The return of reverse
YOUR LENGUADOR’S last column, titled “Petmalu, Lodi!,” put together “a new batch of Pinoy slang terms apparently coined by millennials and spreading on social media,” most of them belonging to the category known as reverse slang, “where you reverse the arrangement of a word’s letters (from idol to lodi) or its syllables (from
malupit to pitmalu or petmalu).” One of those terms, described in the last column as “new to El Lenguador,” was repa, from pare, short for kumpare. Major-major senior moment! My senior-citizen memory belatedly reminded me of something I had written for “Carabeef Lengua,” an earlier column that I used to write for the Manila Times. In a particular column titled “It Pays to Erap Your Word Power” and published in July 1995, I wrote: “As we all know, erap is reverse-Tagalog for pare, which is a shortened form of kumpare or compadre. Back in the Sixties, such variants of pare as repa, reps, repatits, and p’re made separate bids for recognition.”
So repa was already in use “back in the Sixties”! That’s nearly half a century ago!
Recent Internet posts and television news reports also seem to think that reverse slang began in our bayang
magiliw in the 1970s, during the hippie or pehips era. I have news for them. We already had reverse slang as far back as the 1930s.
That’s according to Quijano de Manila, aka National Artist Nick Joaquin. In his article “The Language of the Street,” first published in a January 1963 issue of the
Philippines Free Press weekly magazine, Quijano wrote: “The ’30s and ’40s showed a healthy disrespect for puritanism in language. Here began the practice of creating new words by reversing old ones:
damatan (from matanda), alaw na alaw (from walang-wala), ermat and erpat (from mother and father).”
I was a college sophomore when that article came out, and on January 12, 1963, in a notebook diary that I kept at that time, I wrote the draft of a letter that I never sent, addressed to my lodi Quijano.
“Yeba there, I say, for a fine article,” I wrote in pen and ink. “It certainly is a comprehensive report, but you missed some of the latest: Gedra is the latest variation of rugged, tedecens (accent on the first syllable) of decente… Wangbu which comes from buwang which comes from I know not where is a more affectionate term than its synonym
sira. Matinik has been transformed into nekti… Also, pangit is now ngetspa.” The sophomoric me went on to list a few other reverse-slang words that my generation was familiar with: tipars (party), plesimps ( nekti but not pasikat),
bangya (boastful), sanpits and yotits (cousin and uncle), ermats and erpats (mother and father), bowgli (lustful),
osla (obsolete, passé), senglot (drunk). As you can see, baliktad-Tagalog, to borrow the term used by GMA news reporter Dano Tingcungco on the
Balitanghali news program, or tadbalik, to borrow the term used by University of the Philippines linguistics professor Jay-ar Igno, has been around for quite some time.
More on this next time around.