Things You Should Never Do in Hawaii, According to a Local

USA News

Mispronouncing Hawaiian words and local phrases seems to be par for the course.

hawaiian shave ice, rainbow treat with water in the background

Locals call this sweet treat shave ice. Make sure you don’t forget the snow cap and fresh mochi.

Ashley Probst

When tourists mispronounce Hawaiian words, it’s often an innocent mistake.

I’ve noticed non-Hawaiian speakers commonly mispronounce mahalo (“thank you” in Hawaiian) as “ma-halo” instead of “ma-HAH-low” or say “shaved ice” instead of “shave ice.”

Many local phrases derive from Pidgin, a creole language that’s spoken in Hawaii, which is why some words are pronounced differently than they are in mainland English.

But some visitors purposely pronounce words incorrectly to make fun of the language. 

One time, I heard someone mockingly attempt to say humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the name of Hawaii’s state fish. And when my friend corrected a person’s pronunciation of Maui, our home island, they doubled down and told her she was wrong.

Both of these situations were incredibly disrespectful.

That being said, it would be even worse for tourists to not try to learn any Hawaiian words at all. So when newcomers visit the islands, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask a local for help.

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