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Feature: Haole
Posted by Devin on Monday, February 10, 2003 - 02:02 AM PST

Religion
As I’ve mentioned before, Hawaiian words often have many more meanings than the literal translations. You should read my article on Kapu if you’d like another example. It’s always interesting how languages with a smaller vocabulary usually have more depth to the meaning of each word. One word that every Caucasian should know is the word Haole. Haole is most commonly pronounced “howlee”, although you may be able to escape some damage if you pronounce it correctly (howleh) in some situations. The correct plural of Haole is Haole, but most people add the English plural suffix and use Haoles (Howleeze) instead.

I’ll start with the most important usage of the word. If you are a Caucasian visiting Hawaii, this is the only meaning you really need to be aware of but it is probably the most important thing you should know before visiting. If you hear the words “Fucking Haole” spoken by a large brown man who is looking you in the eye, the literal translation in this context is “Run like hell and don’t look back”. The subtler connotations are that you are about to experience a severe beating for reasons you are better off being far away from than trying to understand. Getting mad or asking why wastes valuable running time.

Although “Run Like Hell” is the most common modern usage of the word, it of course has other meanings. Most languages and subcultures have an equivalent, but most don’t have such colorful roots. Gringo, Gaijin, Honky, Cracker, Normals, goyim, round-eye, infidel, and many other words in other languages all refer to people who “ain’t from around these parts”. More specifically, white people from elsewhere, or from a different culture or subculture.

It is generally accepted that the opposite of Haole is “Kamaaina” (pronounced COMma-EYE-nah – meaning “of the land”). The interesting part about that is that unlike words for natives in other countries and cultures, it’s not used to refer only to people who were born in Hawaii. A Kamaaina is someone who belongs there because they understand and fit well with the vibe – not because they have some genetic right to be there or because their skin is brown. If Haole meant the same thing as Gaijin or Foreigner, the opposite would be Kamaka Maoli (pronounced ka-MA-ka MA-oly – meaning “the true people from here”).

What you should be wondering right now is this: Up until 1778, Hawaiians had never seen white folks – Ever. They had also never seen anyone from outside of the Hawaiian Islands. As far as they were concerned, Hawaii was the entire world. This might as well have been true considering how far they would have to sail to reach even the Johnston Atoll – much less the populated places like the Marshall Islands or the Marquesas and Tahiti. They just didn’t have the technology – or they weren’t stupid enough to use the technology they did have. They trusted Kanaloa but not that much. Their Tahitian, Samoan and Tongan neighbors never dropped by for a visit either. Probably because the last time Tahitians tried to sail north, they found and settled Hawaii, and couldn’t send a message home telling everyone that they were all right.

So if they had never seen a foreigner, why would they have a word like Haole just waiting around for a use? Back then, everyone was Kamaka Maoli. Every person alive was a Kamaaina as far as they knew. But as you know, the Hawaiians have quite a pantheon of Gods, and there are ghosts absolutely everywhere over there. Not every person is alive.

That’s right, the word Haole literally translates to “those who do not breathe”. It was used literally to refer to a dead person or a god, but it was also used figuratively for the spiritually dead. In English, this would cover the dead, God/Gods, ghosts, zombies, possibly vampires, fictional characters, corporations, and any other non-human or soulless entity.

So how did the usage of the word go from referring to a non-living or soul-less person to meaning “foreigner”? When Captain James Cook of the HMS Resolution landed at Kealakekua bay on the Big Island of Hawaii during the Lono i ka makahiki (the annual feast for the god Lono), they assumed that Cook was Lono. Lono had left the islands years earlier promising to return to that spot at that time of year on a floating island (resembling Cook’s ship). It was natural for them to assume that Cook was Lono. The people that were with him were as white as he was and since the Hawaiians had never seen anyone that white, they assumed that the only way to be that white was to not breathe. It was natural for them to use the literal meaning of the word to refer to Cook and the Haoles. Once most of the population started dying of VD (which they had no immunity to) and the Hawaiians realized that these were just white people, and not spirits and gods, the figurative meaning was more appropriate and has stuck to this day.

