Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Filipino English

- Rod Velez

As a country, we are not native English speakers but we have adopted the language and have invented unique ways of speaking it or integrating it into our own native tongue. Some words have been corrupted, others have been invented, and still some have evolved. Regardless, here are 40 of the most common words or phrases in what we call “Filipino English”. Enjoy!

  1. "Tambay" (tam-bha-ee) - from the english word 'stand by' which being adopted locally, has come to mean a bum or someone who is waiting somewhere for nothing while killing time.

  1. "Close the light" or "Kill the light" - a literal translation of the phrase 'turn off the light' spoken in Filipino. There is no word in Filipino to turn something off. The word for it has the same meaning as to 'close' or 'shut off' something or to 'kill it'.

  1. "At my back" - another literal translation of the Filipino sentence meaning 'behind me'. This is a common answer when asked for directions or the location of an object. The Filipino phrase is 'nasa likod ko' and the tendency is to translate it literally.

  1. "wan, tu, tree, por, payb..." - we have adopted the number words of English and Spanish and these are used interchangeably especially when you're shopping at the local wet market. The main difference is the accent where stress on the syllables are flat and long and the sound of the letter F is replaced by the sound of a P, and V sounds like B. Why did we adopt this system? Because of brevity; for example, it's easier to say 'one twenty three' or 'siento veinte tres' than it is to say 'isang daan dalawampu't tatlo'.

  1. "Ref" - we have the same nickname for a refrigerator and a referee. Although, some older folks  still call a fridge a 'Frigidaire' (with variations in the pronunciation).

  1. "Actually" (ak-tua-lee) - used liberally at the beginning of any sentence. It may or may not mean it's true definition but Filipinos love filler words (because we have them and we want them translated to other languages even when they don't mean the same thing).

  1. '''no?" (nh-o) - Like the French, we use the same word at the end of a sentence to ask for validation. Like when we ask "I'm right, yes?" Filipinos instead have a tendency to ask "I'm right, 'no?" That's because our word to validate something is 'ano' (which is the same word as 'what' but has a different definition and has a tendency to be a filler word) but abbreviated by dropping the 'a' (literally, it means 'right?' or 'isn't it?'). So we have a tendency to use our own local word for validation  and incorporate it into an English sentence, 'no?

  1. "i" (eee) - This is the one device that Filipinos love to use to convert an English word into a local verb in present tense. Pronounced as "ee", it's placed in front of any word to make it active. Like "i-convert mo" which means "convert it". If there was such a thing as the grammar police, this device should be outlawed as it's slowly killing the mother tongue.

  1. "Sir" (se-r) - We're a respectful people and we love nicknames and terms of endearment - even for our bosses. You'll hear us call people in authority by a playful nickname like 'bossing', 'amo', 'supremo', 'manager', etc. But one of the most confusing titles to Westerners, especially the men, is when we call them 'Sir' followed by their name. To a Filipino, this is just a way to say 'Mister '. Unfortunately, to a Westerner, putting 'Sir' before a name is reserved for Knights, so it sort of rattles them.

  1. "Excuse me" and "Thank you" - These phrases have found their way into our local mainstream languages and dialects. Wherever you are and whoever you're talking to, the accent is the only thing that changes but they mean the same. We rarely use the local phrases anymore. Most Filipinos just say it in English. Thank you.

  1. "Swimming pool" - maybe I'm wrong but I can't recall that we have a local term for a swimming pool so we just use the English name for it.

  1. "Chick boy" - It's English but only a Filipino would understand that it means a playboy or a gigolo. The logic is that you're the kind of boy who likes chicks (or that you're a chick magnet); hence, chick boy. Sarcastically, and in a vulgar way, it can also mean gay or bisexual. The logic of which is... oh its self explanatory.

  1. "Long hair" - Colloquial. Locally, when someone refers to you as 'long hair', it means you're a rocker. Reminiscent of hard rock and heavy metal bands whose members usually sport long hair.

