YOUNG STAR: OF 'BROKEN' ENGLISH
MANILA, MARCH 20, 2008 (STAR) LODESTAR By Danton Remoto - Recently, I was watching Binibining Pilipinas on TV and was entranced by the sight of Jenina San Miguel: tall, beautiful cheekbones, neck like that of a swan. She didn’t walk, she glided. I knew she would land in the winner’s circle.
The roof of the Araneta Coliseum seemed to fall, though, when she spoke during the Q and A. Her English, with its broken tenses and subjects and verbs that didn’t agree, got the goat of the sharp uziseros. She was booed. But trust the Pinoy to be forgiving, and to root for the underdog. She apologized profusely, was humble — and cried buckets when she won as Bb. Pilipinas International She will represent the country in Kosovo where, as far as I know, English is not widely spoken.
I would have forgotten about it except that today, a fellow English professor of mine at the Ateneo said she saw Ruffa Gutierrez badmouthing Jenina for being “boba.” Since when does facility with English equate with smartness?
This English-only and English-prime mentality has been with us since the days the first Thomasites left their cattle ship U.S.S. Thomas and taught us English. Fast forward to 2008, where only three out of 100 applicants make it to call-center jobs, one of the few bright spots for employment in this country. And so, the calls coming from congressmen who want us to return to English as the only medium of expression. This is funny, because when you go to Congress and listen to them, the congressmen with the most hideous grammar are the ones advocating an English-only policy in the schools.
In this context, I welcome the book The More The Manyer: Pinoy Cliches and Other Words of Wisdumb designed by Ateneo faculty member Elbert Or and published by Tahanan Books. The dedication page starts with “I would like to thanks God, my mother, my father, but most of all my parents” by The Anon Pinoy and is seconded by “For my EN 11 students: remember to always English correctly” by Elbert Or himself.
The book is chock full of what is called “dartboard English.” It means that we Filipinos “rely on an arsenal of darts with which to poke at and deflate the English language: word omissions, phrase adulterations, mixed metaphors, poor syntax, bad grammar, you know… the sky’s the langit! ... and all to hilarious results when applied to decimating time-revered Western idioms.” (It may also refer to tossing a dart blindly and hoping it lands close to the correct word — Editor)
And what bull’s eyes they are. You have “right there and right then,” followed by “All of a suddenly.” A car is described as “It’s as brand as new.” And a freshman philosopher writes: “Every cloud has a silver lightning.” This one is for our brave matador: “If worse comes to shove... grab the bull by the balls.”
Man’s best friend would protest at this: “You’re barking at the wrong dog.” And a dead man would awaken when he would hear: “You hit the nail on the coffin.”
Words are misspelled: “Cease the day.” And welcome remarks become memorable with: “Let’s give them a big hand of applause.” Or: “Well, well, well. Look do we have here!”
And for us English teachers who are now burning in hell week before final exams week, this line from one student cheered us up: “What’s your next class before this?” A glossary of the correct English idioms is placed at the back of the book, but they are less entertaining than the main dishes of this book.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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