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Flood of bad usage

Language Matters


Last of a series)

This last part of our series almost wrote itself. I made frequent notes as I watched TV or listened to the radio. The habagat (monsoon) brought its watery torment and, with it, a flood of bad usage of Filipino in the media.

But the readers on Facebook were more insistent: “Just heard on Teleradyo: ‘Gusto silang palikasin ngunit hindi nila maiwan ang kanilang kahayupan …’” (Irate reader addresses me directly) “Ano’ng kahayupan ito!?”

I laughed till I cried. “Sa gitna ng trahedya, lumutang ang kagandahang-loob …” (I was weeping profusely.)

“Sa Taft, bulbol na ang trapik!” (My tears coincided with the flood in the streets.)

“Nagpila-balde ang mga lumikas upang tumanggap ng relief goods…”

Apologies. We mustn’t have fun while others might be drowning. But my job as grammar police (part-time, voluntary and unpaid) obliges me to make the following corrections:

1) Kahayupan does not mean animals or pets, but animality. Kahayupan, like its English equivalent, means lust and beastly behavior. Mga hayop should do the job.

2) Lumutang should be lumitaw. If kagandahang-loob (a very noble Filipino value) ay lumutang na, it probably drowned in the flood. The proper word is lumitaw, to appear.

Mas magandang lumitaw ang kagandahang-loob sa panahon ng trahedya kaysa lumutang.

3) The traffic gets snarled. Buhol na ang trapik. The word used refers to part of the anatomy. (On second thought, it might work figuratively?)

4) Pumila should do the work to describe refugees lining up for relief. Pila-balde is usually a line of people carrying pails (balde) filled with water to help put out a fire. The thought is nice but the wrong word was used.

Then a flood of readers’ reminiscences of bad usage followed. The most memorable was last year’s

koryente: “Hindi makatawid sa ilog ang rescue team dahil sa lakas ng koryente.”

In Filipino, koryente can only mean electric current. To refer to the flow of water, it should be agos.

In journalism, everyone knows the other meaning of koryente. A false lead. “Akala mo naka-scoop ka? Nakoryente ka, ano?”

“Nakoryente ’yung announcer na nagko-cover ng baha na may nakawan daw ng relief goods.” It could mean electrocuted. Or, “Nakoryente siya, ano?”

But back to the current flood of bad usage. “Sobrang taas na po ng lalim ng baha.” That should be “Ang taas na po ng baha. Lampas-baiwang na.”

Fortunately, the torrential monsoon rains have passed. And with them the torment of bad usage. We hope.

Meanwhile, our able rescue and relief teams, including volunteers, are hard at work, armed with kagandahang-loob and pakikipagkapuwa-tao.

“Salamat na lang at lumilitaw ang mabubuting ugaling Filipino na ito sa panahon ng sakuna. Hindi lumulutang.”

Isang ligtas at maligayang Buwan ng Wika po sa inyong lahat.

Marne Kilates is an award-winning poet and translator from Filipino into English. He has won the Palanca and the National Book Awards for his poetry and translation. In 2008 he was given the SEA Write Award by the Thai royalty.

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Tags: bad usage , language , Learning

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