THE MOST important thing to remember when listening to my hosts Kiwis, especially working-class, blue collar New Zealanders talk, is to not take it personally.
Filipinos like myself who grew up in westernized 1970s Manila almost always take offense hearing the words “shit,” “fuck” and similar words used in polite conversation. (From hereon I hope you don’t mind if I omit quote marks from these so-called curse words as they are only used as examples of modern speech).
Millennials and youth today on the other hand think nothing of using the same kind of language every other sentence they speak, as they grew up hearing it not just among themselves (and adults) but also in mainstream media, popular culture and the like.
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A very similar distinction exists when discerning the salitang kanto (street talk) when the listeners are on the one hand Pinoys who grew up in New Zealand, or newly arrived or relatively recently arrived migrants from the Philippines, on the other. Ethnically, racially and even linguistically identical, these two groups perceive the way New Zealanders’ casual talk very differently.
I’ve been here for some time, before Obama’s 2nd term, but I still think that when shit or fuck is used, it’s meant to insult me. Better than 99% of the time, it’s not.
More importantly, friends and colleagues of my kids talk that way too, and quite a few of them are children of kabayan. Again, it’s just the way it is now.
Let me give you an example of how a couple of words are used in several contexts or situations.
Fucking – when somebody says the fucking forklift gave up on me in the middle of the loading bay, or the fucking coffee machine ran out of mochaccino again, the accurate counterparts of the supposedly offending word in Tagalog, in this particular context, is bwiset, or putres, both mild cuss words in our language but not particularly profane. It’s meant to denote annoyance or amusement, or a combination of both. Specifically, yung bwiset na forklift tumirik sa gitna ng daan, or yung putres na coffee machine naubusan na naman ng mochaccino. And so on and so forth. The first time I heard it used this way, I thought the speaker was angry or intensely frustrated. Hindi naman pala. Now I know better.
fuck off — literally this means get out or get away, but the usage nowadays in New Zealand refers more to (1) leave after work and (2) get out of my face, a more or less friendly phrase of dismissal. For example, I say to my workmate, an ardent New Zealand Warriors fan, hey, your Warriors really got their asses kicked last night, huh (an increasingly common event now), the expected reply to me would be fuck off Noel. For number (1) by the way, fucking off is the immediate concern as soon as it’s time to log out of your computer. So if you ask me to answer an email when I’m about to fuck off, fuck off mate. Nothing personal.
fucked, or get fucked – even though I’ve joined them here, fucked and get fucked can mean two different things. I work in a factory environment, so fucked usually refers to machinery or a system that is not working and in urgent need of major repair. No short cuts or band aids here. When the plant engineer says Man, the gearbox is fucked you know there’s no point in arguing, might as well get a purchase order for a new part and call it a day. Get fucked is when you totally disagree with someone and want to tell him arguing is gonna get us nowhere, let’s just restart after lunch shall we? The short form is get fucked. Seriously, it’s a quick way to cut short a disagreement, when you’ve given up on someone and is the spoken version of the middle finger.
This is just one word, and yet it causes so much discussion between users and generations, primarily because well, it’s so usable. It’s up to us Filipinos to know how it’s used, what it’s meant and not meant to convey, and how to react.