Author Archives: William Anderson


Although he has spent the majority of his life living on the continental United States, my informant considers himself to be Hawaiian culturally and still holds on to the Hawaiian speech and traditions that he learned as a child. That is not to say that he speaks the language of the native Hawaiians, but rather he uses and is accustomed to various slang terms that are primarily used among Hawaiian locals. When asked about a unique example Hawaiian slang, he immediately said, “well there is this one word. Popolo.” According to my informant this word, pronounced po-polo, is “a traditionally derogatory way to refer to a black person.” However, as he continued talking about the use of this word, he mentioned that “at least in [the group of people he was around when he was in Hawaii] people used it very casually. Because of that I never knew that it was a bad word until I moved to California and was told by my dad to stop saying it.” When asked about the origin of the word, my informant told me that it is a reference to the popolo berry. The popolo berry is the Hawaiian name for glossy nightshade, which is a plant that has very dark black berries.

On the surface, this slang term makes sense as it can both refer to a dark colored berry or the dark colored skin of a person. However, it’s meaning likely doesn’t stop there. My informant mentioned that this is a derogatorily term, and upon researching the popolo berry or the berry of glossy nightshade, it becomes apparent why this is. While the berry is clearly black in color, it is more widely known for being toxic and dangerous if handled incorrectly. I believe that this slang, when used derogatorily, is referencing this aspect of the popolo. It is also of note that my informant revealed that this term is still commonly used in Hawaii, at least in his group of acquaintances. While this does not reveal much in itself, it maybe valuable to recognize that this word is still used and accepted while further researching Hawaiian slang.

The Menehune

Although he has spent the majority of his life living on the continental United States, my informant considers himself to be Hawaiian culturally and still holds on to the Hawaiian speech and traditions that he learned as a child. When asked about any tales or legends he may have heard about when growing up, the first thing he mentioned was the legend of the Menehune. According to my informant, the Menehune are “Hawaiian Leprechauns.” While the Menehune likely do not come from the Irish tales of Leprechauns, they are similar in that they are “little people who are hard to find.” The Menehune, while small and human-like are often treated as a different species entirely. According to the legend, the Menehune are a group of “dwarves who live in the forest away from people.” When asked about how he knew about them, my informant revealed that his parents told him about the Menehune when he found a small dam in a river as a child. According to him, the Menehune are often held accountable for the creation of small dams placed in rivers and creeks that the Hawaiian natives could explain otherwise. This is because they are thought to be “really good craftsmen.” As such, the Menehune were the explanation for any man-made looking constructions found in the deep forests of Hawaii far away from any tribal civilization. As far as temperament goes, my informant told me that the Menehune “aren’t nice and if you see one you are supposed to leave them alone” and that “they are a sign of bad luck.” Other than that, as far as my informant is aware, “there isn’t really that much to them. They kind of just build things and live in the forest.”

This tale is interesting as it seems to tread the line between a unique Hawaiian belief and a very Hawaiian version of the Irish Leprechaun. However, regardless of its origin and its relation to the Irish tales, it is interesting nonetheless to compare these two faeries. The Menehune for example, is considered a sign of bad luck which is the opposite of the Leprechaun. Also, unlike the Leprechaun, the Menehune isn’t considered to be very magical. Rather, they are more similar to small people. However, both the Menehune and the Leprechaun are expert craftsmen and are known to be very good at building whatever it is they build (buildings for the Menehune and shoes for the Leprechaun). All of this leads me to believe that while the Menehune and the Leprechaun are similar faeries, they should not be thought of as different versions of each other. This is not because of what they do, but rather because of how they are viewed by their respective cultures. Because the Hawaiians view and treat the Menehune in such an opposite was as the Irish treat the Leprechauns, I believe that despite my informant’s suggestion that “the Menehune are basically Hawaiian Leprechauns” they are a unique faerie to their culture.

The Sweep

The informant is a regular attendant of the Oregon Country Fair. The Oregon Country Fair is an annual non-profit craft fair held in Eugine Oregon held on the second weekend of July. In its inception it was known as the Oregon Renaissance Faire,  however in 1977 it changed its name to better reflect what it represented. The informant told me about a ritualized event that happens every night at the fair which he calls The Sweep. The Sweep is an event that happens at 7pm on the Friday and Saturday of the fair. During the sweep a group of guards link arms and walk around the fairground kicking everyone who does not work for the fair out of the area. The name “The Sweep” comes from the sweeping formation the guards walk in as they tell people to leave. This serves two purposes. First, it signifies that the fair is closed to the public. Second, it lets the workers know that the fair is now theirs for the rest of the night. This marks a transformation period in the culture of the fairground. The informant stated that “the real fair doesn’t begin until after the sweep. Thats when everything important happens.” This is because after the public leaves, the people who work at the fair are able to interact freely without having to “keep it respectable for the families and children that go there during the day.” The informant stated that after the sweep “the fair transforms into much more of a tight-knit hippie festival.” The Sweep also serves a very special purpose to the people who are working at the fair for the first time. According to the informant, your first Sweep is “the moment you truly become a part of the community. Its like truly being a part of the fair for the first item. After staying through your first sweep you realize that everyone [working at the fair] wants to look out for each other and be a community.”

