Word of the day: Lanai

Pronunciation: la-NYE

Function: noun

Meaning: porch, screened patio or veranda. Really.

Other meaning: the sixth-largest of the Hawaiian islands  (with or without porches, we presume)        


Last night I was chatting with a friend about this and that when, without warning, the conversation abruptly went pear-shaped.

“We should go for drinks this weekend. Maybe sit out in the lanai,” she said.

“The what?” I said, thinking I had suffered a minor loss of hearing.

“The lanai,” she said, unfazed.

“The what??” I repeated, thinking now that maybe I should go break down the door to her apartment and offer medical help, as faltering language is one of the signs of stroke.

"Pardon me, but what the HELL did you just say??"

“The lanai,” she repeated once more, patiently, as though talking to the dog, or a particularly stubborn and possibly slightly deaf newt.

There was a long silence while I debated whether to say “the what?” again, whether to go break down her door, or just what exactly was warranted here.

I decided that immediate clarification was in order and in my usual dulcet tones I gently inquired, “What the hell is a … how do you say this thing? Ma-LYE? Na-BYE?”

A burst of laughter from the other end of the phone. “La-NAI,” she repeated yet again.

I must add here that she is a native English speaker, and so am I.

Regardless, the next few minutes passed in merry, if incredulous, debate that I had never heard of this word, ever – neither in the context of the sixth-largest Hawaiian island nor its use in place of “porch”, “patio” or “veranda.” I Googled it and came up with the island (but of course). We debated some more. I inquired after her sanity, and she cast aspersions on my mental capacities – all in good fun, you understand. I made some lame jokes, and the debate continued until we were both simply too tired to go on. It’s been a long week.

Conclusion: I still don’t believe “lanai” is an actual word for “porch”, “patio” or “veranda” but I have no concrete proof of this. After all, iPod was not a word until a few years ago either.

So, in the absence of evidence one way or the other, here instead are some puns to prove my linguistic superiority and of course make my friend wish to God she had never introduced me to the word “lanai” at all.

Bwahhahhhaaaaaa... Lanai win!

Big-box store that sells furniture for verandas: LaniKEA.

U.S. state famous for potatoes and patios: LanIdaho.

Newfoundland song about sailors and verandas: Lanai’s the bye that builds the boat….

The moneyed class most likely to have a veranda: the lanaidle rich.

American industrial rock group that often performs on verandas: Lanaine Inch Nails

Illumination device to be used on a patio after dark: Lanaight light

Group of medieval knights who met on a porch: The Lanaights of the Round Table

TV show featuring a scientist doing experiments on a patio: Bill Lanai, the Science Guy

Wagner’s least known opera, involving a ring, a dwarf and a veranda: The Ring of the Lanaibelung

One of the five stages of grief after losing your back deck in a storm: anger, grief, lanaial, depression, acceptance.

Frozen dessert commonly enjoyed on a porch: Lanaice cream

Famous nurse who cured patients on a veranda: Florence Lanaightingale.

And finally… the polite thing to say when someone drops a strange word like “lanai” into the conversation unannounced: “Gosh, it’s been lanaice talking to you, but I think you’re late for your appointment at the mental instution!” (which in Toronto, by the way, is known as Lanaine Ninety-Nine Queen. Hehhehehe.)

Feel free to send me your own entries.

Smiter out.

PS. Just to be sure I wasn’t imagining things, I tried out the word “lanai” on a colleague just now. She gave me the same Scooby Doo “harooooo?” look I had on my face last night.

I rest my case.

"Haroo? RaRAI?"


1 Comment

  1. Peter Anderson

    Porches, verandas etc. — How about Stoop? or Stoep, as it’s spelled in southern Africa

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