vs. Ugly, unsightly, unseemly, unattractive, homely, wicked

Downright ugliness. Now I don’t know that I equate being ugly with that homely look, but I suppose for some people that may be the case.

Andrews and Parker Dictionary have a few more interpretations for pupuka – s. An epithet of reproach, signifying good for nothing. Or full of holes (as in pukapuka).

That takes ugliness to a different level, beyond someone’s looks.Can you see how being good for nothing is pupuka? Being rude is also a form of pupuka. You have an encounter with someone who just is UGLY on the inside. All the makeup and fancy clothes will do NOTHING for this person. They still pupuka. Ugh. Hate those encounters. Why you gotta be a hater? Love makes the world go round. Not pupuka action.

One important Hawaiian tradition to note is the custom of referring to a baby as “pupuka” rather than remarking on how cute the little one is. As hard as it may be not to tell the new mom how beautiful her infant is, you must say the baby is pupuka.Why is that? There are many written accounts but I will let you read this excerpt below, a quote from a kupuna in East Maui:

ʻAe. According to what my tūtū said, “Ka poʻe wā kahiko, mamua, aʻole hiki iā ʻoe ke ʻōlelo inā hānau mai ʻoe keiki, ʻhandsome.ʻ” Aʻole hiki iā ʻoe ke ʻōlelo, “O, uʻi maoli nō kēia kaikamahine…” I said “Pehea ka walaʻau ʻana?” “ʻŌlelo mai ʻoe, ʻpupuka.ʻ” I say, “Why you say pupuka?” She said, “If you say handsome, they going to die.”

(Yes. According to what my grandparent said, “the people of old, before, you couldn’t say, when they had a baby, ʻhandsome.ʻ You couldn’t say, “oh, this girl is so beautiful”…I said “what do you say?” “You say, Pupuka.” ) from Volume II Wai o ke Ola: He Wahi Moʻolelo no Maui Hiking.

The belief was that if you referred to a baby as beautiful handsome or beautiful then someone, either human or spirit, would be jealous and take your baby from you.

Yup. True story. I recall my grandma doing this with all my pēpē when she would come to visit me, carrying the big pot of pig’s feet soup for me to eat postpartum. Everyday. For a full week.

You won’t hear me saying a little one is cutie patootie. Not verbally or in print/text/post. Always pupuka.

Last week, the world welcomed this little pupuka that was born in Waimea. Pupuka, right?


Here are a few ʻōlelo noʻeau to share more insight about pupuka:

Pupuka auaneʻi, he inoa ʻala – Homely he may be, but his name is fragrant. (said of one who bears an honorable name)

Puhipuhi lāʻau a kahuna, ka maunu loaʻa a ka pupuka – By blowing the medicine given by a kahuna, can the ugly gain his desire. (Said of one who resorted to the prayers and ceremonies of a kahuna hana aloha to gain the love of his desired one. The person consulting the kahuna ate pilimai and manulele sugar cane after the kahuna had dedicated them to Makanikeoe, the love god. Then he blew in the direction of the desired person. The god, who also had a wind form, bore the mana along, and when it touched the one desired he or she became very much in love with the sender. When used with evil intent–for revenge or to humiliate–the sender is spoken of as an ugly person who has no charm of his own, hence hems resort to sorcery.)

Last one which is one of my favorite ʻōlelo noʻeau:

Na ka pupuka ka lili – Jealousy belongs to the ugly.


Copyright: 2017 – Liana Iaea Honda. All rights reserved. All versions of “He Momi e Lei ai”, in its entirety, past and present, is the property of L. K. I. Honda. Reproduction and use of any kind other than the sharing of this website is prohibited without written consent. Alteration to the original content in any form is prohibited in every and any instance, and use in any other variant is prohibited without written consent of the author. Address inquiries to: hemomi [at] gmail.com. Definitions and wise sayings are from: Hawaiian Dictionary by Pukui and Elbert, 1986. ʻŌlelo Noʻeau – Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui, 1983.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s