A primer on Hawaiian names


Hawaiian belongs to the Austronesian language family, on the Marquesic sub-branch of the Central Eastern Polynesian group. Along with English, it’s the official language of the 50th and final state to join the U.S.

Like many other native languages which fell under the heel of colonial or more dominant powers, Hawaiian too suffered devastating blows, and came very close to extinction. It was banned in 1896, and children who dared to speak Hawaiian at school were horribly punished.

Thankfully, Hawaiian has begun to recover, thanks to language immersion preschools, radio stations, TV, newspapers, and other initiatives. In 1900, there were 27,000 native speakers, and this number had dwindled to but 1,000 by 1997, representing under 0.1%. In 2011, it had risen to 24,000. Residents of westernmost island Ni’ihau speak Hawaiian almost exclusively.

The four youngest sisters in my Laurel family, along with their husbands and children, move from Atlantic City to Hawaii in 1986. Their destination is a huge surprise planned by Tikva’s husband Giorgio, a future pediatrician specializing in premature infants and children. It’s exactly what they need to start over after a lot of depressing, traumatic events. In Honolulu, they begin their own fashion design company, Four Laurels.


The alphabet developed by American Protestant missionary Elisha Loomis in 1822 had five vowels, twelve consonants, and seven diphthongs. F, G, S, Y, and Z were used for foreign words and names.

In 1826, the alphabet assumed its modern form of five vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and eight consonants (H, K, L, M, N, P, W, and ‘okina). The lattermost is a unicameral consonant (without upper or lowercase forms) marking a phonetic glottal stop. Originally, the alphabet had contained B, R, D, T, and V, but they were dropped due to representing functionally redundant, interchangeable sounds.

Traditional naming customs:

Hawaiians took great care to choose a unique name for each child, with great thought as to the meaning. Some names came from dreams or visions, while others related to something that happened at the time of the birth. Queen Lili’uokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, was called Lili’u (scorch) Kamaka’eha (the sore eye) when she was growing up, due to her great-aunt Kīnaʻu’s eye ache.

Names had to match social class and family deities. The kauwā (slave) caste had to take simple names after natural objects, while chieftains got to have names starting with Keliʻi (the chief) or ending in -lani (sky).

Many people had several names, both formal and informal, and could change their names to something with a grotesque meaning to try to ward off evil spirits. Visiting Americans were scandalized to learn of names such as Kūkae (excrement), Kapela (the filth), Kama’i (the genitals, the illness), and Pupuka (ugly).


Hawaiians didn’t have surnames until Western missionaries arrived. Christian converts sometimes used their Hawaiian names as surnames, with the new baptismal names taking the place of their old forenames.

In 1860, people were ordered to use their father’s name as a surname. All children born henceforth had to have English names. Any Hawaiian names had to be in the middle. In 1967, this legislation was repealed, though by that point, the Hawaiian language was in a serious state of endangerment.

Sample names:


‘Aka’aka (To laugh)
Akela (Adele for girls; Asher for boys)
Alealani (The sweet voice of the heavens)
Anuenue (Rainbow)

Ha’aheo (Cherished with pride)
Hanalei (Crescent bay; also a Hawaiian form of Henry)
Hau’oli (Happiness)
Hekili (Thunderl also a Hawaiian form of Herman)
Hiapo (Firstborn)
Hi’ilani (Held in the arms of heaven)
Hilina’i (Trust)
Hokule’a (Star of gladness; the Hawaiian name for Arcturus, the brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere, and Hawaii’s zenith star)
Hokuokalani (Star of the heavens)
Ho’onani (Adornment)
Hualani (Heavenly fruit)

