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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, November 15, 2002

Aloha everywhere you look

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

Hawai'i is the Aloha State, the land of Aloha Spirit, and the place where over- and misuse of the word "aloha" is perhaps the most egregious.

Oh, sure, in Flushing, N.Y., there's a company called Aloha French Cleaners (not to be confused with Aloha DRIVE-IN French Cleaners in another town in the same state) but here, we don't have the excuse of not knowing better.

The Pukui and Elbert Hawaiian Dictionary has an entry almost four inches long to define "aloha." The definition goes from love to affection, from compassion to mercy, from charity to veneration. Nowhere in that definition does it say "and a great name for a business," though it's understandable that some businesses would want to adopt this word of many beautiful meanings as part of their image and work ethic.

Aloha Shoyu, Aloha Tofu, Aloha Stadium. Those have become standards over the years. The names roll off the tongue and you never stop to think "Eh, how can a shoyu have aloha?" Or "If two football teams are knocking the stuffing out of each other and everyone in the stadium is there to watch, where's da aloha?"

Take a cruise through the phone book next time you're sitting in the laundromat waiting for the dryer to finish eating your socks. The "aloha" entries take up three pages. Some of the more, shall we say, striking uses of the word "aloha" include:

• Aloha Aina Lawn and Sprinkler
• Aloha Bail Bond
• Aloha Grease Trap Man
• Aloha Karate Academy
• Aloha Korean Barbeque
• Aloha Born Free Fashion Inc.
• Aloha Bounce
• Aloha Fender Inc.
• Aloha Repo Inc.
• Aloha Muscle Company
• Aloha Nails
• Aloha Pawn
• Aloha Plastic Surgery
• Aloha Pyrotechnics
• Aloha Rubber Stamp
• Aloha Strip-o-Grams of Hawaii
• Aloha Waste Services

The uninitiated may wonder if "aloha" is Hawaiian for "Acme."

Of course, it's not just "aloha" that's been put to work and put on logos. There are an awful lot of businesses with "paradise" in their name (my favorite is "Paradise Lua") and on Maui, every other business up and down Lower Main street is named No Ka Oi something-or- other.

The thought behind naming a business Aloha-whatever is probably a gentle one. It's perhaps the owner's wish to cultivate a spirit of compassion and service within the business, to foster a feeling of warmth and connection between customers and staff.

But sometimes, it just seems weird. For example, on El Segundo Boulevard in Los Angeles, you can find an establishment called Aloha United Drugs. But hey, spread da aloha, even if that means a drug store in L.A.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.