Notes on Philippine English(es)

The Philippines is an English speaking country, and we have our own brand of English just like the Kiwis, the Scotts, and the Texans do.  Often it’s regarded as “broken” English, and that is purely because we have brown skin and not white, and because we’re multilingual.  

Philippine English was probably my native English, but nowadays I’m looking at it through a very heavy American English filter.  Here are some things I have noticed.  

  • In Philippine English, as in most places of the world, the word “hour” is pronounced with two syllables.  However, in Manila English, it’s pronounced in one syllable, like the name of the letter “R” with a hard retroflex.  It sounds exactly like the Chinese word 二.  I will be ready in an R.  It only took me an R.  The plural of R is basically “arse.”  How many arse will it take?  I’ve been waiting for two arse!  This happens only in Manila and doesn’t seem to apply to rhyming words like “power, scour, cower.”  
  • When your cousin says “we have to go to the embassy by Monday,” he has already told you exactly which day he intends to go:  on Monday, not before. You don’t have to get out your calendar and look at the days before Monday to see which days are possible.  Philippine English “by + (point in time)” is the equivalent of American English “on + (point in time).”  
  • When I asked the concierge to ask when my laundry would be ready, she said, oh, for pick up?  And I said, yes.  Because I wanted to pick up my laundry.  A minute later the laundry lady showed up empty handed, wondering where my laundry was.  No, I explained, I want to pick up my laundry… from you.  I want you to deliver my laundry… to me.   Ahhhh, they said, deliver, and shook their heads at me.  Apparently when you talk laundry, you use verbs from the perspective of the laundry lady, not the perspective of your… self.  The concierge asked me if I wasn’t a Tagalog speaker, I confirmed that I wasn’t and then thanked her.  In the elevator I thought, what?!  That was English!  
  • Globe Telecom is an evil money grubbing corporation that continues to find novel ways to aggravate you even as you’re giving them money.  I had the misfortune of trying to put money into a prepaid account on its mobile app, and I couldn’t find the button where you deposit money.  Finally, after exhausting all reasonable options, I deduced that it must be the button marked “Cash In.”  BECOZ DAT’S WHERE YOU WILL POOT YOUR CASH:  IN.  YOU WILL PUT CASH INTO DAT!  YOU WILL PUT YOUR CASH IN DERE. GO CASH IN.   

Dear gentle compatriots, for the rest of the world, “to cash in” means that you’re going come away with cash.  You can cash in your chips or cash in your retirement.  The verb “to cash in” means the same thing as “to cash out.”  It does not mean “to pay money to an evil company.”  So you understand my confusion.  

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