Recently, I’ve noticed a bit of bloggernacle discussion over a question of burning importance: How to pronounce “Kaimi.” Here’s the short answer: Ka-EE-mee. It has three syllables, you stress the middle one, and Hawaiian pronounces its vowels more-or-less identical to Spanish.
That said, it’s very easy to get this wrong, and I answer to many pronunciations — Kaymee, Kye-mee, Kye-amy, Kee-mee, Kye-Eee-mee. (In fact, if I’m near a Jamie or Amy or Cami and someone addresses one of them — “Amy, look at this” — I’m likely to turn my head to see if they’re talking to me). I’m pretty flexible, and many (most?) of my ward members, co-workers, and acquaintances probably never know if they’re not quite getting it right. (I even dated a girl for two months without her figuring out how to pronounce my name. Yeah, that was one of the contributing causes in the break-up).
I should note that, unless you really know your Hawaiian, you would be excused for going with Kye-mee instead. “Kai” is indeed a word in Hawaiian (it means ocean) and there are a lot of names, like Kailani, that would be pronounced that way. However, the etymology of my name is not Kai-mi (Ocean + “mi” — but “mi” doesn’t have a meaning that I’m aware of). It is, rather, Ka-imi (well, Ka-imi-pono in total). Which is “The” (Ka), “seek” (imi), “righteousness” (pono).
(Turning Ka-i words into Kai words is actually a (sort-of) common mistake in Hawaiian. My grandmother (an expert on Hawaiian culture and to a lesser degree, language) would lecture me if I called her neighborhood (Kaimuki) as Kai-muki (which everyone does). She would explain that it’s not Kai-muki (which means, I think, “drink from the ocean”) but rather Ka-imu-ki (which means “the oven where Ki leaves (local plant) were cooked).)
Well, that concludes our Hawaiian lesson for the week. For next week, we’ll go over the equally perplexing question: How does one pronounce “Nate”? Most of you are probably thinking “Nayt,” and will be surprised at the cajun-derived, two-syllable pronunciation “Nahh-tehh.” Don’t forget the hard “H” at the end.