Thursday, February 21, 2013

Isinay Words that Have No English Equivalents

ON THE INVITATION of Dr. Analyn Salvador Amores, I gave a PowerPoint-supported lecture the other day to two sections of Anthro 170 (Language & Culture) students of the University of the Philippines Baguio.

I titled my talk ISINAY: A PHILIPPINE LANGUAGE AT THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION and sub-titled it Ilang Karanasan sa Pakikialam sa Pagsagip sa Wikang Isinay.

Perhaps due to lack of practice, and even as I tried to spruce up what I wanted to convey with what I presumed were anti-sedative colorful photographs, my back-to-back (about 40 minutes each) presentations were admittedly soporific, to say the least.

Just like any classroom setting, however, there were those precious few who lent their ears and there were those who mercifully did not use my monotone as good excuse to catch up on sleep, or so I thought.

And thank my lucky stars, during the open forum there were those who raised very sensible questions or ones that were, oh well, expected to come from students of the Iskolar ng Bayan pedigree that UP was (and still is) known for... long, long before I myself became a student of the State University.

I forgot to jot down the questions, sorry. But among those that caught the "muggle" (to borrow a term from the Harry Potter books) Isinay in me flatfooted was one that wanted to know if there are words in the Isinay language that do not have equivalents in other languages.

Wow, I said to myself, that certainly hit me like the Juan Manuel Marquez punch that sent Manny Pacquiao to the canvas!

Not one to disappoint the maserot an mariit (pretty lady) who shot that killer question, I quickly summoned my guardian angel -- and, lo and behold, out came my reply: MASE^SE^LAT!

Mase^se^lat, I explained, is a one-word Isinay term the nearest meaning of which would be the two-word English term "crab mentality."

Had I time enough to elaborate, I would have come up with examples of how the word is used. Or went further to include possible long-winded but not yet exact equivalents in Iloko/Ilocano and Tagalog/Filipino.

The section where that question came out would probably remember that I also mentioned MANBOROBDANG as having no exact English counterpart but may mean agbannawag in Ilocano and bukang-liwayway in Tagalog.

I however went back to my draft list of Isinay words that start with Letter M and (my apologies to Ma'am Ikin and her Language and Culture class!), I was proven wrong when I said manborobdang has no English equivalent.

The Isinay manborobdang is simply dawn in English.

Anyway, the query on peerless Isinay words pretty soon played in my "man-Isinay podda" coconut. And just when I thought I could not come up with Isinay words other than MASE^SE^LAT that have no exact one-word equivalents in English (and possibly in other languages), out came the following:

  1. ANGIW -- tell-tale marks of dried saliva on one's face, indicative of careless or sound sleep
  2. MANPAYPAYODDO^ -- uncontrolled, usually involuntary action characteristic of one who has Parkinson's disease and manifested by waving hands and dancing feet
  3. MANGUM-UM -- rolling up grass and other pond debris to drive pond fish towards a net or in one corner where they would be easy to catch
  4. MANDAJMU^ -- when you say this, you mean "I don't give a damn" or "To hell with that/him/them"
  5. MILOMEMO^ -- to be harmed by evil spirits or by someone who practices witchcraft 
  6. NAMESANG -- woman who got pregnant without a known husband
  7. NOJENA -- when someone says nojena, he/she means "I would not dare do that"
  8. PANGI-ANGI -- the shameless act of one that either seeks attention or ignores proper conduct
  9. SINALONGSONG -- betel nut, lime, and chewing tobacco wrapped in betel leaf in such a way that the final product looks like a triangular object ready to put into one's mouth
  10. ULILI -- two pieces of dried bamboo used to create fire by rubbing them together

Of course, there certainly are some more candidate words that the only 25% Isinay in me has not included in the list. One day soon, too, I may even be proven wrong in saying the ones I cited here have no exact English equivalents.

What I intend to do is to pose this challenge in the form of a quiz or as a game for members of the three Isinay groups currently exchanging pleasantries and teaching one another Isinay via Facebook. Alternatively, I will also try to consult elderly Isinays more senior and more Isinay podda than me next time I go home. 

In the meantime, there may be fellow Isinays and "language warriors" out there who may disagree with my description of Isinay as "a language in the brink of extinction."

If all this means anything, it is that many things are not yet the way they should be in my hometown's native tongue.

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