Symbolically Speaking: The Alphabet (Part 4)

q_woolQ – Ball of Wool
Circa 1000 BC, the letter ‘Q’ was introduced, sounding like “kwaff” and meaning “ball of wool.”  Although the circular part of the letter was there since its inception, the ‘tail’ portion moved around quite a bit, first as a vertical line down the middle.  Later in 520 BC, the Romans moved the line to its current lower-right position, and determined that the letter “U” should always follow the “Q.”


r_profileR—A Person in Profile
The Semitics introduced the letter “R” as a symbol for a human’s profile.  It was pronounced “resh,” and meant “head.”  The Romans then flipped it to the opposite direction and included a tail, likely to differentiate it from the letter “P.”


s_bowS—The Archer’s Bow
The letter “S” first came into use around 3600 years ago.  Its curvy shape was representative of an archer’s bow.  It was initially a horizontally-oriented letter, but it was the Greeks who stood it up, and gave it the name “sigma,” as well its “s” sound.


t_markT—The Mark
“X” might mark the spot now, but this was not always the case.  The Phoenicians’ name for the letter “T” was “taw,” which translates to “mark.”  The Greeks later gave it the name “tau,” and then added the cross stroke at the top to help make it distinguishable from other letters.


u_pegU—The Peg
Around 1000 BC, the Phoenicians introduced what would become the letter “U”, although it started out looking more like our letter “Y.”  They called this letter “waw” which was their word for “peg.”  About 300 years later, the Greeks adapted the letter and renamed it “upsilon.”

Symbolically Speaking: The Alphabet (Part 3)


L – God

The letter ‘L’ first emerged around 1800 BC as a hook-shaped symbol called “El”, a Semitic word for “God”.  Then, the Phoenicians got a hold of it, flipped it around and called it “lamed” (lah-med), which meant “cattle prod”.  Finally, the Romans came along and changed the hook shape into a right angle, giving the ‘L’ the form we know today.




M – Water

The Egyptians originated the ‘M’ as a vertical wavy line with five peaks, a symbol for “water”.  It was then reduced to three peaks, and then finally to two peaks by the Phoenicians, who also gave it a horizontal orientation, thus creating the modern ‘M’.





N – The Cobra

The second snake on our list (the first being the letter ‘J’), the Egyptians created the letter ‘N’ circa 1800 BC as a representation of a cobra.  The Semitics gave it the familiar ‘n’ sound, and the Greeks later renamed it “nu” about 800 years later.





O – The Eye

An Egyptian hieroglyph meaning “eye” and also called “ayin” by the Semitics, the letter ‘O’ ultimately got its current shape from the Phoenicians, who simplified the shape of the letter by making it a single circle.





P – The Mouth

You’ve likely seen the ubiquitous :p emoji, where the letter ‘P’ is used to symbolize a mouth.  But did you know the Semitics beat us to the punch 4,000 years ago?  The Phoenicians adapted the letter by adding a hook shape at the top.  The Romans closed the hook, flipped the letter around and in 200 BC gave the world the modern letter ‘P’.

Symbolically Speaking: The Alphabet (Part 2)

gcamelG – The Camel

The letter ‘G’ was once known as the Phoenician letter ‘gimel’, which meant “camel”.  Many believe this was the inspiration for its shape.  Both the Phoenicians and the Greeks pronounced this letter with the familiar guttural ‘g’ sound.




hfenceH – The Fence

It’s not hard to see how the letter ‘H’ began as an Egyptian hieroglyphic of a fence.  One of the most controversial letters in the language, it was argued by ancient academics that the letter was an unnecessary one due to its breathy (non-consonant, non-vowel) sound.  Nevertheless, it has endured throughout the centuries.



ihandI – The Arm and Hand

We have the Greeks to thank for the vertical orientation of the letter ‘I’.  It began life as “yod”, and was originally a depiction of an arm and hand.





jsnakeJ – The Snake

Some believe the letter ‘J’ is a simple symbol of a snake.  However, others argue that because of its visual similarity to its alphabetical neighbor ‘I’, ‘J’ was often overlooked and not even considered a “real” letter of the alphabet until 400 years ago when the Spanish began adopting it heavily.  We’ll go with the snake explanation since it is easier to represent here!



khandK – The Open Palm

Turns out Star Trek’s Mr. Spock wasn’t only telling us to “live long and prosper,” with his famous hand signal, he was actually doing an accurate representation of the original ‘K’ or “kaph” (meaning ‘palm of the hand’).  The Greeks then renamed it “kappa” and flipped it around to its current and familiar orientation.

