I am 76 years old and my life straddles two subcultures within our society. One sub-culture belongs to the past—the period fondly called Pre-war or Peacetime (1910-1947) by senior citizens like me.
The other subculture belongs to the present, called “Post-war period or Democracy period,” and more recently, the Age of Globalization and Information Technology.
My life within the two sub-cultures gives me clues on the nature and issues on the so-called generation gap, a gap that causes misunderstanding between the oldies and the young.
My son, Nicollo, 20, a student at the University of Asia and the Pacific, has asked me on several occasions, “Daddy, how did you go through high school and college without a computer?” He, of course, has a laptop, a cell phone and a PC at home.
I would turn smart-alecky and answer, “Son, I’ve got strong legs. I can walk to the library with my Señorita notebook and my Monggol pencil and do my research and study my lessons there.”
See, I’m not as dexterous and fast in texting on the cell phone and typing on the laptop as Nico is. But I can, with my arthritic left hand and “dutdut” fingers, open and answer short e-mails, search new models of BMW sports bike on Google, and surf for laughs by looking at photos of provincianas in search of a foreigner husband (kahit kalbo) para daw makapag-abroad.
I can also text and mangle words by abbreviating them without mercy. So I’m not exactly Jurassic. I can still close the gap, even partially.
It’s with Nicollo and my late father, Godofredo Ordoñez (1904-1936), that the gap is the widest.
Pre-war life was unhurried, more conducive to romanticism, with flowery words rich in imagery. The modern lifestyle is driven by multitasking technologies that produce instant data and speedy communications. To avoid clutter and delays, brevity becomes the new art.
What we used then
Idioms of the subcultures tell a lot in understanding the generation gap. In my father’s lifetime, these idioms were commonly used way into my growing-up years:
On kinship. “Sauli-an ng kandila” (returning candles sacramentally used during baptism), which meant the ultimate breakup between kumpares and kumares. The cause of breakup is irreparable. It is a clash of wills. Pride and honor are at stake.
“Magkabagang (molar to molar fit)”—the perfect bond of friendship. This means that two individuals with close ties have the same intuitive, mental and emotional attitudes and behavior in life. Both understand and share ideas with no explanation needed.
On the opposite sex. “Babaeng mapula ang sakong.” In the ultra-conservative style of Maria Clara modesty, 97 percent of the female anatomy is covered. When the sakong (heel) is exposed naked, the redder its color, the sexier the woman. This was the ultimate men’s fantasy gone creatively voyeuristic back then.
“Tinging makalaglag-matsing”—the glance that makes a chimpanzee loosen his grip and fall off the tree. It’s the ultimate art of seduction. The eyes do it.
On outrage. “Basagan ng pula,” or egg-to-egg smash-up to break the yolk. Literally, it’s balls-bashing, a duel to the death between deadly rivals.
“Nagpanting ang tenga,” or the ears burn red. A prelude to violence, and applicable to suicidal heroes, hotheads or persons with a criminal mind. Scram!
On social status. “Malaki ang butas ng ilong” (big-sized nostrils). The rich breathe easily. They are the hacienderos of Central Luzon, the big coconut landlords of Southern Tagalog and the sugar barons of Negros. See how feudal we are!
“Basang sisiw.” The humiliation heaped upon the farmer’s daughter who fell in love with the son of the haciendero. Inalipusta at inapi ang farmer’s daughter ng haciendero. Nagmukhang basang sisiw (wet chick) ang dalaga. Human rights? Waah!
What they’re using now
On the other hand, I’ve asked my son to list down idioms of young people today.
On friendship. “Wingman”—a partner in parties when it’s time to meet girls. A wingman is usually one’s best friend who knows him inside out. Like the “magkabagang,” the wingman also understands and shares ideas, no explanation needed.
“Dude”/“Tsong”/“Man,” usual names for acquaintances in school, gym or at work whose names you might have forgotten.
On the opposite sex. “Eye candy”—a looker of the opposite sex, as candy is appealing to the eyes.
“Cockblock”—a male rival when it comes to pursuing girls. Can be used as a verb, e.g. “He’s been cockblocking me with her ever since!”
“Transgender”—the correct term for a person who has undergone sex change by surgery. In the old days, this would have been “binabaeng naging babae.”
“Baktong”—short for bakat ang utong (nipples). Now we know how to call the man sporting a thin white sando in the mall.
On frustrations. “MacArthur”—the correct term for when your feces doesn’t flush down in the toilet bowl, reminiscent of General MacArthur’s promise, “I shall return!”
“Sabaw,” a term used to indicate low-level brain activity due to stress in the workplace or school, as in, “Dude, ’di kita maintindihan, sabaw ka na!”
Digital age. “Jejemon”—a noun for grammatically incorrect text language characterized by erratic capitalization of letters, e.g. “D2 nA Me, U nA Ba DeR?” or “LgO nA U, yAkaP Na mE!”
“Tweet”—not a bird chirp. Just the fastest way to voice your opinion on the Internet. You can do this on a website called Twitter, e.g. “This impeachment trial sucks! I’ll tweet to Karen Davila now.”
“I-Google mo na lang!” Researching on a corporation’s most recent stock market value 10 minutes before a presentation is now possible. “How? I-Google mo na lang!”
“Unli,” a buzz word created by marketing and advertising guys to give more extras for your money, e.g. unli-load, unli-text/call, and, of course, from Mang Inasal—unli-rice!
And so now, let’s all narrow the generation gap. Us oldies shall tweet, Google, and text.
And, hey, dude! You better look close and make sure mapula ang sakong ni eye candy.