8 More Filipino Words That Don’t Translate to English
Aug 30, 2013   •   Wincy Aquino Ong
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Aug 30, 2013   •   Wincy Aquino Ong
Isn’t it ironic that we celebrate National Language Week every August of the year, not knowing that a number of pundits on the Internet say that Filipino is a dying language? Could it be true?
Further adding to the irony is the fact that the Internet itself, a thing created and funded by American corporations and hence one whose language of operation is English, is the one that could drive our beloved native tongue to the way of the dinosaurs. (Other foreign languages, as the pundits claim, have also heard their death knell.)
What’s sad too is I notice more and more young parents teaching English as a first language to their children. I see more and more nephews and nieces speaking like American children (or worse, like Valley girls), without a clue about basic Filipino words.
(Meanwhile, there are foreigners who make an effort to learn Tagalog, check out their videos here.)
What now of Filipino?
Give or take, how many more years are you betting on the Filipino language until it turns archaic? 30? 20? Five?
We here at 8List love our language so much and we think otherwise. So let’s all make like Manuel L. Quezon as we give you 8 more magically, mystically, truly Filipino words that will give the great big bully that is American English a run for its money.
pek·tus (pek′-toos) noun
An arcane technique involving the wrists, enabling things to spin and fly in glorious trajectory.
Ex. “Dagdagan mo pa ng pektus ‘yung tira mo. Para ma-shoot sa basket ‘yung bola.”
The first time I heard this, I thought my classmate was referring to some extinct Mexican plant, when he was actually refering to the lack of dexterity on my wrists for an angled spin of the basketball. A near extinct word, this is often heard being said by school children playing siyato or athletes practicing a game of ping-pong or billiards. A strange word indeed, whose origins leave us all dumbfounded. It’s a word that reminds me of that villain from Daredevil comics, Bullseye, who can weaponize any object with an uncanny flick of the wrist.
pang-i·lan (pang-i-lan′) noun
A uniquely Filipino pronoun that addresses the specific chronological sequence of a person, thing or event.
Ex. “Pang-ilang presidente si Diosdado Macapagal?”
In what order was Kennedy the President of the United States? If that were a question on Jeopardy, it would have really sounded awkward. Not so with the handy pronoun pang-ilan. And we wonder why Daniel Webster did not coin an English equivalent.
su·ya (soo′-ya) /u·may (oo′-mai) noun
Feelings of jadedness after eating too much food rich in starch or Ajinomoto.
Ex. “Nakaka-umay ‘yung lasa ng suman na ‘to.”
Blame it on our cuisine that oftentimes can just be too rich in flavor. Too rich, in fact, that instead of begging for seconds, we often just wash the taste down with a glass of water or balance it out by popping some Storck. These two words can only go hand in hand with our unique brand of cuisine, a cuisine big on polysaccharides and umami.
a·lim·pu·nga·tan (a-lim-poo-nga′-tan) noun
The feeling of being quickly jolted out of sleep for a few micro-seconds before falling back into deep slumber.
Ex. “Nakakatawa ang hitsura mo kapag naalimpungatan ka.”
Maybe it’s because that Filipinos love their forty winks, or that siesta was once a big part of our Latin-inpsired culture, that situations forced us to describe the various states of sleep. But yes, this word was invented to describe that eye-scratching state between sleep and wakefulness. The closest translation that can be culled from a dictionary of psychology is a hypnic jerk.
li·hi (lee′-hɪ) noun
A pregnant woman’s cravings for strange food choices in the wee hours of the morning.
Ex. “Bilhan mo ng manggang hilaw ang nanay mo. Naglilihi siya.”
And we wonder, do pregnant women from other countries experience this? Or is this another one of those alternative medicine terms (like hilot) our pre-American society coined? This is so unique to our culture that some believe that a baby absorbs the food’s properties! For example, if your mother craved milk during pregnancy, you’d probably be as fair as Kris Aquino.
sung·kit (soong-kit) verb
To reach or capture an object using an improvised hook.
Ex. “Nahulog ‘yung phone ko sa butas. Sungkitin natin.”
Yeah, we Filipinos are the kings of improvised solutions and we could easily put MacGyver to shame. Much so that it was imperative to invent a verb when we use a clothes hanger to reach for something stuck under the bed. Of course, sungkit does not end with jerry-built devices. Some Pinoys use their foot to triumph over unreachable things.
ku·lit (koo′-lit) adjective
1 The state of being bothersome and anal-rententive to a fault. Ex. “Huwag kang makulit! May ginagawa ako.”
2 The state of being funny in a clever and playful way. Ex. “Ang kulit ni Junie Lee sa Bubble Gang.”
Again, a word used so often by Pinoys that it eventually bred a more positive-sounding meaning to describe comedy gold. Americans, of course, know the negative one, the all-too-familiar trait, when their kids keep on asking, “Are we there yet?”
daw (dao) adverb
A one-syllable adverb used to connote allegation or suspicion.
This is could be voted the funniest-sounding Filipino word as heard by foreigners who visit our lovely archipelago.
The closest adverb the English language can offer is “allegedly.” Close, but no cigar. Only newsreporters and opinion columnists use “allegedly.” Daw is less snobbish.
Yes, folks, no English word can unseat the effortless, always useful, one-syallable word that is the mighty daw.
What do you think of these words? Did we miss anything? Share in the Comments Section.
P.S. Perhaps you’d like to check out 8 Instances of American English versus Filipino English.
Lady enjoyed Math during primary and secondary school. After a friend asked for a portrait sketch as a graduation gift, her dream of being an accountant changed into wanting a life in creative advertising design--making it then difficult to solve math problems. Lady now spends most of her time creating art-related works and turns her humor and wittiness into comics and illustrations. She's currently a designer for 8List. See most of her artworks, fashion blogs, and inspirations at leidysorrain.tumblr.com.
Wincy Aquino Ong is a Filipino author, illustrator, musician, director, actor, and podcaster. He is mostly known as a songwriter for the bands Narda, Us-2 Evil-0 and Patience Dear Juggernaut, the director behind the films San Lazaro and Overtime, and an actor in the TV series Rakista. He is also the co-host of the podcast The Telebabad Tapes. A lover of the horror genre, he has written and illustrated for the horror books Tales For A Rainy Season and PICOF's Darkness Anthology.
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