Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Defining Aloha

Most likely you have been told that aloha means both hello and good-bye. That is a culturally limited misconception, and whomever started it robbed the word of much of it's depth and splendor. Aloha cannot be translated with words. As a haole (foreigner), I really have no business trying to convey this word, either; but I think I can do a better job of it then white-European history did.

My suspicion that aloha meant more then hello and good-bye was born on the flight to Hawaii. I was reading the airline magazine (hey, it's a long flight!) and there was an article on adoption Hawaiian- or aloha-style. The woman in the article said that she raised her adopted son "with aloha". That made no sense in light of what I thought I knew of the word. I kept reading.

From what I could gather from the article, the word aloha conveys love, acceptance, honor, eternal welcome .... and more. I came to realize that aloha is not a casual word, but one with great emotional significance. Still, I had only clues, and no real definition.

Over the next several days I heard "the spirit of aloha" referred to in many different, welcoming contexts. A commercial promised, "you will find aloha here." I have yet to visit the establishment which made the promise so I don't know if their statement is true, but somehow I doubt it. From what I have gathered, aloha is a feeling that emanates from one's heart. It is an expression of love, acceptance and belonging. It is personal, and cannot be packaged for sale and that means -- no matter what language we speak -- it is impossible to translate with words.

Further resources:

The Coconut Boyz Hawaiian (online) Dictionary



TLP said...

Interesting. I guess that the word had great meaning, but is so over-used at this point that it has almost no meaning to many.

Pacific Blue said...

TLP -- outside the tourist district it isn't a word I have heard the locals use. Mahalo is much over-used everywhere, but not aloha. And when aloha is used it is generally used in a context that is neither hello nor good-bye.

polona said...

another cliche busted, eh!

I Dive At Night said...

Hey Quilly... erm, Blue. Blue? Ok.

Oh the tails you're missing... cause I can't blog 'em. >:-) Life is beautiful.

But alas busy. I look forward to stopping by tomorrow to read up. In the mean time TLP's comment reminded of a line from a Tragically Hip song which says," It's so deep it's meaningless." I'm also reminded of this quote because I've been so busy I forgot to go to the Hip concert tonight. Doh!

Pacific Blue said...

Morgan -- this double identity stuff could get confusing. Call me what you will, just don't call me late for dinner. Ba da boom!

And those tales you can't blog about -- I hope it's because you're too busy, and not because you're too -- too! When in Amsdterdam ... wear protection. And anywhere else in the world for that matter!

Melli said...

I was a bit confused by it too... I have a couple of Island friends who will end emails to me with "much aloha" or "aloha to you"... which I have always taken as "much love" or "blessings to you"... it does seem to be a very expressive word - used in many contexts.

Pacific Blue said...

Melli -- I think it relates best to the Greek word, agape, which is unconditional love; the ideal love; as in: " treat your neighbors like you would treat yourself".

the amoeba said...

In Maori (of New Zealand) and, I think, in some other Polynesian cultures, the word is spelled aroha. In New Zealand, there is little of the "throwaway greeting" quality of the word as commercially exploited in Hawai'i, and much more of the "sense of being" quality. The best rendition in English of what this word signifies that I was able to find on a quick Web search is here.

Pacific Blue said...

Hey, OC, where were you when I was doing my research? :*


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