Bar Girl Speak
Just the other day a friend and I were having a conversation with some of the local bargirls when he turned to me and said, “have you ever noticed how these girls speak”? I looked at him in bewilderment and answered, “what do you mean”? He replied, “well they speak a little bit English, a little bit Tagalog and they have all these weird sayings which I only hear from the Filipina bar girl”. I thought about this and realized he was right.
That night I pondered our conversation some more and concluded that there is in fact a complete bar girl lingo which is only found in the Philippines. From here it was a logical extension to think, hey this would make a great column for AE. So without further ado here is my column ‘bar girl speak’ and it is my sincere hope you will find this article humorous, informative and most importantly entertaining.
Prior to citing examples of bar girl lingo I feel it is important to note that many of the sayings are in Tagalog whilst others are in English or a mixture of Tagalog and English called Taglish. The mixture of Tagalog and English is important because it is this mixture which leads to the amusing and at the same time frustrating application of new meanings to English words and the total mishmash of grammatical rules.
In order to maintain a logical sequence I have divided this article into two separate sections. The first section will examine the Tagalog sayings and expressions then the second section will examine the English and Taglish sayings.
Perhaps the most common word and definitely the most confusing is the Tagalog word ‘ano’. The literal English translation for this word is ‘what’ however the Filipina will use this word in an English sentence and in a way that has nothing to do with its literal meaning. They use the word ‘ano’ as we would use the phrase ‘what do you call it’. In other words it is a generic word they use when they forget the actual name of something or they forget the correct English word to describe something.
To this day I remember back in 1991 when I first came here and was planning a trip to my girlfriends province. We were down in Peurto Galera and I asked her “what is the name of your province”. She looked at me dumfounded, thought for a while and then said “its ano”. At the time I had only been in the country 2 months so I had a look at my handy map of the Philippines and after much scrutinizing I found an Island called Ano. Feeling proud of myself I showed her the map and said “hey look sweetie I have found your island on the map”. She sauntered over looked at the map and said “that not province” then she pointed to Masbate and said “that province me”. Now I was a bit confused so I asked her “why did you tell me your island is called ano when it is really called Masbate”. She looked at me as if I had just suffered brain damage from getting hit on the head by a falling coconut and replied, “because ano”. Then and there I gleaned this word ‘ano’ has multiple meanings and if I was to ever get a grasp on communicating with a Filipina I better do some more research and come to terms with ‘ano’.
Another well known phrase commonly used by Filipinas is ‘bahala ka sa buhay mo’. Literally translated this means ‘it’s up to you, it’s your life’. This is often shortened to bahala ka and its colloquial meaning will vary according to the tone of voice it is said in. If it is said softly it is a sign or minor exasperation or annoyance, if it is said loudly and aggressively it is basically a way of telling you to stuff of or do whatever you want it’s no concern of mine. This is an interesting phrase because implicit in its meaning is actually a sort of resignation or conceding to another’s point of view or behavior without loss of face. In English we have much the same sort of colloquial phrase, for example when we are having an argument with another person and that person asserts a point of view which we do not have a counter argument against we will often use the expression ‘whatever’. This acknowledges that you have heard the other person’s viewpoint but you don’t recognize it as valid or important so you brush it aside and diminish its importance by saying ‘whatever’. This is exactly the way Filipinos use bahala ka.
Another very common Tagalog expression that will often come out in the middle off an English sentence is ‘ay naku’. I asked a friend of mine, Tagalog Mike so called because of his fluency in the language, what this means and he gave me the following reply. “There is no literal translation for this but it is used as a sarcastic expression designed to convey a feeling of frustrated opposition towards a preceding statement by the other conversant or at a certain situation”. When you hear this there is no need to run for the hills but be aware for whatever reason she is frustrated or anxious and the infamous Filipina temper is simmering.
Whilst on the subject of simmering tempers the one phrase you should always watch out for is ‘Puntang ina mo’. Literally translated this means your mother is a whore and when said in a raised voice it is the ultimate insult and expression of anger. This is a particularly powerful phrase and no matter how fluent a Filipina may become in English when very angry that same Filipina will revert back to tagalog and shout puntang ina mo. I remember well the fights I would have with my Filipina wife and when she reached a certain level of anger she would always shout puntang ina mo. In every other state of mind she would argue her case in English and she could play scrabble like a linguistic demon however, when the blood boiled she would always revert to the ultimate Tagalog insult, puntang ina mo.
When said in a loud voice this phrase is both an insult, an expression of anger, and a warning that you have a seriously pissed off young lady on your hands. The Filipina will use puntang ina mo as we would use fuck you or call someone a mother fucker. If it is said in a high angry voice get ready for all hell to break loose and always remember the old saying ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’.
Like the word fuck puntang ina mo has several variations of usage. For example just as we would use the word fuck to express our anger or disgruntlement at a mistake we had made or a certain situation the Filipina bar girl will use puntang ina in the same way. When using this phrase to express disgruntlement, irritation, annoyance or minor anger it will be shortened to puntang ina and it will be said in a lower tone of voice.
