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Talk Story

September 18, 2008

The intricacies and idiosyncrasies of Hawaiian culture are starting to make themselves known. Bits of slang, custom, the residue of ancient ritual hovers all around, and like child entering a world of language, it slowly becomes intelligible to me. On the surface, it is easy to think of this place as just another American state, but there are signs all around – aside from the palm trees and beaches – to remind you of how foreign this place really is. Like the way locals, even the haole locals, will sprinkle their speech with Hawaiian.

One of my favorite examples, which is not Hawaiian, but pidgin, is “talk story.” You could translate this term to mean simply “shoot the breeze,” but there is a more profound, ritual element to it. It is about people sharing information, revealing their history and personality and bonding through story. One imagines local gatherings hundreds of years ago, weather-beaten men gathered around a massive urn of kava, relating local news and ancient myth in a continuous stream of give and take.

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