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Sign Photos: Figure 3


This sign is located on K?lauea Avenue in Hilo, the largest town on Hawai‘i island . I have long been puzzled by this sign due to its positioning of the ‘okina after the <O> rather than before it. Phonologically speaking, a glottal stop cannot occur in this position because it would violate the phonotactic structure of Hawaiian syllables which are composed of (C)V. The symbol used on the sign is also a single open quote rather than the typographically correct ‘okina. Thus, the spelling here is similar to that of Irish names like O’Connor. Although it is possible that the sign maker intended it to read as Hale ‘O Luea (in which case <‘O> would indicate a proper name) or Hale o Luea (where <o> is the possessive marker), this is suspect semantically because luea means ‘nausea’. Thus, the sign would mean ‘Nausea House’ or ‘House of Nausea’. After taking a photograph of the sign, I entered the office to ask the staff about the sign. A male employee who greeted me did not know the meaning of the name; nor did two female receptionists, and the male began to ask other people sitting in the office. Meanwhile, I discovered several brochures advertising the clubhouse, which is a state-sponsored program providing rehabilitation services to people with mental illness. The name was spelled on these brochures as Hale ‘Oluea (‘house of easing tension’) with a typographically correct ‘okina. Finally, the employee located someone who knew what the name meant, although no one could provide any explanation of how the sign outside had come to be spelled in that fashion.

Interestingly, one of the brochures listed other clubhouses throughout the state, including one on O‘ahu called Ko‘olau Clubhouse. The ‘okina in Ko‘olau is an apostrophe with the ball on the top, facing to the left, like the number 9. The island name O‘ahu is spelled without an ‘okina, as is the island of Kaua‘i.

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