the full mixture, a pidgin unique to the islands.
Working with a bunch of island guys you need to learn a bit of pidgin simply to understand the conversations around you. To an English speaker, such as myself, the syntax seems mixed about. The words are mostly English and Hawaiian, with a clear context and a little exposure you begin to pick it up. After a while it seems natural to hear pidgin around you.
Some of the words that Hawaiian supplies seem much better than the English equivalents, it is understandable that they are used in preference to the English words. Some are simply more appropriate on an island… Mauka and Makai make perfect sense where everything is either towards the mountain or towards the sea. Puʻu us the perfect name for the numerous volcanic hills that dot the island. Puka, for small hole, just sounds right.
My favorite is Pau, meaning finished or done, a word that is commonly heard on the Keck radio channels. “How are you guys doing up there?” might go the radio chatter, “We all pau!” Something about the word just works, the sound and the meaning in agreement.
I expect these words will stay in my vocabulary, alongside British expressions I picked up living in England decades ago. Language is a fluid and dynamic thing, part of the richness of our lives.