Caveat: The purpose of this blog post is neither to proclaim myself as a grammarian nor to despise my countrymen who are still unfamiliar with the concoctions. It is to help our country get its rightful place in all English Proficiency Tests (i.e., by sharing some of what I know as far as these concoctions are concerned). I am well aware that I still have a lot to learn in English.
Filipino concoctions is the term I use to describe nonexistent English words or phrases (e.g., masteral, cope up, equipments, and with regards to) that have penetrated the walls of our English language usage, particularly the academe, ever since I can remember. They are treated as official English words by most of us. Faculty members and university officials are no exception. For this reason, you can surely hear them spoken and written in the country–even in formal English.
It is interesting to note that Philippines is the country to beat when it comes to business English but not English Proficiency Tests where Singapore and India are on top. Singapore ranked third (with a score of 98) in the Educational Testing Service (ETS) ranking based on TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores for 2010. The Philippines ranked 35th out of 163 countries world wide. The only other Asian country to score higher than the Philippines was India (19th with a score of 92). Malaysia tied the Philippines for 35th place with a score of 88 (“What Asia Can Learn From Philippines About English Education“). Several factors could be attributed to this saddening news such as the government’s losing interest in educational programs, continuous proliferation of the Jejemon cyber language, apparent deteriorating quality of teachers teaching English, error-riddled English textbooks, decreasing English content in public primetime television, Department of Education’s bilingual program to promote the use of Tagalog, and our consuming passivity towards the usage of Filipino concoctions as official English words in the academe to name a few. The latter is what my wandering mind chose to weave into this post.
Filipinos are well-known for their passivity that you would not see line cutters in the Metro Rail Transit during peak hours being, for lack of a better term, decried. The same goes for people in the teaching world because correcting a fellow teacher for that matter is an outright disrespect. But let us face it, tolerance of such gradually can ruin students’ competence of the English language–even teachers’. Our tolerance towards this problem has already taken its toll so I must do now what I should have done before. Not too long ago, I prepared an examination in one of the subjects I taught where I included, as part of the multiple choice, some of the most commonly accepted yet nonexistent English words in the country. The problem surfaced when I was confronted by my immediate supervisor, upon checking my work, on this particular item:
“Next year, I am planning to take up a (a. Masteral b. Masteral Degree c. Master’s) in Special Education.”
She told me, in a condescending tone, that the foregoing question has no sense. According to her, it is an easy one because letters a and c are adjectives; therefore, a noun, Masteral Degree, is easily spotted. Now, tell me this is not a problem.
I have my fair share of grammar mishaps like bad diction, which could be sprouting like hairs on my blog posts, but at least they are found in the English dictionaries. Concoctions whose masterpiece is masteral is a direct if not unforgivable abuse to the universal language.
That call-one’s-bluff moment gave me the right time to rectify the masterpiece by narrating to her my research about it.
First of all, there is no such word as masteral and you cannot find the same in any of the most reliable English dictionaries: Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Merriam-Webster Dictionary, dictionary.com, and thefreedictionary.com. Our late mentor for the National Secondary Achievement Test (NSAT) likewise said that masteral is not a word but a mere product of solecism.
Secondly, I have confirmed that masteral is not an English word with Prof. Lisa M. Kusko, author of the Easy Tips for Business Writers and an acquaintance in the blogosphere. I would like to quote her reply to my inquiry just a week ago.
Interesting. I have never heard the word, nor did I find it in a dictionary. I’m assuming it’s used as an adjective for an academic degree, as in masteral vs doctoral degree. However, in American English the expression is master’s degree, and the only entry in the American Heritage Dictionary specifies “master’s degree” with no alternatives.
Lastly, there is but master’s which is already a noun in its very form and it means Master’s Degree. If you are in doubt, go type master’s in the search field of the on-line dictionaries I have enumerated earlier. You will, for sure, get a result.
On the other hand masteral will not get any but if you will via Google, there will be results. The sad part is, the various sites that will display the word are maintained by Filipino webmasters.
On a side note, let us now dissect some of the OTHER COMMON FILIPINO CONCOCTIONS.
- ADVICES (X) for PIECES OF ADVICE or SOME ADVICE (√)
Juan thanked his father for all the advices he had given him.
This is one of those uncountable nouns (e.g., knowledge, love, and peace) which are not objects so it cannot be pluralized by simply adding s. However, they have forms that express plural concepts (i.e., adding counting word such as a unit of measurement or the general word such as pieces) as in, “You should thank me for the pieces of advice I gave you”.
