May 2, 2004


Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 1:24 pm

“I want to go back to my little grass shack
In Kealakekua, Hawaii
Where the humuhumunukunukuapua’a
Go swimming by.”

Songwriters Bill Cogswell, Tommy Harrison & Johnny Noble didn’t simply invent the word “humuhumunukunukuapua’a” in order to write a song. After all, how could anyone make something like that up? It turns out that there actually is a fish with that tongue-twisting name (pronounced hoo-moo-hoo-moo-noo-koo-noo-koo-apoo-Ah-ah – try that after about five martinis).

Its scientific name, only slightly more pronounceable), is, depending on what one reads, either Rhinecanthus rectangulus or Rhinecanthus aculeatus, but it is also known as the “Picasso Triggerfish” and the “Reef Triggerfish.” In Hawaiian, again depending on which source one reads, humuhumunukunukuapua’a literally means “Fish with a pig’s nose,” or “Fish who comes out of the water and sounds like a pig” (the latter referring to the snorting sounds the fish makes when taken from the water).

Of course, none of this is news to the Hawaiians, who have adopted the humuhumunukunukuapua’a as the unofficial state fish (the Hawaii legislature has not taken action to make it “official..”)

Humuhumunukunukuapua’as can grow up to eighteen inches long and are plentiful along the Islands’ shores. I was fortunate enough to see a bunch of them while snorkeling off Maui. By comparison, humuhumunukunukuapua’as make New Jersey’s state fish, the brook trout, look like a fish in a cheap suit.

I’m glad I got to see them.


  1. What’s for dinner tonight?

    Everything you wanted to know about humuhumunukunukuapua’a except how they taste….

    Trackback by Beyond the Black Hole — May 3, 2004 @ 10:09 pm

  2. I wonder if they taste like chicken.

    Comment by Da Goddess — May 5, 2004 @ 2:07 am

  3. my mom used to sing this ditty whilst accompaning herself on the ukelele, this about 50 years ago, the heyday of arthur godfrey

    Comment by jim — May 31, 2004 @ 10:27 am

  4. I happened upon your page and I have to say I too want to go back to my sand bed on the beaches of Waimea Bay. I miss the breeze and soft warm touch of the sun. I miss the lullaby of the ocean waves and the rustlying shade of the palm trees. I want to sleep and awake on my beach.

    Comment by Lucia — April 21, 2005 @ 10:15 am

  5. It can cause food posining

    Comment by Jenna Palek — May 9, 2005 @ 1:08 pm

  6. My husband and I saw humu’s everywhere we snorkled in the Hawaiian Islands. There is something so special about this fish that really stays in your mind once you see them. They come in all sizes from itty bitty to what looked like well over 18 inches thru my snorkel mask! I bought a T shirt with a humuhumu on it, and the one of the beach guys at Haunauma Bay really liked it. He said that humuhumus are super smart and actually learn to do tricks when kept in aquariums.

    ((not that anyone should ever be taking fish out of the reef!!!And don’t sit on it either, Please!!))

    Thanks for posting this info. This is a fish that is packed with personality, and it is something I miss about Hawaii. I love just saying ‘humuhumunukunukuapua’a’

    Comment by Phoenix — June 8, 2005 @ 11:36 pm

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