Ka’aukai (The seafarer)
Ka’ehu (The sea spray; the reddish hair)
Ka’ena (The heat)
Kahananui (The great work; the hard job)
Kahekili (The thunder)
Kahele (The walk; the moving)
Kahoku (The star)
Kahue (The gourd)
Kahula (The dance)
Kai (Sea)
Kaimana (Ocean power; diamond)
Kainoa (Sea of freedom)
Kaipo (The sweetheart)
Kaiwi (The bone; a symbol of old age and life)
Kalani (The heavens)
Kalua (The second child; the companion)
Kamalani (Heavenly child)
Kapua (The flower; the child)
Kaui (The youthful one)
Kaulana (Famous)
Kawehi (The adornment)
Keahi (The fire)
Keaka (The shodow; the essence)
Keala (The path)
Kealoha (The loved one)
Keanu (The cool breeze)
Keone (The homeland)
Konani (Bright)

La’akea (Clear sacredness)
Lanakila (Victory; triumph)
Laniakea (Immeasurable heaven)
Lehua (Ohia flower)
Lei (Flowers; lei; child)
Leilani (Heavenly flowers; royal child)

Makana (Gift)
Mana (Spirit)
Maui (A mythological trickster who created the Hawaiian islands by making his brothers fish them from the sea)
Moana (Deep sea, ocea, wide expanse of water)
Nahele (Forest)
Nai’a (Dolphin)
Nalani (The heavens; the chiefs)


Apikalia (Abigail)
Elikapeka (Elizabeth)
Haukea (White snow)
Haunani (Beautiful snow)
Hokulani (Heavenly star)
Iolana (To soar)

Kakalina (Katherine)
Kala (Sarah)
Kalea (Joy, happiness)
Kalena (Karen)
Kanani (The beauty)
Kehaulani (Heavenly dew)
Kekepania (Stephanie)
Kiana (Diana)
Kilikina (Christina)
Ku’ulei (My lei)
Ku’ulpo (My sweetheart)

Lani (Sky, heaven, royal, majesty)
Leialoha (Lei of love)
Leimoni (Pearl lei, pearl child)
Leinani (Beautiful lei)

Maile (A native vine used to make leis)
Malia (Maria)
Malie (Calm)
Mele (Song; also used as a Hawaiian form of Mary)
Melika (Melissa)
Momi (Pearl)

Nani (Beauty, glory)
Noelani (Heavenly mist)
Pelika (Covenant; bond)
Pua (Flower; offspring)
Pualani (Heavenly flower; royal offspring)
Puanani (Beautiful flower; beautiful offspring)

U’ilani (Heavenly beauty; royal beauty)
Ululani (Heavenly inspiration)
Wailani (Heavenly water)
Waiola (Water of life; also a Hawaiian form of Viola)
Walonika (Veronica)
Wikolia (Victoria)


Akamu (Adam)
Anakoni (Akoni) (Anthony)
Ekewaka (Edward)
Iakopa (Jakob)
Ikaia (Isaiah)
Ikaika (Strong)
Iokua (Joshua)

Kale (Charles)
Kaleo (The sound; the voice)
Kapena (Captain)
Kapono (The good one)
Kekoa (The warrior)
Keoni (John)
Kimo (James)
Koa (Warrior; koa tree)

Makaio (Matthew)
Maleko (Mark)
Mikala (Michael)
Peni (Benjamin)
Pika (Peter)

Medieval music


(This is edited down and revised from one of my old Angelfire posts. I’m really proud of how many superfluous words I’m able to expunge from these recovered old posts. I had a really bad habit of going off into the weeds with off-topic rambles and inappropriate editorializing, and was just way too wordy overall.)

I discovered Medieval music in the Musical Appreciation class I took my junior year at university. This was the first music class I actually enjoyed, since it was about history and real musical compositions instead of notes, keys, and other stuff I never understood. Our textbook was written by a fellow who went to my original shul; he also selected the music on the 3-CD companion.

I fell in love with the Kyries and other monastic chants. They have an otherworldly feel, like you’re actually in a Medieval monastery. There were also some early Medieval compositions and a gorgeous Occitan troubadour song by Beatriz de Dia, “A Chantar.” (Occitan was a dialect from Southern France.) The instrument featured most prominently is a vielle, an ancestor of the violin.


