Translation Tuesday–A Little Hawaiian!

Hello my lovely GLNers, I hope the week is treating you well so far! Today I’ve got an interesting translation situation for you, all the way from Hawaii and thanks to Bill, one of our students!

It turns out that in Hawaiian the word “limu” can have a few different translations. Literally, it’s a type of seaweed, but according to Bill, Hawaiians have a much more romantic meaning for it. He explained to me that “Limu means ‘seaweed,’ but the Hawaiians eat many different kinds of seaweed. For example, lipoa, limu kohu, pahe’e, and lipalu. The famous hula song ‘Ka uluwehi o ke kai’ is about the characteristics of these different types of seaweed. However, this song is famous for ‘kao’na,’ or hidden meanings. The song praises the sexual attributes of different lovers and you will have to use your imagination by comparing the textures, fragrances, and colors of various seaweeds to the physical attributes of a lover.”

I never would have guessed! Here’s “Ka uluwehi o ke kai”…take a listen and think about what “limu” could translate to…if anything at all!

(Have you had a lost in translation moment? Do you know a word that’s hard to translate? Share it with us and it could be featured on G-Blogodaria!)

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3 Responses to "Translation Tuesday–A Little Hawaiian!"

  1. That’s awesome! And curious coincidence – I attended a cultural event a couple of weeks ago where a Hawaiian dance group performed a dance of that very same song. However, they failed to mention the different connections of that word 🙂

  2. Duke

    Of course I would leave a comment to say I love this. I am literally in Honolulu on the island of Hawai’i and I’m coincidentally eating “Iso Maki,” which is a Hawaiian snack (made in Thailand—heh heh) it’s basically a caramelized rice cracker wrapped in dried seaweed. (caramelized by soy sauce and caramel).

    we Hawaiians have a typically East Asian diet, because it is documented that our ancestry is derived from seafaring (Polynesians) peoples principally from South China, some of this documentation can be observed at Bishop Museum here in Oahu.

    Mmmm. Ono (yummy in Hawaiian)

  3. Alison

    I just finished memorizing this song and i know the translation by heart too. I dont see any way at all to interpret the lyrics as youve suggested. Perhaps there are different versions of the song.

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