Alo’ha, Ha’ole

The Hawaiian greeting Alo’ha comes from two words in their ancient language: alo, “to share or give,” and ha, “breath” or “the breath of life.” Early Hawaiians would greet each other by touching noses and foreheads simultaneously while inhaling and exhaling, thus sharing a breath or two. This assured their mutual respect for each other, the land, the ocean and the sky.

The modern word for foreigner, Ha’ole, also comes from two words: ha, as already defined and ole, “no,” or “without,” forming the idea “one who has no breath to offer.” But the term was used long before the arrival of the white man to identify uncaring people who sought only pleasures for themselves at the expense of everyone else, with little regard for their environment. As the centuries passed, the white man proved himself quite worthy of such a title.

Today, Hawaiians use the term mostly in a friendly way, but can make it derogatory by preceding with an expletive. The “F” word works fine. Latinos use the word “Gringo” in a similar manner, and those of African descent can do the same with the “N” word.

– Ha’ole research, thanks to Kalani Dapitan

Watch for my story “In the Trenches of Paradise” documenting nine months on Oahu, not as a tourist but with the economically enslaved Hawaiians needed to support those who must ask, “Are we having fun yet?”


2015 © copyright The Other Third World


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