Big Island Kine Tings: 7 words and phrases from the Big Island

by Being Local

You may or may not disagree.  You may even have one that we left out here.  But one thing is for sure. The Big Island is special.  We have our own language and here are just a few words and phrases that make our island unique.

Ice Shave – The debate has been going on for years. Ice shave or shave ice. And sadly, it appears that shave ice has begun to seep into our young generation. I recently asked my 11-year-old daughter if she wanted an ice shave and she asked me, “why do people say it like that? It’s shave ice, not ice shave.” My response? “Move to Oahu then!”

Ice shave or shave ice?

Kalapana – Yes, Kalapana is one of the most beautiful places on earth with a rich history and home to the world reknown Uncle Robert’s Awa Bar. But did you know that Kalapana is also used when someone in a fight throws a wild, looping, roundhouse punch that connects? “Wow he wen t’row one Kalapana and the other guy wen lights out.”

Kalapana – More than just a place

Five finger discount – ‘Aihue is another slang used when someone helps themselves to your stuff without asking and then never returns it.  Generally the five finger discount phrase is used when someone you know is the culprit. A stranger is just a thief but a person that you know?  They took a five finger discount. Stealah robbah is also another phrase that’s a little more mainstream across the state.

5 Fingers or 5 Paws it’s all the same

‘A’a and Pahoehoe – These Hawaiian words describe the types of lava rock we find here on the Big Island. ‘A’a is rough, jagged lava rock while pahoehoe is more of a smooth, ropy type. ‘A’a, in particular, has been used very “creatively” by locals in a way that I cannot repeat here. After all, this is a family-friendly website. Curious? Ask in the comment section and you may get a response from someone who has used it before.

Pahoehoe Lava Rock

Beach run – On many parts of the island, there is one road that connects many beaches. You’ll often hear locals saying, “we go beach run” meaning they are going to enjoy a drive along the beach road. Beach cruise means the same thing.  The Hilo beach run in particular starts around Reed’s Bay and goes down the beach road to Richardson’s beach park.

We go beach run

Choke or choken – While the word has become more statewide now, this slang was born somewhere in the 1980’s on the Big Island. It’s still used far more on the Big Island than any other island and it means something in large quantity. If someone catches lots of fish then you’d say “choke fish.” If there’s a lot of food then “get choke food.”

Outer islanders may argue that they were using the word before the 80’s but they weren’t. I remember being a boarding student in 1984 at Kamehameha and the Big Island kids would often use it in everyday language. Kids and adults would ask us what the word means and we’d have to explain it to them…again….and again…and again.

Four years later, I attended summer school on the Big Island and a kid that had just moved from Farrington High School stood up in the middle of class and asked, “what is choke? How come everyone use the word choke? What you guys talking about when you guys say choke?”

While I’m not taking credit for being the first to use choke in that specific way, there’s a good chance that a bunch of middle school and high school kids from the Big Island helped the word to migrate to the rest of Hawaii.

Choke fish on da reef

Raja or Raj or Raja Dat – I’m not claiming this one as Big Island grown but you’ve either heard it or seen it in social media. It’s practically an epidemic here. It’s the pidgin english off shoot of the term, “Roger or Roger That” and simply means yes.

“You going to Uncle Robert’s for the Wednesday farmer’s market?”

“Raja Dat!”

Introducing the Big Island’s new nickname

And that’s seven words or phrases you may have heard from the Big Island.  Are there any others that we may have missed? Tell us in the comments.

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