Other Medieval instruments I fell in love with:


Copyright Sguastevi

The dulcian, an ancestor of the bassoon, originated in the first half of the 16th century, though it sounds more Medieval than Renaissance to me. It’s like a more melancholy bassoon. My character Eulalia Qiana Laurel (one of Cinnimin’s many grandchildren) plays both a dulcian and vielle, which perfectly fits her sad, dark personality. She also loves spiders, bats, dressing in black, and melancholy poetry. Her mood springs from her parents’ attitude towards her as the seventh girl in a row.


Copyright blackbiird; Source Flickrlaute

The lute remains one of the most popular instruments from this era. It’s very lightweight, though it gets out of tune easily. It sounds like a cross between a guitar and harp.


The dulcimer also remains very popular. It’s played with miniature hammers, and is similar to a zither.


© Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

A viol da gamba is another ancestor of the violin. They were very high-class and courtly, and remained quite popular in England even after the violin had come into vogue. A viol bow is convex, not concave like a violin bow. They had to be played while seated, and the most popular models had six strings.


Bagpipes are mentioned in the Bible, and are believed to have originated in Sumeria. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, they tended to only have one drone. Around 1400, a second drone was added, and after 1550, a third drone was introduced and give it its modern sound.


The lizard (a tenor cornett), the even-curvier serpent (a bass cornett), and the zink/cornett itself were created in the Late Middle Ages, and similar to a modern-day recorder. They very closely replicated the sounds of the human voice.


The harp dates back at least as far as the Bible. Troubadours and court musicians had to play by ear or memory. In Medieval folklore, it was said to be imbued “with supernatural powers which could destroy the feynde’s might.” A 12th century Welsh law book stated: “The three items indispensable to a gentleman were his harp, his cloak, and his chessboard, while the three proper things for any man to have in his house were a virtuous wife, his cushion on his chair, and his harp in tune.”


The rebec, which originated in the Arab world, was seen as low-class. It varied in sizes and pitches, though the three-stringed model was most popular.


Copyright http://www.organistrum.com

The hurdy-gurdy was very highly regarded. Before 1300, most were so large they required two players.

Important Medieval musicians in a nutshell:

Josquin Desprez (ca. 1450/55–27 August 1521) created the system of musical notation, and was one of the most important composers of all time. Prior to Desprez, a song or composition was often never played the same way twice.

Guillaume de Machaut (ca. 1300–April 1377) is the most famous of all Medieval composers. He wrote songs and poetry in his native French, created illuminated manuscripts, and broke boundaries in a quest to make music more personal and dramatic. Many people today consider him avant-garde. His best-known work is Mass of Notre Dame.

Leonius (born ca. 1135) and Perontius (born ca. 1200) made music polyphonous (many voices) instead of monophonous (one voice).

Early Music Resources

Josquin Desprez

Guillaume de Mauchaut

International de Machaut Society

Early Polyphony

Győr, Hungary



St. Ignace Church in Széchenyi Square, image by Vadaro at wikipedia.hu.

Bird’s-eye view of the city, Copyright Civertan Grafikai Stúdió.

City Hall, image by Pe-Jo.

Győr is a city of about 131,000 in Northwestern Hungary, and the nation’s sixth-largest city. Its Slovakian name is Ráb, and its German name is Raab. The city’s first large settlement dates from the 5th century BCE, when the Celts lived in the area. For the next eight centuries, the town was called Arrabona.

The Romans moved in during the first century BCE, and in 10 CE, the Roman Army occupied this part of Hungary. Though the Romans fled in the 4th century, in the face of frequent attacks from the tribes living to their East, the town itself remained settled. Like many of the other areas in Eastern Europe, Győr too changed hands many times. Finally, in 900, the Magyars came in, and the city got its proper Hungarian name.

