Hawaiian Creole, “Hawaiian Pidgin” or ōlelo paʻi ʻa is not broken English. Pidgin is any means of communication that combines 2 or more unrelated languages together. A creole language is a language that started as a pidgin but became formalised with grammar, an expansive vocabulary, native speakers, and with a socio-economic status. Hawaiian “pidgin” is no longer a pidgin but a creole because there are dictionaries, grammar, native speakers, and a vocabulary of more than 3,000 words. Yes Hawaiian creole or ōlelo paʻi ʻa is more than “Eh brah” and “Howzit”. Hawaiian creole combines Hawaiian sentence structures with vocabulary from Hawaiian, English, Cantonese Chinese, Hakka Chinese, Portuguese, Ilocano, Cebuano, Tagalog, Spanish, Korean, Spanish, Japanese and Okinawan.
Hawaiian creole began as a reaction to historical events mainly: the banning of the Hawaiian language in schools; the coup of 1893 and subsequent theft of Hawaiian nationhood; white political and economic hegemony represented by the plantation owners and the US Navy; the need for different races to communicate on the plantation; and, as an equalising language among dock and cane workers for workers by workers. Later, this ōlelo paʻi ʻa became a marker for “locals” particularly during World War II which brought hundreds of thousands of Us servicemen to the islands. For people from the US mainland and those educated in elite local private schools, ōlelo paʻi ʻa was always seen as substandard and broken English. But Hawaiian creole was not made for them. This idea that ōlelo paʻi ʻa is is some gutter language to be hidden and forbidden in favor of “proper” English (whatever that is because thereʻs several Englishes i.e. UK English, US English, NZ English, etc) underlines why people still speak ōlelo paʻi ʻa because that attitude shows the continued hegemonic and colonial ideas of race and labor divisions in local society. Again, this Hawaiian creole is not broken English. It is a language that workers used to resist and assert that they were not mere bango tag numbers but part of an identity given birth by a sense of common oppression on the plantation and a drive to recognize their common humanity.