In One Boy, No Water each chapter begins with a word or phrase in Hawaiian or Pidgin followed by its definition. This structure uses ‘ōlelo no‘eau, wise or entertaining sayings that reveal a hidden truth. Hawaiian relies heavily on poetic imagery, riddles, and puns to communicate significant truths veiled under casual conversation. Words and phrases can hold hidden layers of meaning called kaona, which is why songs about mist or fish or flowers or wind can leave old folks laughing and young ones wondering what’s so funny. Examples of ‘ōlelo no‘eau can be found on the Internet or in this book of collected wisdom:

 ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings

by Mary Kawena Pukui

Bishop Museum Press, 1983

Here are some of the newest ones I’ve come across:

·         ‘A‘a i ka hula, waiho ka hilahila i ka hale.

When one wants to dance the hula, bashfulness should be left at home.

·         Hōhohua no ke kawa.

A deep diving place indeed. Said of a topic that requires deep thinking.

I kani no ka pahu i ka ‘olohaka o loko.

It is the space inside that gives the drum it’s sound. The empty-headed person is the one who does the most talking.

He manō holo ‘āina ke ali‘i.

The chief is a shark that travels on land. Like a shark, the chief is not to be tampered with.

 

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