HAWAIIANTEL Fraudulent E-mail

It has recently come to our attention that a fraudulent e-mail is circulating the internet under the Hawaiian Tel name.  If you received an e-mail from HAWAIIANTEL with the subject line, “URGENT – Browser Update..” please do not open the e-mail, nor click any links or buttons within the e-mail.  Clicking on links or buttons could compromise your personal information or potentially unleash a virus into your computer.  Delete the e-mail right away!

Below is a sample of what the e-mail may look like:



Here are a few tips to follow when you come across a suspicious e-mail like the one above:

Pay attention to the Sender.
Is the Sender really who they say they are?  If the e-mail is coming from someone you know, check to see that their e-mail address is the same as the one you have saved.  If you need to, give that person a call to ask if they really did send the e-mail.

If the e-mail is from someone you don’t know, just delete it.  If it was something important, then the sender should know how to reach you via other means.

Use the hover method. 
Instead of clicking on links, hover your mouse over the link instead.  In the bottom left of your browser window, the URL for the link will appear.  This is a good way to check if the link will actually lead you to where it says it would, or if it will lead you to a completely different scam site.

Use your common sense. 
Take a look at the layout of the e-mail.  Typos are a good indicator that the e-mail is a fraud.  Although the scam e-mail above doesn’t have any typos, there are still a few indicators that prove that it’s not really from Hawaiian Tel FCU:
–  There’s no logo, no mention of any of our locations, and no mention of our website
–  Funky formats: A huge red flag is how the e-mail displays the Credit Union’s name.  Although the e-mail is from HAWAIIANTEL, that is not a format that our Credit Union uses for our name.  You’ve seen Hawaiian Tel FCU and HiTel FCU for short, but never HAWAIIANTEL.  Another funky format, the beginning of the e-mail lists the date as 18 August instead of August 18th.
–  Has HiTel FCU ever e-mailed you to update your browser before?  It’s safe to say that we would never reach out to you via e-mail just to ask you to update your browser

It never hurts to ask.
If you’re really not sure if the e-mail is legitimate or not, it doesn’t hurt to call.  Especially if it’s a company that you do business with, like HiTel FCU or other financial institutions, a quick phone call to the company in question will let you know right away if they really sent the e-mail or not.


This has been a good reminder for all of us to be vigilant when we peruse through our e-mail messages.  Again, please do not click on any links or buttons.  And remember.. when in doubt, don’t.


Useful Tips for Disaster Preparedness

Disaster Emergency SuppliesIt’s been a hot summer so far, but with hot summers also come heavy rains, and possible hurricanes.  Hurricane Season runs from June 1st through November 30th every year.    Hurricanes are a triple-threat disaster that could bring heavy rain, heavy winds, and flooding.  This season, we were lucky to avoid Hurricane Hector, but it was a good reminder to prepare for when disaster may strike.  Here are a few useful tips for disaster preparedness:


Stay Up-to-Date
Thanks to today’s technology, there are so many different ways to get real time information on hurricanes and other impending natural disasters.  Tune in to your TV or radio for your trusted news source.  Check your phone or computer for current updates on Social Media.  Did you know that certain social media platforms also allow you to mark yourself “safe” during a known disaster in your area?


Know Your Escape Routes
Some disasters may call for an evacuation.  In the event that you do need to leave, make sure you have a route (and an alternate route!) planned out.  If you are ordered to leave, do so right away; waiting or ignoring the order can be dangerous.  Make sure all family members are accounted for, including pets.  Check if your local shelter will allow pets; if they don’t, have an alternative plan to keep them safe.