  1. "Tissue" and "Napkin" - Ok pay attention, this can get confusing... When a Filipino asks for tissue, they can mean either of 3 things; toilet paper or a table napkin or a piece of tissue. It really depends on the situation and the location. So for example, if they're at a restaurant and they ask for tissue, they actually mean table napkin. If they're in the restroom, well, use your imagination.

So what about napkin? When a Filipina (mind the gender) asks for a napkin, they mean a sanitary pad. This is the reason why waiters at local Filipino restaurants sometimes smile or laugh when  Westerners ask for a napkin, they automatically think 'why would he be asking me for a sanitary pad?'

  1. "C.R." - Short for 'comfort room', this is what Filipinos call their toilets. It's interesting though how different English speaking countries have different names for this space. In English-speaking Asia (except for the Philippines), the tendency is to call it a toilet, in the UK it's a loo, in the US it's a men's room or a ladies room. What is interesting about calling it C. R. though is that we don't have a name for a bathroom where, as the name suggests, you take a bath. We just refer to both as a C.R.

  1. "For a While" - Is a complete sentence in the Philippines, because we treat the word 'while' as a measure of time, like 'moment' or 'minute'. So when a Filipino says "for a while", they're asking for more time, as in "just a moment, please". Unfortunately, in proper English, it's an incomplete sentence.

  1. "Come again?" - No, you're not being invited back. If you spoke too softly and what you said bears repeating, you get asked to say it one more time. So 'come again' is synonymous to 'say again?' or 'what was that?' or 'could you retreat what you said?'

  1. "As in" - Have you ever heard the phrase 'as if!' said on American TV? Well, 'as in' is pretty much in the same vein. Filipinos use it to express surprise, disbelief, or indignation about something someone did sometime. For example, "He left me for another woman!", to which the friend would say, "As in? Really? The nerve!"

  1. "Thanks, God" (yes, there is an “s” after ‘Thank’) - This one is a bit unusual because it isn't a verbatim translation of the usual Filipino phrase. The standard sentence for expressing gratitude to God in Filipino is "salamat sa Diyos" which translates perfectly to "Thank God". But for some colloquial reason, some of the countrymen refer to God in a 2nd person jovial manner; like, "thanks, Mike!" or "thanks, boss". It's awkward, not very formal, and if you use it often, be careful when you walk outside in a thunderstorm...

  1. "You want?" - This is another one of those verbatim translations which when said in Filipino translates word for word (in reverse). The local sentence is "gusto mo?" (which by the way is half Spanish, but that's for another write-up). It is awkward because the English is incomplete but it is completely understandable.

  1. "Carry!" - Used to mean that a task is doable, it is immediately followed by a Filipino pronoun to refer to the object. It evolved from Filipinos expressing a positive attitude in carrying a heavy load or bearing through a heavy burden.

  1. "Power" - You probably have always known the difference between power, electricity, and voltage because you grew up in the 80s hearing enough of Scotty tell Captain Kirk it isn't possible to produce any more of it. Unfortunately, we mix up those terms here in the Republic. So if there is a blackout, you'll likely hear us say there is 'no power' or 'no electricity'; which, when you think about it, is sort of right.

  1. "Brownout" - Simply put, this is our local way of referring to a blackout. There are two things you need to understand about it; first, local blackouts are almost routine so they are not considered a catastrophe like in an industrialized country. They therefore do not deserve to be called  black, just brown. Secondly, when we use the term 'blackout', what we are talking about is someone passing out. So we distinguish between the two; blackout and brownout.

  1. “Blowout” - Are you confused yet? Well, here’s another one “blowout”. This is one of a few Filipino-English words that doesn’t have a verbatim English translation (what an irony!). It means treating someone (or a group of people) to a free meal or snack because of some special occasion. And the special occasion can be anything mundane like “just because it’s the first Friday of the week”, or something as major as a promotion. We love celebrations!

