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Haole (//; Hawaiian [ˈhɔule]), in the Hawaiian language, is generally used to refer to an individual that fits one (or more) of the following: "White person, American, Englishman, Caucasian; American, English; formerly, any foreigner; foreign, introduced, of foreign origin, as plants, pigs, chickens." The origins of the word predate the 1778 arrival of Captain James Cook (which is the generally accepted date of first contact with Westerners), as recorded in several chants stemming from antiquity. Its use historically has ranged from descriptive to racist invective.
Haole first became associated with the children of Caucasian immigrants in the early 1820s. It unified the self-identity of these Hawaii-born children whose parents were as much culturally different as they were similar. With the first three generations of Haole playing key roles in the rise of the economic and political power shifts that have lasted through the current day, "Haole" evolved into a term that was often used in contempt. It evolved further to racial meaning, replacing "malihini" (newcomer) in addressing people of Caucasian descent who move to Hawaii from the U.S. mainland by the 1860s. A 1906 phrase book sometimes translates it to "English (language)".
A common popular etymology claim is that the word is derived from hāʻole, literally meaning "no breath". Some Hawaiians[who?] say that because foreigners did not know or use the honi, a Polynesian greeting by touching nose-to-nose and inhaling or essentially sharing each other's breaths, and so the foreigners were described as "breathless." The implication is not only that foreigners are aloof and ignorant of local ways, but also literally have no spirit or life within.
Some linguists believe that this etymology is erroneous, however, for these reasons:
However, as the word predates the first written Hawaiian dictionary by centuries, and pronunciations have evolved over that time, the debate continues, and each camp has its adherents.
The Andrews Dictionary of 1865 shows the pronunciation of the word as ha-o-le.
St. Chad Piianaia, a Hawaiian educated in England, said the word haole implies thief or robber (from hao, thief, and le, lazy). In 1944, Hawaiian scholar Charles Kenn wrote, "In the primary and esoteric meaning, haole indicates a race that has no relation to one's own; an outsider, one who does not conform to the mores of the group; one that is void of the life element because of inattention to natural laws which make for the goodness in man. In its secondary meaning, haole ... implies a thief, a robber, one not to be trusted. ... During the course of time, meanings of words change, and today, in a very general way, haole does not necessarily connote a negative thought ... The word has come to refer to one of Nordic descent, whether born in Hawaii or elsewhere."
Native Hawaiian Professor Fred Beckley said, "The white people came to be known as ha-ole (without breath) because after they said their prayers, they did not breathe three times as was customary in ancient Hawaii."
Similarly, an early Christian is quoted, "Before the missionaries came, my people used to sit outside their temples for a long time meditating and preparing themselves before entering. Then they would virtually creep to the altar to offer their petition and afterwards would again sit a long time outside, this time to 'breathe life' into their prayers. The Christians, when they came, just got up, uttered a few sentences, said Amen, and were done. For that reason my people called them haoles, 'without breath,' or those who failed to breathe life into their prayers."
The word has been adopted on many of the Pacific Islands to refer to non-local individuals. In practice, though, the word is not so highly charged in many of the other islands, such as Guam or Saipan. Other Polynesian languages, such as Tongan and Samoan, use the word pālangi or papālangi (ultimately linked to a word meaning Western European, or a Frank, see farangi).
An alleged tradition in some schools is Kill Haole Day, in which non-white school children harass or assault white children on the last day of school prior to summer. The practice has led to the introduction of hate crime legislation intended to discourage it. A similar incident was depicted in the 1998 film Beyond Paradise. It was mentioned in an opinion of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010. Others claim that the day is an urban myth, since most reports are based on hearsay.
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