Secure Your Home
While certain disasters require you to leave, other scenarios might force you to shelter in place.  In the event that you are stuck at home, make sure your house is secure and safe enough to stay in.  Stock up on material that you can use to board up your windows during strong winds.  Keep a generator handy for when the power goes out.


Stock Up on Food
Generally speaking, you should have enough food to last 3 days per person.  However, because Hawaii is so isolated and it may take longer for help to come during a disaster, it is suggested that you should stock up on food to last at least a couple of weeks.  The best food to stock up on are non-perishables, such as canned food, cereals, canned juice, protein bars, dried food.  If you have a baby, don’t forget to stock up on baby food for them and also pet food for your pets.

How Safe is Online Shopping?

Paper boxes in a shopping cart.

In 2017, more than 1.6 billion people around the world shopped for goods online, driving global sales via e-retail to a whopping 2.3 trillion dollars (U.S.).  Amazingly, this number is expected to nearly double in the next three years.* In short, online shopping has become a juggernaut that is just too big to ignore.  As scores of once-stalwart big name retailers like Sears, K-Mart and Toys ‘R’ Us are either scaling back their locations or closing their doors completely, it’s clear that “brick and mortar” is increasingly being replaced by “click and order.”

The huge shift toward shopping on the internet seems to suggest that consumers have a high level of confidence in the safety and security of their online transactions.  But in this age of near-constant news stories of cyber-hacking and data compromise, exactly how safe is online shopping?  The good news is that most experts agree that the e-retail environment is, in fact, relatively safe and that you are more likely to have your credit card information compromised over the phone, in a restaurant or through the mail than you are on the web.

Still, the old adage “better safe than sorry” applies, so here are a few tips to help make sure your online shopping activities don’t bring you more than you bargained for.


Safe Shopping

  • Go with what you know. Only visit websites of brands that you know and are familiar with. Be vigilant.  Look for clues to a website’s authenticity.  Often, misspellings, poor grammar, and a site design that is just plain ugly are top indicators that you are on a fraudulent website.
  • What’s in a (domain) name? Legitimate sites usually have short, clean domain names (e.g.,,,, whereas fraudulent ones have long, overly hyphenated and unsightly names like and What’s more, they often mislead you by including the name of legitimate online stores or brands in their domain name. For example, or may seem okay at first glance, but after a closer look, they become suspicious.
  • Be Wi-Fi wary. Shopping using Wi-Fi hotspots (such as those found in coffee shops or airports) should be avoided. These public Wi-Fi networks are fertile ground for hackers to steal your information.
  • Avoid going viral. Before attempting ANY online activity, it is important to have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your computer. Malwarebytes is a popular (and free) choice.
  • No kidding around. Make sure your kids are unable to access your online accounts or credit card and bank account information. Although this would seem like a no-brainer, there have been many incidents where kids inadvertently (and maybe not so inadvertently) racked up thousands of dollars of purchases on their parents’ cards.


Checkout Checklist

  • The bare minimum. Only give the necessary information that is required to complete your online purchase. If a question or uncertainty regarding your transaction leads to a phone call with a customer service agent, keep in mind that personal information should NEVER be shared over the phone unless you initiated the call.  Also, if you receive any unsolicited requests for your passwords, or bank account or credit card information, do not reply to them.
  • Rely on your pay pals. Payments should only be made using methods that have a solid track record such as PayPal or Amazon’s Log-in-and-Pay. It is a good idea to use credit cards whenever possible, since your purchases will (in most cases) be insured.  If you suspect your credit card information may have been compromised (either via a fraudulent website or a suspicious email), contact your credit card company right away.


Wrapping it up

  • Log off before you rush off. Once you are done with your online shopping spree, don’t forget to log off. This is especially important if other people have access to your computer or if you have used a computer in a public place, such as a library or Wi-Fi network.
  • Keep the receipts. Be sure to print and save all receipts and records of your online transactions.
  • Scrutinize your statements. Make a habit of going through your credit card statements each month. Be thorough.  Report any unauthorized charges or suspicious activity right away.