There are numerous Tagalog words and phrases that you will hear bar girls expressing on a regular basis. Some of these are sira ulo crazy head, sigina now, bastos rude or offensive behavior manyakis maniac and ————-.
There are of course hundreds of other Tagalog words and phrases and in many ways I have just scratched the surface. However when communicating with the Filipina bar girl a little knowledge goes a long way and it is my hope that the examples I have given you here will help you in your dealings with them.
Many of the Filipinas sayings are in English but because they apply new meanings to English words and disregard grammatical rules, these sayings are often amusing as well as confusing. Other sayings are in a mixture of Tagalog and English which the Filipinos claim is a language in itself called Taglish.
One interesting thing about Taglish is how English words are used in a new context and as such take on a new meaning. For example a common expression among bar girls is “you drive”. I remember when a girl first said this to me and I said no honey we are going to get a trike home. She gave me an indignant look and asked “why you talk about trike driver? I no have trike driver”. Eventually I got her to calm down and the evening was a success but for a while there it was touch and go all because I didn’t understand the meaning she had applied to the word “drive”.
There are numerous English word expressions that are unique to the Filipina and these are at best amusing but most of the time just confusing. One of my favorite expressions that you commonly hear from the Filipina is “you be the one” or “I be the one”. When I first heard this I asked myself what does she mean “I be the one” then I realized she was saying that she will be the person to take a certain course of action. Basically this is not incorrect English but because of the uniquely Filipina way the words are grouped together, it is a little confusing.
Another confusing aspect of Taglish is the mixture of gender. A female will be referred to as he and a male will be referred to as she. Many times you will be having a conversation with a Filipina and she will be referring to another female as he. “My friend he maganda” or a male as female “she is good guy”. After a while you get used to it but when you first encounter the mixing of genders it is confusing to say the least.
Filipinas are renowned for their volatile tempers and one of my favorite expressions unique to the Philippines is their description of this volatility ‘high blood’. I can remember when I first heard this expression and I thought my girl had a problem with high blood pressure. I asked her what medication she is taking for her blood pressure problem and then my more experienced friend sitting next to me said “no you misunderstand, when she says she is getting high blood she means she is getting angry”.
Basically when they describe a person as having high blood they are referring to a state of anger or a high level of agitation. In English we have a similar expression when we describe someone as being ‘hot tempered’ and I guess ‘high blood’ is the Filipino equivalent.
Perhaps the most common saying especially amongst bar girls is ‘see how you are’. Basically when they say this they are referring to what is best described as eccentric or unconventional behavior or attitude. This is a very common saying and often said more out of habit than anything else. This saying has now become so entrenched in the bar girl idiom it is an everyday occurrence to hear it. This is a lighthearted saying and when it is said to me I always reply, “see how you made me”.
Another saying unique to the Philippines is “for a while”. Any of us who spend time here have heard this saying especially when purchasing something or asking a question to which they don’t know the answer. They use this like we would use the expression ‘hang on’. When you hear this they are basically saying can you please wait for an indeterminate amount of time while I find out the answer to your query. Noticeably the word while is not time specific so ‘a while’ could mean one minute or twenty minutes depending on the situation. Many times I have asked my bar staff a question and for an answer I will get a scratch of the head, a vacant look and “for a while daddy”. Invariably when I hear “for a while daddy” my question has been relegated to the too hard basket and I am not going to receive an answer.
Another uniquely Filipino phrase is, ‘same same but different’. When I first heard this I thought, how can two things be the same yet different? This statement seemed totally illogical to me and then after some years of living here it occurred to me that somehow a seemingly contradictory statement such as this makes perfect sense within the cultural context of the Philippines. I realized it was simply a matter of them leaving out the qualifying word, ‘appear’. For example two objects may ‘appear’ to be the same and yet in reality be very different hence the expression, ‘same same but different’.
An expression which to this day gives me a little chuckle whenever I hear it is “bar happy”. Very obviously they mean bar hopping but somewhere along the line it got misinterpreted as bar happy and for many that is how it has stayed. Like most things on the surface level, confusing the word hopping with happy seems ridiculous but a little deeper thought reveals a logical reason why things like this occur. I remember sitting in Mistys in 2004 when one of the girls said to me “Daddy my customer have two legs diba so why he want make hop to the bars when he can walk”? At the time I was laughing so hard I didn’t have a chance to explain what bar hopping meant but some years later when thinking back to this incident I realized how a saying like let’s go bar happy makes a lot more sense to a Filipina with a limited frame of reference, than let’s go bar hopping. After all everybody wants to be happy but not everybody wants to hop.
Another classic bar girl saying is to call a man a butterfly. When they call you a butterfly they are referring to the fact that you are having sex with a number of different girls. I always found this a cute analogy especially when you think of a butterfly flitting to different flowers in search of pollen.