- COPE UP (X) for COPE WITH or COPE (√)
A friend once told me that he could no longer cope up (sic) his life after breaking up with his girlfriend.
Like the rest of the concoctions, I would like to reiterate that this concocted verb phrase is not only common in the academe but in the business world. I have heard popular tycoons in the country who used this word in their speech.
Please make a note of this: cope rarely comes in its verb phrase form and when it does, it is always followed by with not up.
- EQUIPMENTS (X) for EQUIPMENT (√)
Reminder: Please take good care of the gym equipments.
By definition, equipment is already plural and it is one of the few uncountable nouns (e.g., aircraft, data, and furniture) that do not need plural concepts.
You need to know that I put a big cross (X) on the word equipments upon seeing that reminder at the gym where I work out. Of course, I am seriously joking.
- FILL UP (X) for FILL OUT (√)
Please fill up this form.
All right, I know this one does not fall under the umbrella of concoctions because, unlike the rest of the words, fill up is in the dictionary. Howbeit, it also used by most Filipinos in formal English when they imply supplying the missing or desired information on a document, which may justify its inclusion on the list.
When I applied for the civil service stenographer exam and teachers board exam five years ago, I came across proctors who used the word fill up to suggest supplying desired or missing information on forms like application forms. I accompanied my cousin a year ago when he applied for a board exam too, and I was not surprised to hear proctors in the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) using fill up as for that–still.
Prescriptive grammar commands that if you want a document, list, etc. to be supplied with missing or desired information, the correct verb phrase is always, always fill out as in, “Please fill out this application form”.
- TRAINOR (X) for TRAINER (√)
A couple of months after my wife gave birth, she told me she is planning to hire a personal trainor to help her get back in shape.
Looks like the sequence was followed: commentator, editor, professor…trainor. Well, it is understandable since the three correct items in the series are all referring to a person; thus, one is likely to concoct trainor for someone who trains. Until, he learns that there are also words like backer, interpreter, presenter, and so forth.
As long as my wife thinks that what she needs is a trainor, I would not let her hire one.
- USB (X) for Flash Drive (√)
I did not bring my USB today.
USB’s common usage as an abbreviation of the computer term USB flash drive explains its inclusion on my list.
It is understandable that one is most likely to use USB as a shortened form of USB flash drive because of its shortness. After all, we are talking about shortness and USB sounds really short, compared to flash drive. My investigation, however, says that the correct contraction of USB flash drive is not the initialism USB. It is any of these terms: flash drive, thumb drive, jump drive, pen drive, key drive, token, or simply USB drive.
Here is what iwebtool and dictionary.com say about USB:
USB stands for Universal Serial Bus – the most common type of computer port used in today’s computers. It is a standard for connection sockets on computers and other electronic equipment. It is the very port where keyboards, mice, game controllers, printers, scanners, and removable storage devices (e.g., USB flash drive and external hard drive) are plugged in.
One way of confirming this is to watch English movies or TV series like Prison Break where this particular storage device (please look at the photo) was repeatedly contracted as flash drive.
(Photo Credit: Squeeze the IT Bug)
I know you can grasp what I am trying to put across if I end my explanation with this sentence:
I am sure you would not want to bring a base unit with you the next time around so do not forget to bring your flash drive, please.
You can check the leading grammar sites and dictionaries to verify everything I wrote against the words at dispute.
I have been teaching the correct words for these concoctions since I entered the academe, add to that reminding the same from time to time. But whenever I include these concoctions as part of an exam, majority of the students still fail to recognize which is which. I cannot help but consider faculty members who use the so-called concoctions in their lectures almost everyday as one of the main reasons for such failure.
See, Filipinos are inclined to believe and respect people in authority to the extent of taking what they say as absolute facts particularly the very words they use. Who am I compared to the college dean and the department head who are guilty of taking some, if not all, of those concoctions. I used to think I can never do something about their proliferation until I created this blog. Thanks to the efforts of Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis who paved the way for my voice to be heard. And, of course, WordPress. I believe that sharing this post to my colleagues, current and former students, and friends via Facebook and Twitter can help, even in a small way, my country in regaining its title as the best English-speaking nation in Asia.
The Filipino concoctions I presented here are only some of the many ones that are not only commonly used for in the worst degree, treated as official English words in the country. From here on out, I humbly suggest that we should not forget to consult a dictionary whenever we come across unfamiliar words, especially those that merely sound or look familiar.
You would not want to add another “concoction” to the list, would you? But in case you have one, please drop it in the comment box. It would be educational to read “concoctions” from your list too.