• Pinoy lengua prangka: once more wid peeling

    Efren Danao

    Efren Danao

    (There’s such a surfeit of commentaries on pork barrel and on Janet Lim Napoles that I decided to write again on something not political. This should have been more appropriate for the Buwan ng Wika, but then, it’s better late than later. Here goes:)

    The housewife gave a piece of meat to her hubby and asked him to put it on the “priser.”

    Of course, she meant “freezer.” This is a common mispronunciation among ordinary Pinoys whose alphabet doesn’t contain “f” or “z.”Despite the wrong pronunciation, the husband understood what she meant. So who cares about mispronouncing words when one can be understood? After all, that’s the main aim of communication—to be understood. A Kapampangan may order “am and hegg” or a hotel employee may ask “Chick-in sir?” and we all know what they meant. A politician in the 2004 presidential campaign was encouraging the audience to cheer for “FPG” when what he meant was “FPJ.”

    Incidentally, a friend from Cagayan Valley told me that the people of Pampanga are not the only ones with no problem pronouncing “f.”He said that the Ibanags of the region also have no such problem. In fact, many family names there start with “f.”

    There are mispronunciations that take an unintended meaning. There was the guy who talked about another who had a second thought about a business deal. “Nag –sekan tot,” he said without any malice.

    Sometimes, however, a common word suddenly sounds like Greek because of mispronunciation. This breakdown in communication is exemplified by the girl who said that her father was a “bicker.” When asked what her father does, she replied: “Why, he bicks kicks.”

    Well, sometimes, the pronunciation is correct but the word used is wrong. This reminds me of a legislator who was about to deliver his maiden privilege speech. He strode like a conquering hero into the podium, looked to the left, looked to the right, and when he was assured that he had the complete attention of his audience, boomed: “Mr. Chamber.”

    Considering the frequent wrangling between the House and the Senate on which is the better chamber, I won’t reveal if that speaker was a senator or a congressman. (Congressmen love to call the House “The Big Chamber” and the Senate, “The Small Chamber.” They dislike being referred to as belonging to the lower house.)A congressman accentuated this rivalry with an anecdote. He said that a congressman was fast asleep when he was awakened by his frantic wife, who heard noises downstairs.

    “Honey, wake up! There’s a thief in the house,”she said, almost in panic.

    “Don’t be silly. There’s no thief in the House. Maybe in the Senate,” the congressman said as he went back to sleep.

    Here’s another classic example of the wrong word used. A Filipino in the village was visited by a Fil-Am whom he used to baby-sit. The Fil-Am could not speak Tagalog but this was of no moment to the villager who wanted to use the conversation as an opportunity to show off his knowledge of English. The Fil-Am was surprised when he learned that the villager and his wife were still childless and he inquired why.

    “It’s because of Maria – she’s impregnable”

    “What?” the Fil-Am said wide-eyed.

    The villager thought his English was too high for the Fil-Am’s understanding, so he used a simpler explanation.

    “My wife is inconceivable”

    The reaction of the Fil-Am indicated that he still didn’t understand his old friend so the latter gave another explanation using the simplest term he knew.

    “You know Maria, my wife – she is unbearable.”



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