Humuhumunukunukuapuaa is hilarious in Scotland
One of my duties as a humor columnist in Hawaii apparently is to explain to people from other parts of the world some of the bizarre or purely silly things that happen here.
Which is why I was being interviewed on a radio show in Scotland at midnight recently, attempting to justify why politicians here in the islands have nothing better to do than argue over naming an official state fish.
It apparently was one of those "Animal House" radio shows with various zany DJs giggling to each other and making lewd double entendres and for some reason they really got a kick out of the humuhumunukunukuapuaa.
Maybe because it was midnight my time (10 a.m. in Scotland) and I was half asleep that I didn't appreciate the extreme humor of the situation. Or maybe it was because it was like talking to three Mike Meyers in full Shrek mode ("Aye, donkey, watch oot for da hoo-moo-laki-laki-mooki-mooki fish! Hawhawhaw!")
To be fair, the guys seemed sincerely excited about speaking to someone from Hawaii about a fish they had never heard of until they read about it on the wire services. But that could have just been the whisky, which I think is considered a breakfast beverage in Scotland.
"This is a most peculiar story," said Fred MacAulay, host of the MacAulay & Co. morning show on BBC Radio Scotland.
I had been warned by a completely neutral associate of the program that it is "a hugely popular light-hearted, topical chat show that regularly plays host to top-named national and international celebrities."
Too bad. On this morning they were out of luck in the international celebrity category. They had a grumpy, sleepy unknown columnist half a world away.
"We're on an island and we don't have a state fish," said MacAulay, who's also a standup comedian. At least I think it was MacAulay. There was so much jabbering it could have been one of the other personalities -- John Beattie, a former British Lions rugby star or comedian Chris Neil. It's not that they all sounded alike, it's that they all sounded like Mike Meyers after a long Scottish breakfast.
The humuhumunukunukuapuaa's tenuous position as state fish has garnered worldwide attention.
I was pretty much inconsequential to the conversation as they took turns trying to pronounce humuhumunukunukuapuaa and remarking that the little fish with the ridiculously long name probably goes well with "chips." (That's french fries for us.)
I wanted to explain that the reason Scotland didn't need an official state fish is because it already had a largely hypothetical state monster that lives in Loch Ness. Why people who believe in a completely fictional lake beast would find Hawaii's humuhumu so bizarre is hard to grasp.
The other funny thing about the humuhumu to MacAulay & Co. is that it apparently was, as one of them put it, "voted in as the state fish by a load of schoolchildren."
Had the snickering and guffawing been less strident, I would have asked them about Scotland's official musical instrument, which seems to be a contraption made of a cow bladder, vacuum cleaner pipes and a wolverine with laryngitis.
I was able to tell them that opponents to the humuhumu in Hawaii would rather have as the state fish the oopu. Well, the comic possibilities of the word "oopu" were just too much for the crew, which collapsed into convulsive fits. You'd think they'd never heard of a fish name in which three out of four letters are vowels.
I felt a little uncomfortable sticking up for the humuhumu, considering I've often chastised our lawmakers for worrying more about naming a state fish than helping small business, housing the homeless or at least not making gas prices go up through idiotic "gas cap" legislation.
But I felt it my patriotic duty to God, country and Hawaii's sea creatures to defend the humuhumu.
Yes, it's a weird little fish with a long name, but it's ours, damn it. And if we want to have a state fish, state insect or even a state household appliance, that's our business. Unlike Scotland, at least we know who wears the dresses around here.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org