One of the great ironic jokes the Hawaiians of that time played was teaching their kids to refer to people who were not Kamaaina (“of the land” or “on the vibe”) as Haole (“The Soulless”). Most of the current generation is not even aware of the original meaning of the word, and probably none of the Haoles know exactly what they are being called. They could have just referred to them as “not of the land” or “not the true people” but using the word Haole and all it implies is just so much more fitting. The more time I spend on the mainland in the company of Haoles, the more appropriate this choice of words becomes. This should prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hawaiians are in fact goth as fuck, and there’s more than one way to be a Haole.


Related links
· The Shmeng Cult
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· News by Devin


Most read story in Religion:
Pono


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Re: Haole
by bettie_x (strangersangel@hotmail.com)
on May 05, 2004 - 11:42 PM
(User info | Send a Message) http://bettie_x.tripod.com/
Devin, I have to let you know that I have a plan. It was instigated after a rather hillarious conversation with a large and in charge ultra mellow hawaiian, that if I ever move to hawaii I was going to open a bar called The Crazy Fucking Haole. It'd be a place for haoles to congregate, and hawaiians to congregate and make fun of the haoles. I'd even have the "haole of the night" where one would get free drinks for sitting in a glass dunking case with "token haole" on the front and let people dunk him for dollars. This gentleman thought it'd be a hoot, and so did the hawaiian girl I work with (her mom is known on the big island as "that fucking crazy haole bitch" so the bar would be name din her honor). She owns a house on the big island (malani family inheritance *chaching*) and we dealt that should I ever move there with michael, we'd live there and run the booze house. This whole paragraph is rather irrelevant, and outdated, but it happened yesterday and thought I'd share :)


Re: Haole
by Starlight (elenmea@hotmail.com)
on Feb 11, 2003 - 09:20 AM
(User info | Send a Message) http://www.geocities.com/nony_one/index.html
I have not been to Hawaii yet myself, but my husband has gone there a couple of times as a kid with his parents. So now we know to watch out for anything that is Kapu, and hopefully those we encounter there will consider us Kamaaina. Thanks for providing the info Devin.


Could you come back at a better time?
by Monolycus on Feb 10, 2003 - 08:42 PM
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I am sure that someone else must have noticed this. Captain James Cook was mistaken for Lono not only because he had a strange complexion, but because he happened to arrive during the Lono i ka makahiki. This reminded me of another "lucky" white guy.

There are few historians that believe that the Azteca could not have successfully fought off the conquistadores... the Aztec culture was, after all, based almost entirely upon warfare. What gave Cortés et al the edge was not gunpowder... it had to do with the fact that the Aztec leader Moctezuma II (reigned 1502- 1520) had been bothered by ill omens of the return of the god Quetzalcoatl, which had been forecast to occur on "... a particular day in Spring that occured once every fifty-two years. One such year in European notation was 1519" (quoted from Of Gods and Men: The Heritage of Ancient Mexico by A.B. Gyles and C. Sayer. Harper and Rowe, NY. 1980). The wily Spaniards (apparently) had more dumb luck than anything else. By the time it was apparent that Cortés and the conquistadores were not divinities after all, there weren't enough Azteca left to do much about it.

I always had some trouble believing that Europeans could just be that damned lucky... and to hear of it happening twice is unbelievable to me. It can not be a coincidence. I'm thinking that the European God of Conquest must be better versed in the manufacture of serendipity than in the craft of honourable warfare.

~Monolycus.


Re: Haole
by Sticupus (sticupus@hotmail.com)
on Feb 10, 2003 - 08:01 PM
(User info | Send a Message) http://www.obolisk.com
I enjoy the point of view; I can relate being used to people coming from all over and ignoring, not understanding and abusing the land where I am from. This just reminds me of my own nativity, and how I get the vibe of Florida. Maybe I'll type something up.


Re: Haole
by MystryssRavynDarque (A1MANDI04@AOL.COM)
on Feb 10, 2003 - 04:52 PM
(User info | Send a Message)
Very very good! I too love learning, when it is something that I am interested in and care about learning about. Teach us more Professor Devin!


Re: Haole
by Closetgothbabe on Feb 10, 2003 - 09:13 AM
(User info | Send a Message)
Now I love learning something new....but I am sure Im not a Haole. I have the vibe baby...uh huh yes I do! Thanks Devin...now its time to do some research on the Hawaiian Gods.


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