Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hawaiian Street Names Preserve the Hawaiian Language

One of the ways that Hawaii attempts to preserve the Hawaiian language and culture is through naming of streets. Since 1954, city law has established four criteria for naming streets:

1. The Hawaiian names, words or phrases must be 'appropriate' to cultural, scenic, and topographic features
2. There must be no duplication in spelling, or similarity in sound from existing street names
3. Street names can not exceed 18 characters (in order to fit on the street sign)
4. Street names must be spelled with diacritical markings

In light of the information above, apparently Oahu now has 138 streets with the same Hawaiian name in two or more communities! There are also 33 duplicate Hawaiian street names honoring people or topographic sites.

Another interesting fact is that many streets carry the same name in different languages, for example, in Mānoa, there is Rainbow Drive and Anuene Street - each is a translation of the other!

If you want to ever live in Hawaii, I would suggest studying up on the street names; after living there myself I still have to spell the signs out when I see them to make sure I am reading them correctly, but also to confirm that I am on the correct street. It gets confusing!

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