What does the Hawaiian Shaka sign mean?

Anyone who has visited the islands has no doubt seen the famous hand gesture coupled with the “Shaka” greeting! A shaka sign – the unmistakable pinky and thumb salute – is the ultimate symbol of Aloha and local culture in Hawaii. Interpreted to mean “hang loose” or “right on,” the shaka is a constant reminder that in Hawaii, it is not the norm to worry or rush. The shaka sign represents the embodiment of “island style.” It conveys friendship, understanding, compassion, and solidarity among the various ethnic cultures that reside within Hawaii. The shaka sign was adopted from local Hawaiian culture by visiting surfers in the 1960s, and its use has spread around the world.

Origin of the Shaka Sign

According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, prevailing local lore credited the gesture to Hamana Kalili of Laie, HI, who lost the three middle fingers of his right hand while working at the Kahuku Sugar Mill. Kalili was then shifted to guarding the sugar train, and his all-clear wave of thumb and pinkie is said to have evolved into the shaka as children imitated the gesture.

Another theory relates the origin of the shaka to the Spanish immigrants, who folded their middle fingers and took their thumbs to their lips as a friendly gesture to represent sharing a drink with the natives they met in Hawaii. Yet another theory relates the origin to visiting whalers who signaled a catch with a “tails up” shaka.

Shaka and its very positive associations may simply derive from the popular World War II “V for Victory” hand sign, in Hawaii often held up and rotated rapidly back and forth, “shaken”, hence shaka.

The late Lippy Espinda, a used car salesman and Oahu-based entertainer, has also been named as a possible creator of the shaka. Espinda, who frequently appeared as an extra in Hawaii Five-O as well as the The Brady Bunch episodes shot in Hawaii, used the term and the sign during his television ads in the ’60s. Though the claim that he is the originator of the shaka sign is debatable, he is credited with increasing its popularity and of Hawaiian Pidgin as well. The shaka has achieved great popularity in Australia, primarily amongst teenagers on social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

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