Thursday, April 21, 2005

Gosh Im so busog... I wanna make tae.

It was Wittgenstein who said that philosophers use a language that is already deformed as though by shoes that are too tight. But why limit it to the language of philosophers? Words are used and abused by all of us, even those who wouldn't even dream of pursuing the philosopher's true, good, and beautiful.

The trouble with language is that we often mistake the words for what they represent. Language is a translation. It is a translation of what goes on in our heads and our heads speak a non-verbal language. Like all translations, nuances of meaning are lost. The idioms and figures of speech the mind uses do not translate well into words. But we try, with varying degrees of success. More often though, the true meaning of a word is deliberately obscured because of propriety or because the use of a particular word signifies a commitment that the speaker isn't ready for: words reveal more than a speaker intends. Social standing for instance.

Take the various words for human waste. 'Excrement' is from Latin, the language of the Roman Empire. And being from the upper class, notice how far removed it is from where excrement is usually found: cesspools, septic tanks, outhouses, and holes-in-the-ground. The word excrement, being from the upper strata, isn't evocative at all. I could say excrement and you wouldn't smell a thing.

A little bit more evocative is the word 'feces'. It's also Latin so it's still a bit hoity-toity. But this time, we're closer to the cesspool. It is now easier to associate the word with the body's solid waste matter, composed of undigested food, bacteria, water, and bile pigments and discharged from the bowel through the anus. It stinks a bit more, but only if you're from the upper class, that is, if you're from the stratum that actually uses the word feces. If you're not, I could say 'feces' while you're having lunch and you wouldn't even blink.

In general, Latin words are classier than Germanic words. In other words, Latin is more removed from the real meaning of the word. 'Shit,' for example, is a proper Germanic, Anglo-Saxon word and consequently, it stinks a lot more than feces. The further you are to evoking the actual image of the word, the classier the word seems. But shit is still a foreign word. It is in English, the language of our one-time colonizers. I could say shit and it would still sound ok. It's still a bit removed from the sewers. You don't smell it. Besides, shit has transmogrified into an all-purpose word, and therefore as a word for human waste, its meaning has been diluted irreparably.

In Filipino, further divisions have been devised to segregate classes of people through their use of language. A coño word for feces that is cute and antiseptic is jerbs. You could sniff at the word all day and all you'll smell are clean, pine-scented toilet bowls. The word is derived from the jolog word ebak, the etymology of which I'm not sure of, but it sure sounds stinky. The soft j and r sounds of jerbs is replaced by the harsher k sound in ebak. It's as if coño feces is lubricated by a diet of butter and cream, while the jologs' feces is pure roughage. Ebak certainly isn't a word you'd use while someone who says jerbs is eating. And of course the stinkiest, truest, most evocative, word is tae. Say the word and the purest image of human waste comes to mind: soft, warm, and brown with the concomitant aroma of esters, ketones, and greenhouse gases. The euphemism dumi is just tae that's allowed to bio-degrade.

Different words for the same thing have different effects on people. Take the various words for the female breasts, for instance. Personally, I refer to these parts of the female anatomy as dede. It's a nice, utilitarian word. Not sexual, certainly not vulgar, but positively mammalian in character. So imagine my surprise when it evoked a visceral reaction on women. They would much prefer the word 'boobs' when referring to their breasts.

A boob originally meant a stupid person. Why anyone would refer to their breasts as 'stupid persons' is beyond me. It's way too disrespectful of the paps that gave us suck when we were but helpless infants. Maybe the word boob originally referred to infants, since infants are, so to speak, stupid, and through the years the word might have transferred to their means of nourishment. But still...

Now the word suso to me is a lot more vulgar and sexual than dede. Yes, it's still mammalian, yes it's still evocative of a loving mother feeding her infant, but it's not a word I'd use in polite conversation in mixed company. It has a lot to do with the sound of the word than its meaning. More accurately, it has a lot to do with the means by which we produce the sound. To see what I mean, stand in front of a mirror and say the word dede out loud. Notice your mouth as you enunciate the word. Now do the same thing and say suso. See the difference? Dede is a happy, innocent word. You say it with a smile. Suso is lecherous and appeals only to the baser instincts. Such is the power of the sound of a word.

Comparing dede and boobs, on the other hand, one could see that boobs also is a bit more sexual. It refers to the breasts as nothing more than ornamentation; something to attract stares and ogles. At first it puzzled me why a woman would prefer boobs over dede. But then it dawned on me. The women who prefer to refer to their breasts as boobs are career-oriented women. The word dede evokes motherhood, domestication, household chores. It's easy to see how a career woman would reject dede in favor of boobs, even though boobs, I think, is more degrading to women, since it refers to their breasts as mere playthings.

Words are wonderful things. As they evolve, words will try to approximate thoughts and feelings more and more, but will not quite make it. It would be best for humans to learn to use other means of communication other than words: a touch, a smile, sniffing, panting, heavy breathing... whatever non-verbal communication there is. For if we limit ourselves to words, we're missing out on true communication. Wittgenstein said the meaning of a word is its use. But in the end, all words are meaningless. And with that I say trump up the heavy tomatoes for red crackles are up that paddle without a creek. In short, huffplexesmoffin esjuban ik.


grifter said...

Wow, Tol, Labo mo, Dehins kita ma-dig. Ebakers!!

Time Bandit said...

crap! what's with all the shitty talk?

Jego said...

Nyahahahaaa!! Suu-u-uuusoooo-o-oo!!

(In English: snail)

grifter said...

wow, hassle, conyo. stayed home today, pare. i ate paella, i went to the pool ... dude, my espadrilles got wet, pare.

pangga said...

ahahaha. you're pani jego ha?

but you know what i can't bring myself to say talaga? the tagalog word for nipple. anoba. i can say tutong but not that.

parang ang itim eh LOL

Jego said...

That reminds me of a story. Next blog entry.

You know what? I dont think Ive used the tagalog word either, although I dont think I'll have trouble saying it .. but not in mixed company. Youre right, the word is so... base? Has to do with what your mouth does when you say it, I guess. Ahehehe.

grifter said...

putong ama!!!

Baldagyi Hatipoglu said...

whoo. wittgeinstein!! no, haven't read that chap yet, just "read about."

Jego said...

I tried reading Tractatus a long time ago. Put me to sleep. :-D