Puʻu

1. n. Any kind of a protuberance from a pimple (puʻu 2) to a hill: hill, peak, cone, hump, mound, bulge, heap, pile, portion, bulk, mass, quantity, clot, bunch, knob; heaped, piled, lumped, bulging; pregnant; to pucker. Fig., obstacle, burden, problem, discomfort, trouble, sorrow. 

There are 17 different meanings for the word puʻu. So as not to overwhelm you, I will stick to this ONE. And perhaps cover a few of the others in future Momi. Puʻu refers mostly to any kind of a bulge or hill like shape, from a pimple to a hill. And if you are like me, there have been times that the pimple on your face feels like it is as big as a hill. Poetically, a puʻu symbolizes sorry or an obstacle. Makes sense, right? Anytime you traverse up a puʻu, it takes a lot of effort. It isn’t fun. It takes it toll on your body. Thus the discomfort.

Everyday at work, I gaze out at three puʻu in beautiful Waimea. It didn’t take long before I had to track down the names of these puʻu because, you know, to Hawaiians, they are not just puʻu. They aren’t just any ole kine protuberance – not these. So I went to my place names book. Her name is Kuʻulei Keakealani. It is always nice to “phone a friend” or in this case, text a friend. I had a feeling Kuʻulei would know the names or at least know where to find them short of doing the big map search. I sent her the photograph –IMG_5355

And sure enough, she came back with a reply, left to right: Hokuula, Oaoaka, and Puʻuki (ʻokina and kahako not inserted until I get a better idea of their meanings). And so now my quest is to get more information about these puʻu. How did they get their names? Whose land is it? There is always a moʻolelo, or story, surrounding our puʻu.

Is there a puʻu near your home? There are so many in Hawaiʻi that are well known:

Puʻuanahulu – “ten day” hill

Puʻuwaʻawaʻa – furrowed hill

Puʻukapu – sacred hill

Puʻukukui – candlenut hill (on Maui)

Puʻuloa – Long Hill (name of what we now call Pearl harbor).

Not to be confused with Makapuʻu, or bulging eye.

Enjoy these ʻōlelo noʻeau:

Aia a puʻu nui i ke alo – A big hill stands right before him. (He has a problem.)

ʻAi a puʻu ka nuku – Eat till the lips protrude (Eat until one can take no more.)

ʻAʻohe puʻu, ʻaʻohe keʻe – No humps, no bends. (Said of a person who is physically perfect.)

ʻAʻohe puʻu kiʻekiʻe ke hoʻāʻo ʻia e piʻi – No cliff is so tall that it cannot be scaled. (No problem is too great when one tries hard to solve it.)

Go find out the names of the puʻu near you. And while you are at it, find out about its history. And if you know anything  more about Hokuula, Oaoaka, and Puʻuki, comment below!

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.

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