This ritual is really interesting as it seems to be the primary thing that separates fair goers from the people who live at and work at the fair. The way the formation described it made it seem like a truly transformative event that completely changes the environment of the entire fairground. Additionally, it functions as an initiation ritual for those who may have been fairgoers in the past who are now working for and as a result seeing what the informant called “the real fair” for the first time. Its of note that even the guards buy into this ritual opting to link hands and literally sweep the fairground in order to ensure that the attendants of the fair leave. In a way, this ritual symbolizes the transfer of power. During the day, before the sweep, the fairground belongs to visitors but after the sweep, it is given back to the people who work there.

The Etiquette of Sharing Instruments

My informant considers himself to be a musician and was an active member of his High School’s band and the community that surrounded it. In this group there are many well followed customs involving how you are to act when borrowing or otherwise using someone else’s instrument. While casual play on someone else’s instrument is acceptable it is important that you “actually play music with it” because it “would be disrespectful to just pick up someone else’s instrument and do nothing of value with it.” This is because in this community, your instrument is “almost an extension of you.” Understandably so, if someone were to take something this significant of yours and create unenjoyable music with it you may be offended. However, this is not that big of a deal, especially if it is a one time sort of thing. On the other side, the prospect of completely sharing an instrument with another band member would be “kind of ridiculous” to my informant and the members of his community, “even if it made sense logistically.” This is because, to them, “sharing an instrument is like sharing a toothbrush. Our instruments are very personal parts of our lives, so to give that to someone else would be a little uncomfortable.” Of course, this rule has exceptions. “One weird thing that would happen is that whenever people from the same section (for example the rhythm section or the brass section) would date, it would be alright for them to share instruments. Actually, that would be kind of considered sweet or cute.”

This reveals that in this community an instrument is more than just a tool. Rather, your personal instrument is to be treated as an extension to yourself. Whatever you or someone else does with that instrument reflects directly back to you. Because of this, members of this community are more protective of their instruments than you would ordinarily expect. I believe that this extreme protection over an instrument shows that in this community, the music you make and what you sue to make that music is a defining aspect of how you are viewed.

Captain Falcon Mains in the Super Smash Bros Comunity

My informant is an avid player of the Super Smash Brothers game series. This game has fostered a very unique community due to its wide appeal and unique gameplay mechanics. This community encompass all players who play the game, but in this interview when my informant talks about the “Smash Brothers community” he is referring to the community of thirty or so individuals who meet up weekly (or biweekly) at his local game store to play the game together. When they meet up and compete with each other it is called a “local” which simply is shorthand for local gathering or local tournament.


Me: Are you a part of any digital or otherwise non-traditional communities.

Him: I actually play a lot of this game called Super Smash Bros and really dig the community built around it.

Me: Could you please describe the Smash Bros community briefly.

Him: Well super smash bros is a game made by Nintendo. There are I believe 5 installments not including fan games. The series is interesting because the series takes characters from many franchises and has them fight against each other. The community is everyone who plays this game, but to me thee community is the people who meet up to play any of these games together in downtown Los Angeles. We communicate through a facebook group and organize locals every week or so depending on how busy everyone is.

Me: And are there any customs or unspoken rules unique to this community?

Him: Oh my god there is a near infinite amount. I guess that the one that is most important to me is the hidden meaning behind Captain Falcon.

Me: What is Captain Falcon?

Him: Captain Falcon is a character in the game. He is my main which means I almost exclusively play this character when playing the game.

Me: And what is the hidden meaning you refer to behind this character?

Him: Well Captain Falcon players have a unique reputation in this community. You see, in the game there is a feature called taunting. A taunt is a easily punishable move that does nothing other than poke fun at the player. Captain Falcon players tend to be known to strongly utilize these taunts. As a captain falcon player, anytime you have the capability of taunting you should.

Me: Why is this?

Him: Because he has the best taunts of course.

Me: How does this affect the reputation of Captain Falcon mains?

Him: Well when you decide to main Captain Falcon you usually do it because you want to be as flashy as possible. So, being a captain falcon main means that you are going to be viewed as someone who prefers to style rather than play the game as well as technically possible. Being a Captain Falcon main means that if you are given two options, a good choice and a cool looking choice you will always pick the good looking choice. That is what it means to play Captain Falcon.



It is really interesting that the character you use in a videogame can completely define how you are viewed in the surrounding community. Moreso, it is interesting how willing to and excited to accept that identity my informant was. I believe that this shows that in this community there is a sense of pride that players have about the character that they play. This is likely because when in the game, the character you play functions as your avatar. That is to say that while playing the game, my informant identifies as Captain Falcon because Captain Falcon is the bridge between the game world and him. Going off this theory, I believe that if I were to interview other members of the Smash community they would have similarly positive feelings about their “main.”