Learn 10 English False Friends you shouldn’t use lightly in the Philippines!
The Philippines is an English-speaking country. It is so well-known for this fact that it is also known as the “World’s Budget English Teacher“. Less than stellar nickname aside, English is so prevalent in the Philippines that a lot of foreigner and expats are comfortable traveling to this country because of the easy language barrier. However, some of you may have noticed some English quirks during your time in the Philippines. And if you read False Friends: 15 Confusing Spanish Words in Tagalog, you’ll realize that some of those quirks are Tagalog – English false friends.
The term “false friends” refers to words from two or more different languages that look and sound alike, but have completely different meanings. Some false friends may originate from the same word but eventually, diverge into two words with two different definitions while some just happen to look alike but never had a connection.
In this blog post, we’re going to list some of these English false friends you shouldn’t use lightly in the Philippines!
In other English-speaking countries, “bold” is the well-known typeface format, It can also mean, being able to take risks, being confident and courageous. Well, it certainly takes a bold person to create bold movies in the Philippines.
Here in the Philippines, the word “bold” can also refer to anything pornographic in nature. The most common examples are bold films and bold magazines. But sometimes, it can also refer to the state of being undressed with or without the sexual connotation.
For example, you are minding your business beside a pool. Suddenly, a naked child started streaking around the pool, much to the parents’ dismay. Naka-bold yung bata (“The child is naked”).
As Arthur Ransome once said, “Grab a chance and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been”. However, “grabbing a chance” or chancing in the Philippines is a deplorable thing. In the Philippines, chancing means slyly peeking or copping a feel, often without the person’s knowledge or consent.
For example, You and your friend are at a club dancing. Suddenly, a furious woman slaps a guy in the face. She claims that the guy touched her breast. Nag-chancing siya (“He “grabbed a chance” to cope a feel”).
When asked the question, “If you are to turn into an animal, what animal will it be?”, chances are a crocodile is not at the top of your list. However, in the Philippines, you will don’t want any association with a crocodile. The word crocodile, or buwaya in Tagalog, refers to a corrupt person and it is almost exclusively used to describe corrupt politicians.
For example, The Marcoses and their cronies stole billions of pesos from the Filipino people. Crocodile sila (“They are corrupt”).
In the animal kingdom, a feeler is an animal organ or appendage used for testing or touching things, usually in search of food. In the Republic of the Philippines, a feeler is a person who feels that they are more important/ pretty/ handsome/ rich etc. than they really are, often to the irritation of the people around them. It is one thing to have a healthy dose of self-esteem. But having an ego so big you are inconveniencing or annoying those who are around you is another thing.
For example, you have a loud and boisterous officemate who loves showing off his Rolexes and latest gadgets, and peer-pressuring people to go out and drink with him after work. But he keeps on borrowing money from everyone without paying his previous dues. Feeler siya, feeling-mayaman (“He’s a feeler, he feels like he’s wealthy”).
In other English-speaking countries, a green person is an inexperienced person, often young — greenhorn, you may say. When used to describe something that it’s not a person, green can also mean Earth-friendly like green-bags, green-thumb, green-energy, etc. In the Philippines, green can also mean “perverted” or “risque” and the most popular examples of this are green joke and green-minded.
For example, the boss is angry. To lighten up the mood, your officemate inappropriately tells a dirty joke during a company meeting. All of you are thinking the same thing: Green joke habang galit si boss? Totoo ka ba? (“You old a dirty joke while the boss is angry, are you for real?”).
It is a well-known fact that Filipinos are hospitable (despite lack the local word for “hospitable”) almost to a fault. If you are on a diet that happens to coincide with a fiesta/ birthday/ baptism/ despedida/ etc. celebration, you have two choices. First, don’t go and miss all the festivities and food. Second, go and ruin your diet (though let’s be real, it’s going to be the latter). Filipinos, in general, are good hosts and will do anything to please guests and extended family members.
However, never — as in CAPITAL, bold, italic, underlined NEVER, call your female host a hostess. In the Philippines, a hostess is a woman entertainer who is paid to entertain a patron, usually in sexual nature. Unless she happened to be that kind of hostess and she lets you call you her a hostess, don’t call anyone a hostess.
In other English-speaking countries, a live-in person is someone who lives in the same place where he/she works or studies. For cases of live-in partners, these are couples who live in the same place without being married to each other. In the Philippines, unless stated otherwise, live-in automatically connotes to the latter.
This wouldn’t be a huge thing for most but the Philippines is a conservative country — religion and family values-wise. Living-in together without being married to each other is generally frowned up, especially by the older people. However, the younger generation is slowly accepting these live-in relationships.
For most people, a maniac is a person who shows extreme behaviors, sometimes violent and dangerous. For people with special interests, a maniac is someone who is an avid fan, to the point of obsession. And for those in the field concerning the human brain, a maniac is someone who suffers from mania.
However, for the Filipinos, a maniac or manyak in Tagalog is someone who is a degenerate pervert. At best, a maniac is just a pervert who enjoys pornographic material at their own time and place. At worst, a maniac is a person who sexually harasses others with and without their knowledge.
If you read our post False Friends: 15 Confusing Spanish Words in Tagalog, you already know the gruesome transformation the word “salvage” went through in the Philippines. In other English-speaking countries, the word “salvage” means “to rescue” or “to save”. However, in the Philippines, it means“ to kill a person (suspect) without the benefit of a trial” or “to kill a person and hack the body into pieces”.
This originated from news headlines that wanted to highlight the fact that they found or “salvaged” a missing body but came off like a sensationalized euphemism for killing someone.
As mentioned before, the Philippines is a conservative country. This is mainly due to the influences of the Catholic Church. Because of this, some Filipinos still reject anything pertaining to the LGBT+, particularly homosexuality. Most Filipinos don’t know that a tomboy is not equal to a lesbian.
In other countries, a tomboy is a girl/woman who acts and dresses in a typically manly fashion. However, this does not automatically means that she also likes other women. In the Philippines, if you call a woman a tomboy, she will take it that you are calling her a lesbian. Which is okay if she is a lesbian and she’s fine with you calling her one. However, for some, tomboy and its association with being a lesbian is an insult. So, unless you are sure that a woman is okay with you calling her a tomboy or lesbian, don’t say the word tomboy.
What do you think of this list? Have you encountered an English word you regretted using in the Philippines? Tell us in the comments below!