Hawaiian Alphabet Soup
The first time I landed in Hawaii, I thought I would never master all those Hawaiian words. Now as a repeat visitor to Maui, I sorta get it.
History has it that in 1822, missionaries created a 17 letter Hawaiian alphabet that made it easy to teach the Hawaiians to read the Bible (five vowels and 12 consonants compared to English’s 26 letters, five vowels 21 consonants). In most cases each of the Hawaiian letters has only one sound (a different vowel shift from American English but once you learn the shift you’ll be good).
Here’s how it goes:
If you see an “e” in a word, it is always pronounced “a”, an “o” always says “o” and an “i” always says, “e” (and the consonants are almost always the same). If you see an apostrophe (‘), that’s called an okina (might be considered a vowel). The okina, I might add, is the symbol for a glottal stop.
Now get in your car and leave the airport in Kahului, take Highway 30 and head for Kapalua. You’ll skirt the extinct volcano Pu’u Kukui, drive the Honoapi’ilani Highway through Lahaina, continue on past Whalers Village at Kaahanapi’ili, Kahana, and Napili and finally Kapalua.
Did you get it? “It will be easy,” they said. Makes you wonder what on earth were they thinking.
Mahalo and Aloha
P.S. Just for fun, you can make your way back to Lahaina and stop by the print museum (the first printing press in the United states located west of the Mississippi), and get the rest of the story.
Morris Pike’s latest children’s book “The Diary of Snap Wolf’s Journey to Find a Mate is available at https://www.amazon.com/Diary-Snap-Wolfs-Journey-Find/dp/0692759123
Photos by Morris R. Pike