September 11, 2001 Plantation Pidgin
I finally found where the word “sabe” comes from. Tom Shimabuku, a local man who grew up in Nu`uanu, O`ahu wrote an article in this Sunday’s paper that says the Pidgin word “sabe” comes from the Spanish word, “saber.”
All my life, I thought “sabe” was a Japanese word. Or, at least a Pidgin word derived from a Japanese one. So when I lived in Japan a few years ago, I was disappointed that no one knew what I was talking about. I even went so far as to find and visit some distant relatives from the prefectures where my great-grandparents immigrated to Hawai`i from, in hopes that they were more familiar with their dialect. No luck.
Until I read Mr. Shimabuku’s article, the only person I ever knew to use the word “sabe” was my grandpa. After he said something, or after he explained something, he would always say, “Sabe?” It means “to understand.”
I knew that it was one of those “plantation Pidgin” words – the words born during the plantation days, when immigrants worked long hours in the canefields in hopes of a better life in America. But I also assumed that it was Japanese. I don’t know why. Ignorance, maybe.
Come to think of it, many of the “plantation Pidgin” words that my mom uses are not Japanese. There is one word in particular that I always gave her a hard time about. It’s the word, “tita.” (A tita is a large, imposing woman with a sharp tongue and strong personality.) Anyway, my generation pronounces the word, “ti-tah,” with a short “i” sound. My mom says, “tee-tah,” with a long “e” sound. “Tita” comes from the Hawaiian language.
There is so much controversy over Hawai`i’s Pidgin language. I think it’s a great way to learn about our heritage, our communities, and our history. Even after I think I’ve mastered Pidgin (well, growing up in Hilo gave me a head start), I’m still learning about where the words came from. I think it’s fascinating.
|Susan Sensei’s English Lesson #88（スーザン先生の英語講座）|
For two years I taught English in Japan, and was “スーザン先生” to my students in Ikaho town, Gunma Prefecture. I will try and introduce new words and phrases for the Japanese visitor to Hawaii. Here is this week’s situation:
“Will this work on my Nintendo 64 system in Japan?”
|Loco Girl’s Profile（ロコ・ガールのプロフィール） Born in Hilo, I grew up going fishing with Dad, shopping with Mom, and trying to be a good “big sister” to a younger sister and brother. A Waiakea High School and the University of Hawaii at Manoa alumni, I taught English in Japan for two years on the JET Program. I love doing a lot of things-shopping, reading, lettering, making jewelry & crafts, watching Friends-and that’s just the start of my list! I like being busy, and am active with the JET Alumni Association (JETAA) and the Honolulu Junior Japanese Chamber of Commerce (HJJCC.) My family and friends are, of course, very important to me, and are why I live a very typical, happy, local-style life in Hawaii and will never leave!|