  1. “Back of my head” or “Top of my head” - American idioms are fun but we tend to squeeze the life out of them when we mix up the words with literal Filipino translations. So when a local says “back of my head”, she actually means “back of my mind”. And when they say “top of my head”, that’s almost right except it’s just missing the word “off” for “off the top of my head”. But hey, they still work whichever way they’re used!

  1. “Next next” - Just count the number of “next” and you should be good to go. For example, when a Filipino says “I’ll see you next next week”, they are supposed to meet you after two weeks. It’s the same in reverse when you’re told that “We met him last last last week”, which you can pretty much guess to mean three weeks ago. Awkward but nifty.

  1. “Major major” - No relation whatsoever to “next next” or “last last”. This one is another one of those literal translation of our common linguistic tools on adjectives. The explanation is actually simple, Filipinos emphasize a colloquial sentiment by repeating the word. So if an English speaker says “Big, bigger, biggest”, a Filipino would playfully translate that to “Laki, laki-laki, laki-laki-laki!” Therefore, a “major major event” can also be said as a “very major event”.

  1. “Salvage” - Made infamous during the Marcos dictatorship, “salvage” has come to mean a murder or a summary execution usually by someone in power. It’s just ironic to think that the actual English meaning of the word is the opposite of how it is used locally.

  1. “Ice drop” - Admittedly, it’s a more descriptive way of saying “popsicle” because the “ice” or the frozen treat, tends to fall or “drop” off the stick. Hence, “ice drop”. But, it’s just a popsicle made of different local flavors.

  1. “Idol!” - If you’re an NBA superstar, Filipinos will call you this in admiration. No, they don’t mean to turn you into a god. It’s just our local English word for “role model”. So when someone calls out to you “Idol!”, don’t expect them to offer dead birds and wild bulls, they’re just looking up to you.

  1. “I will demand you!” - What this actually means is “I will sue you!” but we rarely use the Filipino word for “sue” or “take to court”. Instead, the default is to use the Spanish word for it, “demandar”.

  1. “Game!” - Literally, this means “game on!” to indicate the start of play. But hey, who needs the extra syllable at the end? Its just too much work. So we just drop it; “game!”

  1. “Apir!” (uh-peer) - We love Glenn Burke without even knowing it. So when a Filipino says “apir!” he is saying “up here!” to indicate a request for a high five. To make it sound more authentic, repeat the word to give it emphasis like, “apir! apir!” (see “major major”).

  1. “Like that” (? or !) - On the surface, it means the exact same thing in English especially when asking if something is correct. The Filipino word to translate it literally is “ganyan”. But it can also be it’s own answer, meaning “Yeah, that’s the way to do it!” So when a Filipino asks you “‘like that?” to ask for confirmation, you can answer “‘yeah, ‘like that!”.

  1. “Sorry, we're close” - Admit it, English verbs and tenses are confusing. And the word “close” is no exception. Every time you see this posted at an establishment though (“Sorry, we’re close”), they don’t mean they have an intimate relationship with you, they just mean they’re not open for business. Somebody just dropped the “D”!

  1. “We’ll go ahead” - We are one of the few cultures that have multiple ways and words for saying hello and goodbye. It’s almost like none of us want to be separated from each other. That’s why when a local says “we’ll go ahead”, that just means they are leaving ahead of you. The Filipino phrase is “mauna na kami”, which literally translates to “first, are we”. After saying this, it will probably take another 5 minutes before those saying goodbye will actually leave.

  1. “Reduce” - This is another one of those Filipino-English words that’s more Filipino than English and which again, doesn’t have a verbatim English translation even as it is an actual English word. Anyway, when a local says they will “reduce”, they mean they’ll go on a diet. For example, “Reduce ako” translates to “I’m on a diet”. The verbatim translation of “reduce ako” is “diet me”, which actually is also used as a colloquial text message phrase that means the same thing... See, we don’t let anything go to waste!

