Salvage and 20 Other Philippinenglish Words: A Non-Definitive List

Because the question "Do you speak English?" should be answered with "Which English?"


( Does it still strike anyone as strange that the word "salvage" in the Philippines means death by pulis in the talahiban? We’re sure grammar nazis are hot on the trail of people who say "eat-all-you-can!" because the (North) American phrase is actually "all-you-can-eat!"


But did you know that even the English (not the Americans, the English from England) use their language poorly? The editor of The Idler decided to host The Bad Grammar Awards, born out of his annoyance for an alarming amount of grammatical atrocities in articles submitted to him. A linguist (hey, they exist!) by the name of Michael McCarthy spoke up and said, "English grammar... is actually a plurality of grammars."

Take the word "pants" for example. In Japan, you’ll get curious glances if you’re a man trying to look for "pants" because "pants" means "panties." Who wants to tell the entire population of Japan that they’re using the word incorrectly? And don’t the English from England say pants for undies too? Because, you know, the word "trousers" exists there?


We’ve localized certain words / phrases like apir (from "up here," our version of "high five") and tambay (someone who does nothing but stand-by, get it?). So yes, let’s keep using "salvage" to mean death by pulis in the talahiban because the last time we checked, the nazis lost the war.


Here are 20 more English words that we’ve redefined and claimed as our own.


Note: List does not include genericized words i.e. using Colgate to mean toothpaste, Coke to mean soda, etc.



1. Rubber Shoes

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Outside our country: Shoes made out of rubber.



Philippinenglish usage: Sneakers and other athletic footwear.


2. Remembrance

Outside our country: More of the act of remembering something as in "Let us do this in remembrance of our departed soldiers" than the less popular but still acceptable token of remembrance, which is "a greeting or gift recalling or expressing friendship or affection." The word also has a solemn connotation.


Philippinenglish usage: Used almost exclusively to mean a physical souvenir like a trinket as in "Sa iyo na lang, remembrance ko sa iyo" and is especially popular during (high school) graduations.


3.  Carnap / Carnaper

Outside our country: (Rudolf) Carnap was a German-born philosopher. The act of stealing cars is carjacking.



Philippinenglish usage: If a kid gets kidnapped, what else were we supposed to call cars getting stolen? Speaks of how much we value our vehicles; they’re on the same level as sentient beings.


4. Brownout

Outside our country: Brownout is "an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in an electrical power supply system."

Philippinenglish usage: Brownout here means power outage or power interruptions.


5. Traffic

Outside our  country: "Vehicles moving on a public highway"

Philippinenglish usage: Vehicles not moving on a public highway


6. Pocketbook

Outside our country: A bag or a brand of an e-book reader.

Philippinenglish usage: Books and more specifically, cheesy romance novels.


7. Riding-in-Tandem

Outside our country: Who knows? This one seems exclusively ours. Riding a bike with one person behind the other is "tandem biking" elsewhere (but this refers to those bicycles with two seats).


Philippinenglish usage: This is more often than not used to describe a criminal act committed by two people riding a motorbike.


8.  Napkin (and Tissue)

Outside our country: Napkin usually refers to the rectangular or square cloth set on tables during meals, referred to as serviette in other countries (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, and those under the United Kingdom). As a tip, this is what you should ask for when you need a tissue in restaurants outside the Philippines. Tissue usually refers to paper tissue used in toilets (facial tissue included).

Philippinenglish usage: Menstrual pads, as we have chosen to omit saying the sanitary in "sanitary napkin."


9. Multi-awarded

Outside our country: This will probably be understood as "someone who has been awarded multiple times" but we’ve yet to see it being picked up as a thing outside our country.

Philippinenglish usage: If someone is multi-talented, then you can bet your arse they’re going to be multi-awarded soon. This probably says something about our overachieving ways. Go us.


10. Commute / Commuter


Outside our country: To travel from your house to your place of work (via public transportation or personal vehicle).

Philippinenglish usage: Going anywhere by public transportation.


11. Comfort Room and C.R.

Outside our country: This one we can also claim as ours.

Philippinenglish usage: The place where you do your bathroom business.


12. Nosebleed

Outside our country: The literal nosebleed in most cases and in Japan, it denotes sexual thoughts or arousal.

Philippinenglish usage: One usually suffers from "nosebleed" after extensively speaking in a foreign language (usually English).


13. Blowout

Outside our country: Aside from being a sudden rupture, the slang use of the term means a large social party. Or something you do to your hair. It’s also something that happens to tires and is a type of skull fracture.

Philippinenglish usage: Paying for someone else e.g. "Blowout mo naman ako!"


14. Tomboy


Outside our country: A girl who engages in activities associated with males, and acts or dresses boyishly.

Philippinenglish usage: Lesbian. Incidentally, lesbian somehow also means that you want to be a boy (and we all know that this is not true).


15. Rotunda

Outside our country: A building with a circular shape, often covered by a dome.



Philippinenglish usage: A roundabout (road).


16. Promise

Outside our country: A commitment to do something.

Philippinenglish usage: We like adding this at the end of sentences as a guarantee as in, "Masarap yan, promise!" instead of swearing on it, which is a preference for other Englishes (e.g. "It’s good, I swear.")


17. Answerable (See also: Presidentiable and Senatoriable)

Outside our country: Answerable, outside the Philippines, usually means a person who must answer for something he did (like a criminal act).

Philippinenglish usage: Popularized by Kris Aquino from Game KNB to mean something that can be answered. Words like presidentiable and senatoriable were subsequently coined to refer to candidates vying for those positions.


18. Apartelle

Outside our country: We might’ve invented this one too!

Philippinenglish usage: Hostel. Or a less expensive condotel, a term that is used outside our country.


19. Chicken


Outside our country: Aside from the obvious, it means to be a wuss or a sissy.

Philippinenglish usage: Something, e.g. an exam, that’s very easy.


20. Trying hard

Outside our country: To actually exert an effort, as in "I’m trying really hard here, work with me!"

Philippinenglish usage: Used as a description for someone who, well, tries too hard to the point of pretentiousness. Popularized by the immortal movie line, "You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying hard, copy cat!"


And two bonus words:

* Barbecue (specifically, the "cue")

Outside our country: Grilling food, usually with charcoal (complete with smoke).

Philippinenglish usage: Food on a stick, hence bananacue for fried bananas on a stick.


* Malicious

Outside our country: Something done out of malice, meaning out of spite and/or with intent to injure.

Philippinenglish usage: Malicious in the Philippines has a more sexual connotation.

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