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‘Da Kine,’ Hawaii’s Fantastically Flexible All-Purpose Noun

March 15, 2017

‘Da Kine,’ Hawaii’s Fantastically Flexible All-Purpose Noun

Pidgin is a creole language based in part on English and spoken by many residents of Hawaii. The literal word for Hawaiian Creole English is called "ʻōlelo paʻi ʻai", which means "pounding-taro language".  The pidgin language is spoken and widely used by native Hawaiians. 

Derived from the Pidgin language, Da Kine has a story all it's own. 

By Dan Nosowitz on atlasobscura.com

It means everything and nothing at the same time.

After I wrote about “jawn,” the all-purpose noun that’s embedded in the culture of Philadelphia, I started getting emails telling me about a similar, and maybe even wilder, term native to a small group of isolated islands nearly 5,000 miles away. Hawaii’s “da kine” is not only an all-purpose noun, capable of standing in for objects, events, and people: it’s also a verb, an adjective, an adverb, and a symbol of Hawaiian people and the unique way they speak. It may be the most versatile phrase on the planet.

To understand da kine, you first have to understand exactly what language modern Hawaiians speak, which is not nearly as simple as you might think. There are several languages co-existing on the Hawaiian islands: Hawaiian, the Polynesian language of the original Hawaiians that’s experienced a renaissance of late; English, brought to the archipelago by American imperialism; the various languages brought by immigrant workers, including Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, and Spanish; and something which is now called Hawaiian Pidgin. It’s the last of these that brings us da kine.

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