Monday, June 06, 2011

Pinoy Etymologies

 I’m blank. I want to talk about something, but my mind is blank. What do I expect, anyway?

Maybe I should talk about etymologies of Filipino words.

I have always wondered why a friend is called kaibigan in Filipino. The root word is “ibig” which is want or love. Ka-ibi-gan means lover or some one you love. Maybe the word itself shows how special friends or friendship is for the Filipinos. In English the word is “friend” which may have been derived from the word “fried chicken” or may even be derived from the word “fiend” or “fries.”  Naaahhhh…

How about pansit? I don’t believe in the Chinese etymology of the word about it meaning food that is easy to cook or something. I think pansit comes from two Filipino words “pang-siit.” Siit means shavings or a tiny piece of wood or bamboo. So pansit could mean pang-siit or food that is supposed to fill in, not a main course but a snack or something.

Sapatos.  The Spanish etymology zapata or sapata or whatever is way, way off the mark. Sapatos came from three English words. Yes, the word’s etymology is English: Zap-those-toes. There was this story of an American soldier who befriended a Filipino revolutionary during the Filipino-American War (or according to American history books “the Filipino Insurrection”). According to legends, the American and the Filipino solider were having a drink when the Pinoy removed his native footwear to the astonishment of the American, “Heavens! What is that?” The Filipino saw his friend looking at his shoes (actually the foreigner is looking at his corned toes). The revolutionary said, “Pangyapak!” The Americans shouted, “zap-those –toes.” “Heavens, those corns need to be removed by zpping them witgh branding rod! Zap-those-toes!” The Filipino revolutionary said, “Ang tawag sa inyo nito ay sapatos!” Yes! Zap-those-toes!  Burn them!”

Anyway, there was an interesting book I read a few years ago. It was written by the historian Ambeth Ocampo and the title of the book was “Looking Back.” According to the book, Mr.  Guillermo Tolentino, National Artist forwarded etymologies of his own which “the National Language Institute may not agree with.” He quoted the word “biyenan” or father/mother in law which came from the word biyaya or blessings. How was that? Here was his explanation verbatim:

“Children in Philippine culture are seen to be blessings or gifts from God. The people who give up this biyaya (their children in marriage) became biyenan from the contraction “biyayang pinabayaan.”

In my case i.e. I have wonderful in-laws; the etymology is appropriate—nagpabaya ng biyaya. But for the people who do not get along with their in-laws, they would have different etymology. My suggestion is that the word biyenan came from the Tagalog word “bayaan na iyan.” If you say them faster you’ll have a better appreciation of my theory. “Bayaan na iyan…bayan yan…and still shorter…bayae yan…more mutations and it becomes, “biyenan.”
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I ask my friend how his in laws are doing. His reply, “bayae yang mga balewalang biyenan na iyan!”
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When I was still courting my wife, my brother in law, when drunk, would lay a sleeping mat in front of me and say, “I’m sleeping. Quiet!” Of course, now, I get along with brother in laws well. The Filipino word for brother in law is bayaw. According to Tolentino, the etymology of bayaw came from two Tagalog words: “aba ayaw.”

I don’t know if this is a feasible explanation but I have a better theory. I think the word “bayaw” came from the word “ba tagay.” I’m serious because that’s how I won my brother in law’s heart, “Ramil , ba tagay na!” Which with more drinks the word becomes, “bwwwaaarrrkkkkkk…complete with the pulutan spewing out from his nose.”

Nahhh…I’m not making any sense at all.


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