“ukucheck” is made up of two words, uku & check. “Uku” is Hawaiian for “cootie” or “head lice.” I remember back-in-the-day while attending Ala Wai Elementary School that we had a monthly ritual of uku checks. We would all go down to the health room where the nurse would comb through our hair with two pencils in search of nits, or “uku eggs.” After much anxiety, then relief of passing the uku check, we would go out to recess. The playground would be filled with the chanting of “Billy got the ukus,” or “Sally got the ukus!” (We didn’t have Nintendo back then, so we had to entertain ourselves.) Of course if it were a big dude, we’d all be silent and avoid eye contact at all cost.
Later in my adult life, I taught out on the Leeward Coast. Once during recess duty, I heard a chorus of “Keoni got da ukus, Keoni got da ukus!” After cracking a smile and resisting the temptation of joining in, I quickly composed myself. I subsequently began to reprimand those “cruel” children….