  1. “Time first!” - Can’t imagine adult Filipinos using this as it is only widely said by kids at play. Can you guess what it means? It’s real easy; it’s just used to call timeout. Kids just made a literal translation from the Filipino phrase.

  1. “In fairness” - It generally has the same definition as in English but it has also evolved to become a positive sarcastic response to a negative remark. As in, “She’s ugly! but in fairness, she’s got lovely hair.” Or it can also be used as an expression of awe. For example, when your wife emerges from the hairdresser with killer looks, you can go “Wow, in fairness, honey!” (and that’s a complete sentence).

  1. School terms like “iskul", "titser", "library", and measures of time - “iskul” is just a different way of spelling “school” when you think about it. It’s the same for “titser” which correctly spells as “teacher”. The actual Filipino term for library is “silid aklatan” which roughly converts to “room of books” but it’s easier to just say “library”. As for measures of time, this is much like the number system we’ve adopted from either English or Spanish; we’ve done the same thing for days of the week and months of the year because quite simply, we don’t have local words for them. So the word for “January” in the local language is also “January” or interchangeably, you can say it in Spanish, as in “Enero”.

12 Skills I Had As A Kid

by Rod Velez
Turning 40something demands a bit more introspection especially when you have a few new allergies, joint pains, and trouble reading smallish print. At least reminiscing the good old days when I had more abilities, brings a bit of nostalgia that is exactly the medicine needed to ease some of the frustration of what I can no longer do. So, here we go:
  1. Forge my parent’s signatures – This is one of the most useful things I learned when I was in the 6th grade because I could now sign my own report card! (Party pooper: Every time I did it, I told my parents and they never got angry. Promise!)
  2. Play the banduria or the violin while sitting, standing, or walking. Ric-my-cousin who taught me how to play the violin, actually still does this. (Party pooper: One of my other cousins sat on my banduria one time and I totally gave up on it after that.)  
  3. Pick locks/pockets for fun – Seriously, I got really good at this. We returned everything afterwards though without people ever knowing. Yes, I had the weirdest friends and I still love them all.
  4. Ride a pig – Dad had a small pig farm and when he was away, we’d ride the large pigs like bulls at a rodeo. (Party pooper: No, it was not fun when he asked us to clean the pens.)
  5. Catch “stuff” and put them in a bottle – You know, like leeches, worms, frogs, house lizards, wild lizards, beetles, ladybugs, and my favorite; dragonflies.
  6. Wake up on time without an alarm clock – Ok, maybe I had a little help because of the fact that we lived across the plaza from a church that went ding-ding-ding at 5:30am from Mon-Sat.
  7. Build playhouses out of discarded cardboard boxes – We built our own obstacles courses, houses, towers… all from mom’s discarded cardboard boxes (see #12), and we’d spend the whole afternoon playing inside them. (Party pooper: No, I can’t fit in those things anymore. I know because I tried.)
  8. Dismantle a typewriter – Clean it, oil it, then put it perfectly back together (no lose springs!)
  9. Park cars – It was a skill because back then I couldn’t even see the hood of the car yet, but my uncles were generous enough to let me park their cars. So, I looked forward to family reunions!
  10. Climb trees, pick fruit, and eat them while sitting in one of the branches – You’d be surprised how difficult it is to climb trees today. Maybe Fitness First should turn it into one of their regular exercise programs.
  11. Slide down a long staircase – Using a folded cardboard box like a magic carpet, we’d slide down a staircase (not on the railing, on the stairs) and crash into a shelf of shoes and slippers at the bottom (they stink but they soften the fall)
  12. Child labor – My mom ran a small grocery store when we were little, and from time to time she’d force us to be cashier, store hand, or stock room boy. Fun times. (Party pooper: Yes, I am a party pooper! Because my little brother and my little sister still do this for a living.)
Pardon an old fart reminiscing like this but I’d be happy to hear what you have on your list even if you can’t do most of them anymore.

I'm sure though, that the frogs I caught were way bigger than yours!