Colorful Language and Speech Mannerism: Who Will Decide What is Good of Bad?

Topic |  

Colorful Language and Speech Mannerism: Who Will Decide What is Good of Bad?

Topic |  


Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City is being criticized for using vulgar words in his speeches.  The question is who decides what are vulgar and indecent words?

In the United States of America, Donald Trump, a candidate for the Republican Party Nomination is also using vulgar or controversial words in his speeches.  The poll surveys say that he is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nominations.  Last Wednesday (12-9-15) the Fox Channel Television reported that the order candidates are now also using vulgar words.

By dictionary definitions, the words used by Mayor Duterte are not “cuss” or “curse” words because he does not wish harm to befall in others.  It could not also be “swear” or “oath” words because he does not wish harm to befall on himself. It could not be “expletive” words because they are not angry words.  The best description is “vulgar” or “indecent” words, which are very subjective to the viewpoint of the listener.


My Advocacy

In 1992, during the National Convention of the Lubas sa Dagang Bisaya (LUDABI) I was given the distinction as “an authority of the Sugboanon Bisaya language” during the Plenary Session.

Since 1998 I have been teaching the Sugboanon Bisaya language in college using pure Binisayâ as the medium of instruction.  It has been my advocacy to encourage the Sugboanon Bisayâ speakers to study and learn their own language because it is different from the English language in many ways.

I would ride on the present controversy with respect to Mayor Duterte to drive home the point of understanding the Bisayâ.

Major Differences

The English and Sugboanon Bisayâ language have similarities and differences.  The similarities are not too much of a concern.  Our concern is the differences because it is not well known and understood.


The major differences are: 1.) Differences in the words used and there meanings; 2.) Difference in Language Classification; 3.) Difference in Psychology; 4.) Difference in Syntax; 5.) Difference in Morphology; 6.) Difference in Word Paradigm; 7.) Difference in Time; 8.) Difference in Action; 9.) Difference in Cogency.


We will only consider the differences relevant to our discussion.

Language Classification

English is classified as an inflectional language.  The most important part of this language is the verb.  From the verb you can obtain the tense, number, case, and many others.  A statement without a verb is not considered a sentence.


Sugboanon Binisayâ is an agglutinative language.  The most important part of this language is the affixes.  At present I have already identified 4,250 affixes in Binisayâ.  Each of these affixes has its particular use.

In Binisayâ you can construct a sentence with or without a verb. There is also an indeterminate tense in Binisayâ which is not found in English.


Difference in Psychology

In English the meaning is to be found only in the sentence.  In Binisayâ the meaning is to be found in the intention or idea of the speaker.  The words in the sentence are just aids to help determine the intention or idea of the speaker.

When you ask questions in English the responder is expected to answer in the context of the one asking the question.  In Binisayâ, the answer maybe in the context of the one asking but most of the time it is in the context of the one answering the question.

For example: “Hain ang imong Tatay Doy? = Where is your Daddy, my boy?”  The usual answer in Binisayâ is “Atua gadáro. = There, plowing”.  The “where” in English is not answered.

Difference in Cogency

Cogency means forcefulness or be convincing.  In English, when you want to be cogent or have a forceful effect in your statement, you will use the formal and legalistic form of the words used.  For example a Judge will say “You are enjoined to attend the trial of your case.”

In Binisayâ, in order to be cogent, you will use some particles of speech or figures of speech like “bitaw, lagí, há, man, inátay”, etc. The more particles of speech you can string together the more cogent will be your statement.  For example you will say “Mao man lagí bítaw nga giíngnan kang inataya ka ha”.  We can only translate it in English as “That is why you were told.”  The particles “man, lagi, bitaw, inataya, ha” have no translation in English.  If you will include “putang ina” or “bi…sa imong ina” it is just part of the cogency in Binisayâ.


In order to be cogent in his speech Mayor Duterte has the favorite expression “Putang ina”.  Senator Chiz Escudero has the favorite expression “Aum”.  The expression used by Mayor Duterte is considered vulgar while the “Aum” of Senator Escudero, even though in reality it is blasphemous, is not commented upon.

Puta is a Spanish word for female prostitute.  Puto is a Spanish word for male prostitute.  Why is “Putang ina mo = Your mother is a female prostitute” considered an indecent statement and “Putong ama mo = Your father is a male prostitute” is not indecent?

“Aum” in Tibetan Buddhism is the ultimate universal sound that is comparable to “God” because in Buddhism there is no concept of God.  It is used in the mantra “Aum mani padmi aum” that is roughly equivalent to the Christian statement “God, bless us oh Lord”.

Senator Escudero is a Christian.  Why is he always invoking the “Aum” of Tibetan Buddhism?  Is it not blasphemous for a Christian to do so?

Colera of Eastern Bohol

In Eastern Bohol particularly in the towns of Guindulman, Candijay, Mabini, and Anda there is a common expression “colera”.

People always associate it with the infectious disease known in English as “Cholera”.  Therefore “colera” is considered a cuss word.  The truth of the matter is that it is not.

The English term “cholera” as a disease became popular in Bohol in the 1950s when there was an epidemic known as “Cholera-El Tor”. Before the 1950s the word “colera” referred to the Spanish word “colera”.  (Encarnacion Dictionary 1852).

In Spanish “colera” means irksome or can cause anger, which is “makapungót” in Binisayâ.  Therefore if you say “Colera ning tawhána” it is just the same as saying “Makapungót ning tawhána = This man is irksome” and you will agree that it is not a cuss statement.


The Spanish word “leche” is milk in English and “gatas” in Binisayâ.  I have not yet found a suitable explanation why “leche” is considered an expletive or vulgar word.

Who started the concept or idea that leche is an expletive?  This brings us back to my original question, who decides what is a good or bad word?

Apparently it is just the people who unconsciously use a favorite expression and later on decided that it is an indicent word even if it is not and vice versa.  Since in Binisayâ the meaning is in the intention, then the intention will prevail over the real meaning of the word.

Consider the Tagalog words bílat and lagáy.  Bilat in Tagalog means merece in Spanish, balí in Binisayâ and you deserve it in English.  Lagáy in Tagalog is ibutáng in Binisayâ and put down in English.

If you will directly use these Tagalog words without saying that it is Tagalog, then they are already indecent words in Binisayâ. (By Jes B. Tirol)

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