However, the city continued changing hands, falling under the rule of the Mongols, Czechs, Ottomans, Austro-Hungarians, French, and Nazis. The Turkish name for Győr is Yanık kale, Burnt City, in reference to how the city was burnt to the ground and abandoned to avoid a battle with invading Ottomans in the 16th century.


The River Rába, image by Balint86 at hu.wikipedia, CC-BY-SA-2.5; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

The Esterházy half of the Laurel-Esterházy family of my Atlantic City books hails from Győr. Lt. William Winston Laurel, of Blackpool, England, was stationed in Győr when he met and fell in love with Etu Esterházy, part of a family of 16 children. After the Nazi occupation of Hungary, William was able to smuggle their four daughters out of the ghetto, including their newborn Daniella, and take them to his parents in England, but Etu refused to go with him.

William found her when his troop liberated one of the camps, and they returned to Győr until the failed Revolution of 1956, after which they moved to Hartford, Connecticut. They moved to Atlantic City in late 1962, eventually having 20 children. Etu died in premature labour with the final baby, Tikva, born in July 1966. Their children were named in alphabetical order. The children who became main or important secondary characters are Lauren, Kathi, Piri, Ophelia, Herbert, Regina, Serafima, Tikva, Emma, Bella, Gustave, and Quentin. Now their own children have assumed leading roles.

Because I’m a huge, proud, lifelong, second-generation Lucy Stoner, William and Etu’s sons got the surname Esterházy, and the girls got the surname Laurel. The majority of my female characters keep their birth names and often give their family names to their kids. Sometimes a couple will alternate last names, as well as hyphenating. I grew up with married parents with different names, so it’s completely normal to me.

Bird’s-eye view, including a monastery and the River Rába, Copyright Civertan Grafikai Stúdió.

The city is home to many beautiful old churches, including a basilica, the Carmelite Church, the Benedictine Church, and the Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma. Other treasures include the City Art Museum, the Bishop’s Palace, the reliquary of king Ladislaus I, the historical Xántus Museum, the János Xántus Zoo, an aquapark on the River Rába, and three universities.

The first Jewish community in the area was founded in 1791 in Győr-Sziget, and slowly developed and increased. During the 19th century, Hungarian Jews gained more and more rights and protection, and the city’s community got even larger and more vibrant. There were perhaps 6,000 on the eve of WWII. The majority were actually Progressive, not Orthodox. Don’t believe the modern-day Hareidi revisionist history claiming that Europe was one happy, unified frum community except for those awful Reform people in Germany and Austria. There were a lot of Progressive shuls all over Europe, even in places you might believe to be strongholds of Orthodoxy, like Poland and Hungary.

Today the city’s synagogue functions as a cultural centre and art museum.

More information:


http://www.civertan.hu/legifoto/legifoto.php?page_level=215&pageNum_images=2 (aerial photography)

Pétér Feldmár, possibly Győr’s youngest victim of the Shoah at just 11 days old.

http://www.gymsmuzeum.hu/ (Xántus Museum)




High Holy Days (Helvetica)


Font: Helvetica

Year created: 1957

Personal experience: Used from the time I began typing my stories on the old ’84 Mac, probably around 1987 or 1988, until September 1993. I never particularly liked it, but I was too young to realize that I wasn’t bound to the default font. That, and I heard that publishers preferred something that looked like it came from a typewriter. (Yeah, that book had some outdated advice!)

Chapter: “High Holy Days”

Book: Cinnimin

Written: 7 April-14 September 2010


I actually have two chapters with this title, one in The Very First and the other in my magnum opus. This post is about Part LV (55) of Cinnimin. It’s set from 20 September-18 October 1998, in Israel, Hawaii, New York City, and of course Atlantic City. It’s also one of the longer Parts, possibly able to stand alone.

