Jose A. Carillo


A few days ago, I received e-mail from Mr. Fred Natividad, a Filipino resident of Livonia, Michigan, asking me to comment on the following mass mailing:

“Ever heard the word ‘fiscalizer’ used extensively on Philippine TV by politicians, especially senators and their supporters?

“Well, sorry to burst the bubble, but ‘fiscalizer’ is another imbento ng Pinoy! [Filipino invention].

(A link was provided in the e-mail to a purported history of the word “fiscalizer.”)

My reply to Fred:

I checked out the indicated site and found it very informative, if a tad too partisan for my taste. I’d like to be as dispassionate as possible about English vocabulary matters, you see.

Anyway, what I know is that “fiscalizer” isn’t really a new Filipino neologism. If my memory serves me well, it was already in vogue way back in the late ’60s, often resurfacing during a national election or if a showdown in the Philippine Senate or Lower House was in the offing. I remember that because of its strong publicity recall, this or that politician would appropriate “fiscalizer” to describe himself or herself, or media would tack the label on a particular “fighting” politician. This would be regardless of whether the image of a righteous fighter really fit that politician, or whether that politician had first checked out with a reputable dictionary what “fiscalizer” meant in the first place. The important thing was that once the tag had stuck on the politician, he or she should cultivate to the hilt the reputation of a fierce combatant for anything worth ranting or railing against.

As far as I knew, however, no respectable dictionary had recognized “fiscalizer” yet as an English word, but then, who had ever stopped an enterprising Filipino wordsmith or politician from coining a new English word from scratch—words like, say, “salvage” (which actually means the opposite) for “kill”? Just to be doubly sure, though, I checked my digital Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary (the latest edition) and found that it still has no entry for either “fiscalize” or “fiscalizer.” All it has is an entry for the adjective “fiscal,” which means “of or relating to taxation, public revenues, or public debt” and “of or relating to financial matters.”

I therefore would imagine that since the adjective “fiscal” denotes money things and not fighter things, the most appropriate meaning “fiscalize” could have is “monetize,” and “fiscalizer,” well, “monetizer.” I’m sure, of course, that none of the self-proclaimed, home-grown “fiscalizers” would want this particular meaning to stick, for “monetizer” sounds so demeaning, so déclassé—as if an honest-to-goodness “fiscalizer” does the “fiscalizing” not for honor but only for the money.

Anyway, as to its domestic usage, I did a media check on “fiscalizer” and found that one of the Philippine presidential candidates, Senator Manuel Villar Jr., had actually identified himself as a “fiscalizer” way back in November 2008 when he was ousted as Senate president. Even earlier than that, in 2007, Senator Joker Arroyo had also appropriated the “fiscalizer” tag for himself when he ran under the Administration’s Team Unity ticket despite having become critical of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

In the current national election season, I can see that it’s Senator Benigno Aquino 3rd who has seized “fiscalizer” as campaign tag and persona, describing himself as such in an interview on ABS-CBN’s Probe Profiles. So now “fiscalizer” has just gotten a new lease on life in an altogether new context. It must again fight for survival and legitimacy in the lexicon, and its fate as an English word will largely depend on the outcome of the coming Philippine presidential elections.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens to “fiscalize” and “fiscalizer” when the final poll tallies are out. These two words just might land a well-deserved place in the English lexicon—or be consigned to semantic oblivion for all time.

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