A Plea to Stop Using "Major Major:" It’s Not Funny Anymore

Says our SPOT.ph blogger: "Pinoy pop culture is such that when something clicks, rest assured it will be exploited to death, <em>ad nauseam</em>...

Broadcasters in their 60s should not try to be cute. It’s like watching your grandmother do aerobics while wearing neon pink tights. Or your father having a Friendster account. When it happens, it makes every little hair on your skin stand on end.

Which is what happened on Harapan, President’s Aquino’s panel interview with three of the country’s top TV networks. "Major major question lang po, ser," one of the news anchors chirped. "Ano po ’yung major major na problemang kinahantungan ng hostage crisis na ito. . ." This, on live television, at the symbolic seat of the country’s authority, in a panel discussion of a deathly serious issue that has swelled into a diplomatic crisis of sorts and one that has affected even the airline and tourism industry, not to mention place several political institutions into question. Maybe on her part it seemed charming and appropriate, an attempt to defuse whatever tension there was hanging in the air (but hers was the very first question). From all angles, it did not look like the kind of situation that called for levity. Then again, for all we know, maybe she was being ironic or trying to show us she wasn’t the type to take herself seriously. But of what use would that be? To show she was in on the zeitgeist? But she’s on primetime news every day. Or maybe it is indicative of an absolute lack of seriousness, of gravitas, that cannot be conjured even by one thousand Kinoflo lights and a lifetime’s supply of Hirudoid and metathione pills. Or maybe it just shows how she regards the current President of the Republic of the Philippines.

That’s when I realized things were getting out of hand.

I could understand hearing it on gossip programs and variety shows where everyone has to yell and look chirpy. But during the "serious"news? By "serious"anchors? What is "serious" anyway? There’s a big difference between "serious"and "solemn." The Simpsons and Woody Allen are the epitome of seriousness. It wasn’t Miss Tiangco’s attempt at being flippant that irritated me, but those two goddamned words themselves.

Now it is no fault of Miss Maria Venus Raj that "major, major" has suddenly taken on absurd proportions. But for the sake of our national sanity--not to mention the risk of Miss Raj being forever reduced into a one-dimensional character with a silly catchphrase--"major major" has got to die.

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"National sanity" sounds so bloated and pretentious. The phrase has become so murderously annoying that the next time someone says that in front of me I swear to God some mouth is going to bleed. Government ought to pass a law criminalizing those two words. Look, it was funny the first time. Well, funny and cringe-inducing. The following day--and next couple of days thereafter--saw every DJ, radio commentator and TV host strategically inserting "major, major" into every available opportunity, each one thinking himself special, cute, and witty by doing so.
By the end of the first two hours of the day, it had become nauseating.

But there will be its defenders. Of course, I’m pretty sure among them--aside from those four hyperventilating badings on You Tube--will be those UP professors who have their PhDs in Literature and who are also equally, frighteningly knowledgeable on Beauty Pageant History (these people can re-enact any finals question-and-answer portion from any given year, replete with the accents). But what is truly is scary is how naturally it can be slipped into any casual conversation. It’s a truly "Filipinized" phrase, and its equivalent is said to be "bonggang-bongga." It’s the natural tendency of the language, that element of repetition to insist on the essence of something: "nagkanda leche-leche,""sukang suka,""bobong bobo,""baliw na baliw,""gandang ganda,""trip-trip tayo,""weather-weather lang,"etc. Placed in an international context, how far behind can "major major"be? Poet-critic Gemino H. Abad--who advocated writing not in English but from English to co-opt the ghosts of the colonial tongue--would have been proud. And while we’re in literary territory, Major Major is also the name of a character in Joseph Heller’s classic Catch 22.

 

Mel Tiancgo says "Major major" at 2:46

 

What is the pleasure to be derived from uttering those two words? Granted, the ’m’ and ’j’ sounds seem to roll naturally off our tongues. But then again, we ask: why do some things click, stick, and get discarded? Why do some become voted "Word of the Year?"The answer to that last question involves the necessity of technology. The last few nominated entries for Word of the Year, a contest sponsored by the Saligan ng Wikang Filipino, are terms inevitably born of contemporary communications technology: "lo-batt,""miskol,""jejemon," etc.

There are phrases that stick to our collective attention like dog crap to a shoe: "I can feel it...mwah!"’Wag kayong aalis, babalik kami,’"Ano ba ’yan," "O!.. Ha?!" "Take it! Take it!"" Laban o bawi?" "Deal or no deal," "Game ka na ba?"And the latest, "Meh ganon?" which has proven to be an infinite monster in this day and age when everything demands a soundtrack and a TV show. Thank God for the "crisis" the mainstream film industry is stuck in at the moment. I can only imagine Regal or Viva or Octo Arts racing for the copyright to title the next the Andrew E.-Janno Gibs/ Redford White-Babalu blockbuster. Major Major: The Movie anyone? Oh wait. Talk has it that there is a forthcoming Star Cinema comedy starring Ai Ai delas Alas with a title containing the annoying phrase. But such is the tragic ephemerality of language. Maybe the bright boys and gals of the movie industry should think about whether or not "major major" would still be as cute and catchy by the time of the film’s release.

"Major major" is so insanely prehensile, so definitive of a specific time in popular consciousness that the frequency of its usage expedites its datedness. True, this is the age of sound bites, when everything--from hair products to presidential candidates--can be summed up by catchphrases and slogans. But Pinoy pop culture is such that when something clicks, rest assured it will be exploited to death. The Latin term "ad nauseam"(to a sickening extent) seems to have been invented for us. In the meantime, let’s get this shit done and over with, exorcise this ghastly expression from our system with the deadest, blackest, of finalities. So once more, again, to repeat, for the second time around, with feeling: major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major, major major.

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Artwork by Warren Espejo.

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