So much happens here. Cinni’s daughter-in-law Ophelia finally snaps regarding her spoilt twins (her youngest children and only boys out of ten kids), a family vacation to Hawaii for a bar mitzvah turns into chaos, Ophelia’s marriage heads for the rocks, typical catfighting between longtime rivals Gavrilla (Sparky’s rabbi daughter) and her cousin by marriage Leah, and Cinni’s granddaughter Mancika starts her junior year of studying abroad in Israel with her beatnik best friend Ammiel.

Some of the many highlights:

Ammiel cringed at the applause. “Why do people always applaud when an El Al plane lands? It sounds so silly. People don’t clap when their boat docks.”

“I didn’t know your mom’s family spoke Polish,” Ammiel said. “I thought they used that hideous ghetto language Yiddish.”

[Ophelia’s Yom Kippur outfit; she’s almost a size 20 at this point, a sharp contrast to how slim and sexy she was in youth] Several buttons had popped on her blouse, so she’d wrapped a white silk shawl around her midsection. Her skirt was just several yards of fabric from the crafts store, a black background with ringed planets, sewn together into a semblance of a real skirt and held together with safety pins. For footwear she had frog slippers, not even having realized she’d left the house still wearing them.

Balázs let out a very loud scream and flung himself down on the asphalt before running back towards the building. “You suck, Mommy! You know I can do whatever I want because I have a penis!” [This earns him a public spanking in front of the synagogue.]

Serop gunned the car, desperate to get away from Zeevie, only to find the cop trailing after him again. He was furious when he was handed a second ticket and told he’d lose his license if he committed another traffic violation.

“What kind of a face is that on the eve of your only child’s special day?” Gavrilla asked, full well knowing Leah hadn’t been expecting her.

“Oh, Leah, are you so cynical you can’t grasp your own child’s father doing something nice for her and even putting in a personal appearance out of his own motivation?” Gavrilla asked. “Tisk, tisk, tisk.”

“We took the liberty of looking for disposables, and instead found some stuff you hadn’t even taken out of the box,” Gavrilla said. “Who buys nice tableware and then never uses it or even unpacks it? Maybe that’s why your pre-existing dishes look so worn-out, because you keep using them over and over again.”

Ammiel ambled down wearing black gaucho pants and a Roswell 50th anniversary T-shirt. Mancika was embarrassed by his casual wear but knew he wouldn’t change it.

Ammiel held up a few shirts. “Which one, Mants? The ‘Re-elect Clinton’ one, the ‘Legalize Cannabis’ one, or the ‘Celebrating 25 Years of Roe vs. Wade’ one?”

“I bet you have a stomach ache from eating too many of those candies you stash in your room,” Shafar said. “Your bat mitzvah project should be Weight Watchers.”

Alice stared. With every step Yasmin took, a drop of blood fell on the floor. Pointing, she loudly alerted everyone, “Look, Yasmin’s having her period!”

“Oh, look!” Skye laughed. “Yasmin stuck the tampon up her butt! No wonder you can’t find it!” [And she cut off the string!]

[Praying with Nashot HaKotel, the Women of the Wall] Mancika and Raina just rolled their eyes at the ultras who started yelling, unfazed. Raina had seen the Prime Minister assassinated; a few angry, self-righteous, self-proclaimed mullahs were nothing to her. Toni tried to concentrate on her prayers and block out the noise. These people’s opinions meant nothing to her; after all, they probably wouldn’t consider her de facto Orthodox conversion in Paris ten years ago to be valid anyway. They were with people peacefully praying for peace and unity, not divisive, hate-filled bigots who didn’t live in the real world.

Sweet Saturday Samples—Agnieszka and Ezra, Continued


My A-Z post for the F day is here.

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples picks up where last week’s left off. It’s Rosh Hashanah 1994, and 18-year-old Agnieszka has been volunteering on a Haifa kibbutz with her best friend Lillian (a Western Hindu really into the hippie groove) since they graduated high school in June. Since before she arrived, Agnieszka has had a huge crush on the young director Ezra, four years her senior.

