Wired! Philippines

WHAT’S IN A WORD? ALIEN!

By: MC mac_updil@yahoo.com

 

It's the word of the moment: ALIEN! At least for Philippine television geeks who religiously tune in to probably one of the most sought-after gag show in the country’s boob tube.

Scene: A tall, lanky, barong-clad guy with dark-rimmed glasses receives a phone-in question that goes "Bakit walang salawal si Winnie, the Pooh?" (Why is Winnie, the Pooh not wearing underpants?) He leans over the next guy beside him and says, "Nasusulat ‘yan! Brother Willy, pakibuksan sa pahina isang milyon at dalawa. Basa!" (It is written! Brother Willy, open the book on page one million and two. Please read!). Or so the script goes. After which, a crowd raises their hands and shouts "Alien!"

The comedy act, suffice it to say, made Friday nights never the same again. And so it has become primetime’s newest hit, at least in Philippine television. It has introduced one word that has become the latest meaningful addition to Pinoy vocabulary.

Click here for free E-Legal Alien graphicsAfter shawarma and tamagochi now comes alien. The word for months now remains to be a main fare in Pinoy language. It is a foreign morpheme but semantically Filipino. Proof: My friend and I rode the Anchor’s Away amusement feature at Enchanted Kingdom and the teenagers who were with us kept shouting ‘alien’ as the anchor floated in the air. What exactly they meant by saying that, I figured to be interestingly worth the sociolinguistics.

Netymology. I hooked into an Internet search engine and explored the meaning of the word ‘alien’ in the vast archive of cyberspace.

Interestingly, there are about 20 categories and 652 sites with reference to the word of the moment. Mostly, though, the word ‘alien’ in the Internet assumes a referential meaning to the ‘paranormal’ or to the ‘deadly xenomorph encountered by the humankind.’ More or less the kind of alien Sigourney Weaver struggled with in the Aliens series. Most famous of which is the "Gray Alien" with large black eyes, small body, thin figure and large head, small nose (if we can call it a nose or more of just nostrils).

In other cases, the search veered towards science fiction literary sites (which cover books and movies). Along this line, the word ‘alien’ assumes an ideational meaning that is as ‘extraterrestrial invaders’ or ‘extraterrestrial doppelgangers’ based on the film Body Snatchers starring Donald Sutherland. Meanwhile, the book The War of the Worlds (1858) by H.G. Wells (touted as the father of modern science fiction) associates the word ‘alien’ to the Martians who symbolically refer to the colonial power in Europe in that period. More or less, in this famous science romance, the word is associated to the cruelty of colonialism during that particular era.

Meanwhile, journalism parlance associates the word ‘alien’ to the foreign-born resident who has not been naturalized and therefore excluded from certain privileges. For instance, the headline would say, Aliens banned in Nicaragua.

 

Alien

[elyEn]. Brod Pete: Alin ang naiba? Brother Willy, basa! (What is different? Brother Willy, please read!)

Brother Willy: Alien, alien ang naiba! (Alien, alien is different!)

Those familiar with the subtext of the dialogue would understand that the answer was in allusion to a popular line in a children’s show, replacing the original first word with a similar phonetic word in Filipino language.

For some reason, the seemingly popular segment gave a new dimension to the word ‘alien.’ The antics, as what the writers of the show claim, were a spin-off from an evangelical show where the faithful would shout ‘amen’ after the ministers preaching. The show succeeds in twisting it by using nursery rhymes and fairy tale characters as explanations to the questions raised in the show. At least in Philippine context, the word ‘alien’ from then on was never the same again.

Seemingly, it has become a behavioral response to a stimulus. The word (accompanied by the raising of the hands) suddenly becomes a response to a joke or an affirmation of a wacky and an extremely absurd explanation.

Historically, ‘alien’ came from Middle English which was derived from Old French which originated from the Latin ‘alienus’ meaning ‘other.’ We can never tell how far the word will go as far as its meaning is concerned.

What’s in a word? You might ask. Meaningful or meaningless, a word means what the people choose it to mean. For now, I say ‘alien’ to that! (Search site: http://www.yahoo.com)


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