Monday, February 05, 2007

This is what happens when a former English teacher has PMS

I was reading the Sunday paper over lunch yesterday when I came across a phrase that always makes me cringe. A local celebrity was asked in an interview what her mom does for a living, and her response was "my mom's a plain housewife".

"Plain housewife". Why do Filipinos say that? It's not the first time I've seen the phrase used in a newspaper article. Applicants I've interviewed at our office use the same term when asked about their mothers. I've heard it used in local TV talk shows and radio programs. It's not just "housewife", but always "plain housewife", giving the impression that all housewives are homely (hey, I happen to know some housewives who are knockouts). If by "plain housewife" they mean to convey the idea that the woman is a mere housewife (as opposed to a doctor or an executive or Speaker of the House), then why don't they say "she's only a housewife" or "she's just a housewife" (never mind that it actually has sexist undertones)? I know technically, even gramatically, there's nothing wrong with "plain housewife", but something about the way it's used, like it's the formal title for all women who keep house ("I'm a corporate lawyer." "I'm a computer programmer." "I'm a plain housewife."), well, call me a nitpicker but it just really, really bugs me.

We may be a nation that boasts of a population "fluent" in English, but Filipinos seem to have their own way of using the language. Perhaps adding a little local flavor is harmless, but as a stickler for good grammar and proper verbal usage, I can't stand how some words are misused and mangled, yet generally accepted as correct, and frequently escape the editor's red pen. "Plain housewife" is only the least annoying; there are countless other crimes committed against the English language.

For example, I take issue with how so many Filipinos use "matured" when they really mean "mature". "I am excited to be taking on such a matured role." "I feel more matured now that I'm living on my own." "I like working with him, he's very matured." Why, why, WHY do they insist on affixing the letter D to an adjective that functions perfectly well on its own?

There's also my personal favorite, the one that never fails to set my teeth on edge: the atrocious "full-pledged". As in, "He has been appointed the full-pledged head of the department", or "Now that she has passed the exam, she is a full-pledged architect". I rarely hear anyone use the right word, "full-fledged" (it's an F, people! F!!)-- even people whose English is otherwise impeccable. Whenever someone says "full-pledged", I feel like handing him a dictionary and challenging him to look for the word.

Yet another phrase that Filipinos are fond of throwing around which makes me want to weep and pull out my hair is "taken careD of". "Don't worry, it has been taken cared of." "We have taken cared of the arrangements." "The task will be taken cared of by their committee." I wonder if anyone has ever tried saying "I have taken stocked of our supplies" or "He has taken counted of the tickets sold".

And what about newspaper articles that for some inconceivable reason use the word "quipped" as a substitute for "said"? Even when the sentence is something like: "The congressman quipped that the shortage of classrooms in public schools is a very serious matter." If it's so bloody serious then why the hell is he quipping about it? Some newspapers use "quipped" so often that any kind of statement becomes a witty retort or clever joke. "'The budget has been passed,' she quipped." "'The dengue epidemic is under control,' the doctor quipped." "'We need to work on our defense,' the coach quipped." What kind of ignoramuses are editing our local broadsheets?

Not to beat a dead horse, but the quality of English in our country is truly deplorable (don't even get me started on how text messaging has doomed our spelling proficiency for countless future generations), and it doesn't help that our publications, presumably run by individuals with superior communication skills, use the same brand of flawed, Filipino English. It's one thing to tailor a language to suit local culture; it's quite another to bastardize it all together. Before we know it, we'll be reading news articles declaring, "She quipped that the orphans were taken cared of by a full-pledged, matured plain housewife."

It has to stop. And I have to stop ranting and take a chill pill. Or a Midol.


At Monday, February 05, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahahah, sharing the sentiment!!! :))

i'm expecting to see "strunk and white's elements of style, pinoy edition" by ailee lim in bookstores very very soon =P (i swear EoS is a must-read; it's the best thing i got out of my english 13 class)


At Tuesday, February 06, 2007, Anonymous Christa said...

I concede to that fact. :) Haha. Even though I myself am very grammar conscious, I can't deny the fact that I make a lot of mistakes as well. I think it's the environment and the degrading use of grammar in media, both local and international.

I think I fall under the "full-pledged" usage category. Haha. :) Now I know. Need to brush up on reading the dictio.

At Tuesday, February 06, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. Lim! Jen had left the address to your blog when she used my laptop before and I kinda got into the habit of checking it :)

Couldn't help but comment on your entry today... haha. Just be glad you're not in Singapore where they say "Is it very pain ma?" (How hard is it to say painful? ><) and other strange uses of British- English and Chinese combined.

-cel que

At Tuesday, February 06, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Chars: I think Strunk and White would be rolling over in their graves if they knew how English grammar is being butchered, especially in the unforgiving manner we Filipinos do so. :)

Christa: Don't worry, even the best of us slip up sometimes, especially orally. I just can't stand seeing poor English in formal publications. Those blasted editors should know better.

At Tuesday, February 06, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Hi Cel! It's nice to know you've been reading my blog, especially since I'm sure you can find more productive and fun ways to kill time over there. :p I'm familiar with the delightful cultural byproduct that is Singlish, and I daresay it sounds far worse than Taglish. It's interesting to note that both Singapore and the Philippines are 2 out of only 5 Asian countries that count English as one of their official languages, yet all the horrors we inflict on it hardly constitutes "official" treatment. I suppose our being multilingual (just like the Singaporeans) is a big factor. We're jacks of all tongues and masters of none. :)

At Tuesday, February 06, 2007, Blogger Jen said...

Hahaha Cel's comment is what I was about to say. You would not believe how irritated I was the first few months here by the horrid grammar and inability to use the right words.

I bet you'd kill yourself if you wound up living here. :P Hahaha :)

At Tuesday, February 06, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

I'll take "Is it taken cared of" over "Is is very pain ma" any day. Haha.

At Wednesday, February 07, 2007, Anonymous MoJo said...

i could write a whole chapter on pronunciation, too :)

i'm feeling very senti at the moment, so i'm going to go out on a limb and say that i actually like the quirks of pinoy-flavored english (barring parking lot signs like NO ENTER) :D

call it a byproduct of our colonial heritage, but we ended up with a curious mix of american and british english. i've been getting flack for saying "fetch" instead of "pick up" and "adVERtisement" instead of "ADvertisement" hahaha...

At Wednesday, February 07, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

I once used "rubber shoes" in a conversation with a guy from California. He gave me this amused look and repeated, "RUBBER shoes?" I burst out laughing as I realized he probably had this weird mental picture of footwear made out of old tires or something. Good thing he wasn't BRITISH, or the connotation of "rubber" would have been even more hilarious. :p

At Friday, February 09, 2007, Anonymous rocky said...

kaya nagpepersist yung full-pledged, it's because more often than not, people think that you have the P/F sfeech depect if you say it correctly. ikaw na nga yung tama, ikaw pa ang mapagtatawanan. :p

may dagdag pa ko, i have a problem with taglish grammar. i hate it when people add "mga" to the english noun in plural form, e.g. mga houses. tsaka pag past tense din yung english verb na dinadagdag sa "na" like "na-pointed out".

pero mas malala yun if someone says "na-taken cared of na yan". hehe :p


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