Show­biz lengua


YES! (Philippines) - - Hello! - By jose f. La­caBa

RE­VERSE SLANG, as your Len­guador noted in the past two col­umns, is cur­rently en­joy­ing a re­vival in th­ese parts, as ev­i­denced by the pop­u­lar­ity of the words pet­malu and lodi on so­cial media. Word coin­ers have al­ready come up with Noypi trans­la­tions of the term re­verse

slang: tad­ba­lik and ba­lik­tad-Ta­ga­log. On­line ar­ti­cles and lis­ti­cles about this re­vival ap­par­ently have the im­pres­sion that re­verse slang came to the coun­try some­time in the 1970s. But Qui­jano de Manila, aka Na­tional Artist Nick Joaquin, wrote in “The Lan­guage of the Street,” a 1963 ar­ti­cle, that “the prac­tice of cre­at­ing new words by re­vers­ing old ones” was al­ready around in the 1930s and 1940s, when slang terms such as damatan, er­mat, and er­pat (from matanda, mother,

and father) came into be­ing. Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino lan­guage re­searcher Roy Rene Ca­galin­gan has pointed out that some­thing sim­i­lar to re­verse slang was al­ready done back in Span­ish times: “Katipuneros used se­cret codes in order to hide their iden­tity and evade au­thor­i­ties. Writer-pa­triot Marcelo Del Pi­lar used the pen name ‘Plar­idel,’ a jum­bled ver­sion of his last name ‘Del Pi­lar.’”

Jum­bling was some­thing that Nick Joaquin him­self re­port­edly did when he came up with the jour­nal­is­tic pen name Qui­jano. Ac­tu­ally, that’s a Span­ish sur­name. Alonso Qui­jano, for in­stance, was the personal name of Don Quixote de la Man­cha, the knight in Miguel de Cer­vantes’s 17th cen­tury novel. But Qui­jano has also been seen as a re­arrange­ment of the let­ters in Nick’s sur­name, Joaquin.

Strictly speak­ing, how­ever, this kind of mish­mash isn’t re­ally re­vers­ing, and the re­sult def­i­nitely isn’t slang.

The term re­verse slang, by the way, has been around for as long as I can re­mem­ber, but although you’ll get more than a thou­sand re­sults when you do an IGMG ( i-Google mo, gago), it’s not a term that you’ll find in dic­tio­nar­ies and en­cy­clo­pe­dias. The term found in th­ese ref­er­ence sources is back slang. Mer­riam-Web­ster de­fines back slang as “a se­cret lan­guage in which each word is pro­nounced ex­actly or ap­prox­i­mately as if spelled back­wards (such as nam for

man or nird for drink),” and adds that the term was first used in 1860. Wikipedia notes that mar­ket sell­ers in Vic­to­rian Eng­land may have started the use of back

slang so that they could “have pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions be­hind their cus­tomers’ backs and pass off lower qual­ity goods to less ob­ser­vant cus­tomers.”

As you can see, re­verse slang, aka back slang, is not a purely Noypi phe­nom­e­non. In fact, other coun­tries and lan­guages have their own ver­sions of tad­ba­lik.

The French term for it is ver­lan, which is it­self a back-slang word, de­rived from

l’en­vers, mean­ing back­wards, up­side down, in­side out, the wrong way round. In

ver­lan, the word femme (girl, woman) has been turned into meuf, and fou (crazy) into ouf. In Ar­gen­tinian Span­ish, it’s verse or

al reves, in which tango, the dance, has be­come gotán, and calle (street) is lleca. In Buenos Aires, Ar­gentina’s cap­i­tal city, there is a chain of pizza restau­rants called Zapi, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle by Elaine Tan­nous on the Land­ blog.

“On oc­ca­sion,” Elaine writes, “flip­ping the syl­la­bles of a word changes the mean­ing. For ex­am­ple, a galan. A galan is a man who is pop­u­lar with the ladies, whereas a langa is a man that thinks he’s good with women, when re­ally every­one thinks he’s kind of a joke.”

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