inventing…words?

I do it without forethought…always with my daughter and husband. Funny sayisms that have no reason for existing, except to suit me. I concocted the name my daughter uses endearingly when calling me long distance, or when sending me a text message, or signing a greeting cardmoodoes. My latest nonsensical endearment is pookah head. I use it with my daughter, my husband, and our menagerie of pets. Of course they return the favor, the humans, not the animals.

Edited photo of

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I can only excuse my affinity for slang words of my own invention by blaming it on my Hawaiian heritage. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the term pigeon english, a term describing how the islanders massacred the Queen’s English…like you fallahs for you guys…shakah bra for how’s it going…no mo pilikea for no more trouble…gunfunnit you! for confound it you!

According to a column in the Wall Street Journal recently, I’m not the only one in the business of making up new words.

EVERY WEEK, The Wall Street Journal’s writers and editors use dozens of new and interesting words in articles and blog posts. Some are outright neologisms, brand new and shiny; others are fascinating technical terms newly brought to the attention of a wider audience.

portrait of Erin McKean

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Erin McKean goes on to include the following word creations in her article.

metabolomics… tracking metabolic processes in cells by looking at their metabolites

handwiches… (can you guess?)

humanzee… (planet of the apes offspring?)

acquihire… acquisition plus hire: the practice of buying a company mainly for its employees.

unidoor… suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

Bronies… bro plus ponies: self-identifier used by adult male fams of My Little Pony.

solomo… combination of social networking, local commerce and mobile communications.

retailtainment… using a store as a place for recreation.

likeonomics… using social media to encourage customers to share their preference for your brand.

wikinomics… mass collaboration using electronic means.

Then there’s the import of foreign words…

gelehallon… raspberry jelly candies, introduced in the U.S. by Swedes

monozukuri… creativity and craftsmanship in manufacturing, handy business term shared with us by the Japanese

Snicko-meter… a device used by cricket umpires to help make calls

dead doubles… the practice of taking over the identities of people who have died, used in an article about Russian spies

And finally McKean, “a lexicographer and the founder of Wordnik, an online dictionary focusing on how words are used today,” gives us multi-word expressions which have “such strong cohesion that they, in effect, behave as single words.

reverse wealth effectchilling repercussions of the decline in home equity value on consumer spending

runway excursions… accidents in which an airliner careens off the runway.

And in conclusion, McKean says…

What can we expect in the year ahead? The endless inventiveness of English writers and speakers means that the best prediction we can make about new words is that they will pleasantly surprise us.

 So go ahead…make up your own words. They probably won’t make the pages of The Wall Street Journal. But in the blogosphere and in your home you’ve an audience who’s sure to applaud…your inventiveness, and perhaps…

…use a word or two…in your honor… 

………hugmamma.  😉

Pop!Tech 2008 - Erin McKean

“shaka, bra…”

Sunset from Ka'annapali, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

That’s Hawaiian speak for “it’s easy,” “no worries,” “right on.” At least that’s what I’ve thought it to mean when I lived and played in the islands, decades ago. I’m sure over time it’s come to mean more things to more people. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find the following email from kamaainas (non-locals who become locals by virtue of moving to Hawaii or owning property there). I don’t know them personally, but feel I do through their intermittent communication. Hope you enjoy this mini “pigeon-english” lesson. Never know, it might come in handy on a future visit to my native island paradise.

Aloha!
The “shaka” sign has meant many things over the years and is a definite part of Hawaiian culture and the aloha spirit that is always present in Hawai’i. Today, it can mean many things, including “Howzit?” (How’s it going?), “No worries!”, “Thanks!” and much more. It is by far the most well-known and used gesture by Hawai’i locals and islanders, men, women, and keiki (children) alike. It’s used as a gesture of friendship, to greet, and to say goodbye. It’s how local people wave at others. Interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” the “shaka” sign is a constant reminder that in Hawaii, it is not the norm to worry or rush. “Shaka” represents the embodiment of “island style.” It signals that everything is all right.

Road to Hana, Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Image by Mastery of Maps via Flickr

The “shaka” sign is more than just nonverbal communication. When you use it, you acknowledge the true concept of aloha and participate in the synergistic heartbeat of Hawai’i. A guest expressed it this way: “We remember when we got our first “shaka” in Hawai’i. We were enjoying the drive on the road to Hana. We looked in the rearview mirror and noticed a pickup truck following behind us. We assumed the folks in the truck were local residents and weren’t on a sightseeing mission as we were, so at our first opportunity, we pulled over to let the truck pass by us. As the truck passed, the passenger gave us a ‘shaka’.” (By the way, local residents will always appreciate your pulling over to allow them to pass if you are driving slowly.)

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To make a “shaka,” extend your thumb and pinkie while curling in the index and middle fingers. You can rotate your wrist too.

The “shaka” is a simple, yet powerful, way to remind locals and visitors of the way people look out for each other on the Islands, and strive to spread aloha day in, and day out, in keeping with the Hawaiian principle of “malama i kekahi i kekahi,”…”take care of one, take care of all.”

If you’re new to the islands, don’t be shy about throwing up “shakas.” Just make sure you’ve got the hand gesture down first!

road to hana

A hui hou…
Anne & Wes