How to say “smart” in Hawai’ian pidgin and ASL


In Hawai’ian pidgin, when I talk with my Hawai’ian family, the way we signify if someone is kind of lolo— Lolo means dumb— is we say, “Brah, he NOT Akamai. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He never work one day in his life.”

You kidding me, tita? Tita means “beeotch” in an endearing way.

Then you say, “Naw. He no Akamai. He don’t know nuhthing.”

If you Akamai, you have street smarts. You wise, brah. You know what’s up. You Akamai. You didn’t live your life as a one princess or one prince or one non-binary member of royalty. You was local kine— brah. Meaning, the local people of Hawai’i, schooled you— they taught you common sense.

When you local kine, brah, you stay Akamai. Local kine means local kind, kind of like…a local person. So when you stay local kine— brah, you stay Akamai. Cuz you know. Oddah people, dey don’t know. They stay stupid kine, brah. Dey not Akamai, like you. You— you smart— you Akamai. You get ‘em, brah. You get Akamai kine thinking in your popo— your head. You can feel it in your na’ua, your belly button. That is where Akamai comes from. Not in your head— in your gut. You get akamai from your instincts, your intuition, your street smarts, your experience.

Akamai is not like book smart. Akamai is like LIFE smart. Like, you smart at life, brah. You no need read to be akamai. You need to live a REAL LIFE, just be real— and live your real life— then you come akamai. Meaning, you become akamai.

Akamai comes from not living a privileged life. Akamai comes from living in the street or being poor. Akamai comes from struggle. And Akamai is earned, not learned. So you akamai, brah, we respect you, brah— you akamai. You get da kine. You get it.

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