She was initially thrilled when Ezra made great friends with her, but now she’s started to believe this is too good to be true, and is planning to transfer to another kibbutz with Lillian as soon as possible. Ezra, however, has other ideas, and won’t dream of letting his mutual secret crush get away.

I’ve sprinkled in some of the pictures I’ve taken in Haifa and Rosh Hanikra for some local flavor.


She was glad when she didn’t catch sight of him in the crowds that night. She sat with an old woman who’d immigrated from Hungary in 1956, Ibolya, who’d come from Ophelia’s birthplace, Gyor. During the refreshments after services, he also didn’t make an appearance within her line of vision. Satisfied she’d eluded him, she left Ibolya and went outside. She would grab Lillian and as soon as the holiday ended on the seventh, they would apply for transfer to another kibbutz.

“You’re not walking home alone at night, especially wearing something like that. It was bad enough you walked here alone. Why did you walk away earlier?”

“Go back to your family. They don’t want a stranger horning in on their time together.”

“You’re not a stranger to me.”

“You haven’t even known me three months, Ezra. You don’t have a special connection to anyone so quickly. Real friendships take longer than that to be established. I am going to take Lillian and transfer to another kibbutz where the director doesn’t pay unwarranted amounts of attention to me.”

“I won’t let you leave. God sent you to Beit Alizah for a reason.”

“I’m no different from thousands of other volunteers.”

“Volunteer or not, I’ve never felt such an instant and intense connection to anyone on so many levels—spiritual, emotional, intellectual, psychic, you name it. Like I’ve known you for years, or in another lifetime. And if you do transfer elsewhere to avoid me, I’ll follow you. Something like this doesn’t happen every day.”

“What about your family?”

“They’re staying in a hotel.”

“You spoke to them in Hebrew in front of me. I barely understood a word you said.”

“I’ll teach you. You have a dictionary and four instructional books. It can’t be harder than Armenian, Russian, or Hungarian. But for now I’m taking you on a sightseeing tour. And then we’re going back home.”

Agnieszka took his hand and walked with him to the Mediterranean Sea, next to Mount Carmel, with the ancient city of Acre to the northeast. Further east was the snowcapped peak of Mount Hermon.

“And directly north is the white cliff of Rosh Hanikra, the checkpoint of our border with Lebanon. We built this land up from nothing, but these mountains and the sea have always been here. And when you see something that beautiful, you can’t imagine anyone else having it. They can look, but you know they’ll never love or appreciate it as much as you do, or feel such emotional connection. Something so beautiful can’t be given to someone who can’t appreciate it. And they mean something beyond just beauty.”

“You must be extremely proud of the land.”

“I’m not talking about the land anymore, I’m talking about you.” Ezra slipped his arms around her waist and kissed her, and Agnieszka melted into the curves of his body and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

He was very gentle and at the same time passionate. Agnieszka felt extremely safe in his arms, beyond just the fact that he’d just finished his army stint two years ago. He was full of love, compassion, and deep familiarity that hearkened back from another lifetime.

“I’ve been wanting to do that since the first time I saw you lying asleep in your bed, but I restrained myself for fear you wouldn’t feel the same way. I guess this means you have feelings for me too.”

“Since I saw your picture in the brochure.”

“And you never told me?”

“I was afraid. But not anymore. You can take me back to your room and do whatever you want with me.”

“I respect you too much to sleep with you the first night. A quality relationship is built on more than that. If we’re still together at least a year from now and know this is leading to something permanent, and we both feel it’s time, then it can happen. And I may be mistaken, but aren’t you a betulah?”

“Is that your concern?”

“You are, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

“You don’t have to be ashamed of it.”

“I want you to be the first.”

“If things work out like I believe they’re destined to, I will not only be your first lover, but your only.”

Agnieszka could barely sleep at all that night, thinking about Ezra and how strong his arms were, how soft his skin, his electric touch. She couldn’t wait to make love to him. She knew she could never go back to America.