A fascinating article here on the origins of the Hawaiian word ‘PONO’ from Christopher Green –
Pono – another great Hawaiian word:
If you ask a “local” person what “pono” means, you will usually get the response “righteous”, however according to the big Hawaiian dictionary, the word “pono” also means goodness, uprightness, morality, excellence, well-being, prosperity, welfare, benefit, behalf, proper, righteous, upright, just, virtuous, fair, successful, in perfect order, accurate, correct, necessary, and on and on and on… The complete definition is huge. And then there is the phrase “pono pono” (repeating the word intensifies it), whose definition is basically neat, tidy, in order, attended to. Thus “ho’o pono pono” becomes to put to rights, to put in order, correct, administer, adjust, amend…and on and on and on. You get the idea.
“Pono” is therefore one of those Hawaiian mystery words whose exact definition or meaning must be determined from the context and/or the situation. Those of us who speak English, with our huge quantities of different words for minute differences and nuances, find this simplicity both frustrating and sort of refreshing – you really don’t need all those words to make yourself understood. You just need for the person listening to you to have a good imagination and be able to fill in the blanks! If you get a blank stare or a “what do you mean?” all you need to say is “You know, da kine!” Now “da kine” opens up another can of verbal worms…
If you Google “da kine”, you will see that it sorta takes the place of gizmo, thing, whatchamacallit, and so forth.
Wikipedia includes this definition: “Da kine” is probably the most identifying characteristic of spoken Hawaiian Pidgin, and certainly the most versatile. The humorous illustrated dictionary Pidgin to Da Max defines “da kine” as: “the keystone of pidgin. You can use it anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Very convenient.” A surfing dictionary lists da kine as “the word you use when you don’t use the word.”
And with this we seem to have drifted into the whole wonderful world of PIDGIN…and that is not the focus of this writing! (Another time, perhaps?)
To get back to the word “pono”, one of its most familiar uses is in our state motto: “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina e ka pono”, or “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness”. Another very common use of the word is “Malama pono!” or “Be careful!” You will hear it often in everyday use. And it was spoken by our beloved Israel Kamakawiwo’ole after the last encore of The Makaha Sons concert in the Waikiki Shell…he said, “Malama pono, and drive fast!”
Go figure. It’s life in Hawaii!