HONOLULU (KHON2) — We know there are some changes coming to Hawaii’s license plates.
The iconic rainbow will be retired; and now, there’s a new bill in the state legislature that could correct spelling used since the 1920s.
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Where it says Hawaiʻi on our license plates, it’s currently against state law to put an ‘okina between the two i’s. That’s according to the City and County of Honolulu’s Department of Customer Services, which is now pushing for a bill in the legislature to get that changed.
“We are working with the state and other counties on this project. And, if and when a new plate is issued, we’re hoping to include the okina in the word Hawaiʻi on the new plates. So, this legislation is necessary to enable us to do that,” CSD Director Kim Hashiro said.
Many in the Hawaiian community see it as a good correction.
“I believe that culturally, anything that would increase people’s awareness and people’s consciousness about the right language, I think, it’s a good thing to support,” Hawaiian Community Leader Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu said.
Wong-Kalu points out that the ʻokina and kahakō aren’t necessary for some fluent in Hawaiian.
For University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Hawaiian language professor Dr. Kaliko Baker, it’s also about educating non-speakers.
“Given that most people who encounter ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, they don’t know how to pronounce Hawaiian words,” Baker said. “Well, ʻokina and kahakō are rather helpful.”
It’s important to have the correct pronunciation, especially since Hawaiian has been an official state language since 1978.
“I don’t know if we’re obligated; but we’re almost obligated to follow in our dictionary for spelling and phonics, at least. And, there’s Hawaii with an Okina because there’s a stop before the second i. It’s not Hawaii, something like that, it’s Hawaiʻi,” Baker said.
For speakers and non-speakers, Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians.
“We should all be on a raised level of consciousness and concerted effort to not only embrace Hawaiian language but to welcome it and to promote it and perpetuate it because that’s what will help to keep Hawaiʻi a Hawaiian place not just for Hawaiians but for everyone who calls Hawaiʻi home,” Wong-Kalu said.
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The State Senate has also introduced a bill to add a special license plate honoring Duke Kahanamoku, which has passed its first reading.
The bill to add an ‘okina has also passed its first reading.