pio [Hawaiian]

In Hawaii, ? – 19ᵗʰ century, a unit of length used for trade in cloth, equal to 3 yards.

In the Kingdom of Hawaii's first weights and measures law (enacted 12 November 1840), by which it adopted the weights and measures of Massachusetts, the pio is defined (Chapter 9, section 3) as equal to 3 iwilei. As the law speaks of the iwilei of Massachusetts, the yard is clearly meant. (“In measuring cloth and such like things, when one speaks of…1 pio it shall be 3 Yards”–translation by Mattimore and Nagao.) The law of 29 October 1845, accommodating the British, defined the pio as equal to “3 yards English”.

Modern dictionaries say that a pio is equal to 1 yard, with what justification we do not know. It seems as if a copyist has substituted “feet” for “yards”. Mattimoe and Nagao, however, speculate that a correct early definition (Andrews' “a fathom and a half”¹) was mistakenly copied as “a half fathom.”

1. Lorrin Andrews.
A dictionary of the Hawaiian language, to which is appended an English-Hawaiian vocabulary and a chronological table of remarkable events.
Honolulu, H. I.: [Printed by H. M. Whitney?, 1865?]

George E. Mattimoe and Robert H. Nagao.
A Brief History of Weights and Measures in Hawaii.
Weights and Measures Branch, Dept. of Agriculture, State of Hawaii, 1967.

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