Da Muddah Tongue

Wala‘au with our newest columnist.


Story by Kathy Collins

Tita Kathy CollinsSo I was jes’ minding my own business, when da wahine from Maui No Ka ‘Oi wen’ go call me up fo’ ask if I like try be one columnist fo’ da magazine.

“Hah? You sure you get da right tita? I mean, I get plenny fo’ say, but no mo’ nottin’ fo’ write.”

“Just write whatever you’d like to say.”

So ‘ass why I write like how I talk—all in pidgin. I hope you folks no mind. Some guys tink us locals talk pidgin ‘cause we donno how fo’ talk real English. Dey no unna-stand, pidgin is one real language, born an’ raised right here in da islands.

Da official name is Hawaiian Creole English. One creole is one language dat come from some odda languages. Gotta have rules dat tell you how fo’ put togedda da words, and gotta be da first language of at least one generation. And ass how pidgin is! We use words from all da languages dat da first plantation workers went talk, like Chinese, Japanese, and English, of course. Da gramma come from ‘olelo Hawai‘i (Hawaiian language), ass why we say stuffs like “Cute, da bebe” or “Sore, my head!” And by now, at least couple tree generations been talkin’ pidgin since small-kid time.

So pidgin is part of Island Livin’ local style. And ja’ like da rest of island life, pidgin stay evolving. Nowadays, da kids mix in da kine urban slang dat dey learn from MTV, li’dat. Ass ok wit’ me, afta all, pidgin wen start from trying fo’ find common ground fo’ everybody unnastand each odda. So all da kids doing now is making pidgin even mo’ inclusive. An’ keepin’ da language alive and perta-nent.

Kinda like how Island Livin’ went change from da olden days. Befo’ time, was mo’ impo’tant fo’ be practacal dan pretty. Da only plants in our yard was trees fo’ give fruit, like mango, papaya, tangerine. Except fo’ plumeria. Had to have at least one plumeria tree so you could make lei fo’ spesho occasion. And maybe anthuriums or red ginger fo’ take to da cemetery.

Nowadays we know, pretty is jes’ as impo’tant as practacal. Gotta feed da soul, not just da ‘opu. Like Spam musubi! You can eat Spam, rice, and nori each by itself . . . but when you put ‘em all togedda in one pretty liddo package, da taste mo’ ono and da feeling mo’ good!

So dass all I going say fo’ now. Ackchally I get plenny more fo’ say, but no mo’ nuff room. Look like you and me gotta wait until da next issue of MNKO fo’ get some more “Liddo Bitta Tita!”

Tita is the pidgin-speaking alter ego of local actress and Mana‘o Radio cofounder/DJ Kathy Collins. Both Tita and Ms. Collins grew up on Maui


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