Philippine English in the October 2018 update

Philippine English in the October 2018 update

In its latest update, the Oxford English Dictionary published several new words from Philippine English. These new additions are notable for having been brought to the dictionary’s attention by Filipino speakers of English who answered the OED’s online call for word suggestions.

This crowdsourcing appeal resulted in an interesting selection of words representing different aspects of Philippine life and culture. Many of the words are related to Filipino food items, whose varied linguistic origins reflect the diverse international influences that have enriched Filipino cuisine: bagoong from Tagalog, bihon from Hokkien, turon and sorbetes from Spanish, ensaimada from Catalan.  Even the words referring to places where Filipinos eat are equally hybrid in nature: carinderia, referring to a typical Filipino food stall, is from kari, the Tagalog word for curry, which itself was borrowed from Tamil, combined with the Spanish suffix –teria, the same ending as in the word cafeteria. Following the same pattern is the word panciteria, signifying a Philippine noodle stall (Tagalog pancit for ‘noodle’, ultimately from Hokkien + Spanish teria suffix).

Dirty ice cream is another food word that may sound surprising to non-Filipinos, but it’s just another term for sorbetes, the traditional Philippine ice cream that is usually sold by ambulant vendors from colourfully painted handcarts. For the unusual name, we can thank generations of Filipino children who gleefully ignored their mothers’ warnings not to buy ‘dirty’ street food.

Lexical creativity in Philippine English is further illustrated by other idiosyncratic usages in this batch of new words. Filipinos accomplish forms and questionnaires rather than fill them out. A bold movie in the Philippines is not one that is particularly courageous or hard-hitting, but one that is erotic, risqué, or sexually explicit. For Filipinos, viand is not an archaic word for any article of food, but a current term for a meat, seafood, or vegetable dish that accompanies rice in a typical Filipino meal.

But perhaps no other word is more quintessentially Filipino than the word trapo—a derogatory term for a politician perceived as belonging to a conventional and corrupt ruling class. Trapo is a combination of the two words that make up the English phrase traditional politician, but it is also the Spanish word for a cleaning cloth, which has also been borrowed into Tagalog and other Philippine languages. This elevates trapo from a simple portmanteau to a clever and provocative play on words that equates a corrupt politician to a dirty rag, and from a mere loanword to a five-letter distillation of centuries of Philippine political, cultural, and linguistic history.

The twenty Philippine English words that have just been added to the OED demonstrate how the insider knowledge of local informants can help the dictionary in documenting the highly creative vocabulary of English speakers all over the world. The OED thanks everyone who contributed words to the Philippine English appeal, for making this update just that little bit more bongga.

Here you can find a list of the new Filipino words and senses added to the OED in the September 2018 update.

The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

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