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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Aloha, Big Kahunas


What do you know about Hawaii, America's 50th state?


Read this announcement in a school newspaper. Is this English?

ALOHA! This Friday the Senior Class is having a Luau, with poi and a roasted pig. Senior girls will wear muumuus, and present leis to all boys. The "Big Kahuna" (Principal Ung) will choose the best hula dancers, and Chris Ferrer will play his ukulele. So wiki wiki! Get your tickets now!


The English language has been enriched by vocabulary from several other languages. The Hawaiian language is one of these. Here are some Hawaiian words. Can you guess their meaning? (Looking at the ad above may help.)

1. aloha
2. hula
3. kahuna
4. lei
5. luau
6. muumuu
7. poi
8. ukulele
9. wiki wiki

a. a big dinner, a feast
b. a kind of dance
c. a musical instrument
d. a type of dress
e. fast
f. a dish made of taro
g. a leader or boss
h. "Hello" and "Goodbye"
i. a circle of flowers


1. Do you have words in your language like "aloha" that have a wide variety of meanings?
2. Have you seen any of the things in this lesson: a lei, a muumuu, an ukulele? If so, where?
3. The ad above is for a school "theme dance." Have you ever had or been to a themed dance or party at school or elsewhere?


1. h: Both "hello" and "goodbye." Also describes a welcoming or comfortable feeling. "Hawaii has the 'aloha spirit.'"
2. b: A traditional dance, which tells a story by moving the arms and hands. Hula dancers also rotate their hips. The "Hula Hoop," a popular toy first made in the 1950s, is a large plastic ring placed around the hips; the user moves his or her body "hula style" to make the ring rotate in a circle.
3. g: Originally a Hawaiian tribal leader; brought into common use by surfers. (Surfing as we know it today originated in Hawaii.) Now used informally to describe a powerful or important person, often with the adjective "big": "Bill Gates is the big kahuna at Microsoft."
4. i: A garland of flowers placed around the head (like a crown) or the neck (like a necklace). Visiting tourists may be greeted with leis upon arrival in Hawaii.
5. a: A traditional Hawaiian-style feast, usually held outdoors, featuring traditional foods and entertainment.
6. d: A long, loose, comfortable dress. Often sleeveless and rather shapeless; the cloth often has bright, flowery patterns.
7. f: A Hawaiian dish made from taro, a root that grows similar to a potato. It is baked, pounded, and fermented before serving.
8. c: A small four-stringed musical instrument, like a small guitar.
9. e: Although it means "fast," we see it today on the internet, where a wiki is a collaborative website.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

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