Glossary of Confusing Pinoy Expressions

<em>Mukhang nag-ta-taxi ka ba?</em> What does that even mean?


( Have you ever wondered why the Tagalog word for rainbow is bahaghari? We can imagine why a king in the tropics would wear a loincloth but what a bold statement, wearing such flamboyant colors. This is the kind of thought that tumbles about in our heads during the dead hours of the day (stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the MRT, etc.).


In the spirit of overthinking, we came across these 15 Pinoy expressions that when taken literally, just amuses the word nerds inside of us. It’s not an exhaustive list but we’re still hoping we can entertain you for a while. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments!


1. Patay gutom

Loose translation: Dead hungry.

It makes us think of: Starving zombies.

Actual meaning: Now frequently contracted to "PG" and is used to describe people who hoard food from a buffet table, regardless of the quality of the food. Their plates are an architectural masterpiece, with the courses balanced precariously on top of each other. Any behavior similar to this counts as PG.



2. Pwera usog

Loose translation: Except motion.

It makes us think of: "Ah. Push it. Push it real good."

Actual meaning: The "usog" usually happens to babies but "pwera usog" is interchanged with "pwera bati." It’s the superstitious belief that saying something out loud will jinx things because some divine being likes making cosmic jokes out of your plans in life. As you may know, the air is riddled with elementals listening in on your conversations. Hush, hush.


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3. Hampaslupa

Loose translation: Groundbeater.

It makes us think of: Hoes. Dirty, dirty hoes.

Actual meaning: The politically incorrect association of farming with poverty. Hampaslupa is a fun way to describe people beneath you but we move that it be instead associated with the gardening tool more than the hardworking people in the fields.


4. Kutis artista

Loose translation: Artistic complexion.

It makes us think of: Photoshop. What else?

Actual meaning: It probably means silky smooth skin but we want to dig deeper and think that perhaps, it can also mean skin that can support a house (you know, because of all the foundation?).



5. Takaw tingin

Loose translation: Appetizing looks.

It makes us think of: The other Pinoy expression, mainit sa mata, which means something that causes people to stare (and steal).

Actual meaning: Related to PG but slightly worse, if only because of the wasteful manner that people described as "takaw tingin" pile food on their plate...only to leave it to the flies.


6. Mukha mo

Loose translation: Your face.

It makes us think of: Your...face?

Actual meaning: This one makes very little sense but perhaps it wasn’t meant to...parang mukha mo lang.




7. Mukhang nag-ta-taxi

Loose translation: Taxi-taking face.

Actual meaning: It doesn’t sound much like a compliment because what does it really mean when someone tells you that you have a face that can stop a cab? It’s either you look so dolled-up that your fancy bottom deserves the plush leather seats of a cab and nothing less...or you’re carrying the weight of the world evenly distributed in shopping bags.


8. Anak ng tokwa

Loose translation: Tofu’s child.

It makes us think of: Blocks of tofu having sex. The horror.

Actual meaning: We want to assume that you’re healthy and fun to eat, but no. You’re just annoying.  Go play with the other children e.g. anak ng tinapa, anak ng tipaklong, and anak ng teteng (what the hell is a teteng, anyway?).



9. Taong grasa

Loose translation: Grease-man.

It makes us think of: Without being pejorative, mechanics. And maybe people with really oily faces. Or people who live on a strict all-fat diet.


Actual meaning: For political correctness, not everyone living on the street with grime on their skin is a taong grasa. Aside from skin covered in sweat and soot, there’s also the untidy hair, the overgrown teeth, and lastly, slipping sanity. They’re a favorite topic among people who need to claim that they understand the truth about the human condition but mysteriously enough, they receive very minimal financial compensation from people who draw art from them.


10. Halang ang bituka

Loose translation: Intestinal transversion.

It makes us think of: A horrible medical condition. We want to know the effects of having horizontal intestines. Indigestion?

Actual meaning: This phrase will make more sense if you think of things that your gut can’t handle (i.e., hindi mo masikmura). This phrase is typically associated with the crimes people living in slums are forced to commit but perhaps, the level of moral corruption that necessitates a belief that a person’s internal organs have mutated differently from yours can be found in more lavish places-where people like Pogi, Sexy, and Tanda reside.



11. Tubong lugaw

Loose translation: Profit porridge

It makes us think of: Lugaw doesn’t usually make us think of substance. No offense to this delicious dish.

Actual meaning: The phrase has nothing...or actually, it has everything to do with the lack of meat in lugaw. It’s relatively inexpensive to make, which means you can make a lot with a little. This phrase applies to business ventures that require minimal investment but have huge returns...sometimes at the expense of the customers.



12. Magaan ang kamay

Loose translation: Light-handed.

It makes us think of: Dainty hands. Someone who gives massages really well. Or someone who does tattoos a little less painfully.

Actual meaning: You know that handsy friend of yours who likes punching you lightly on the shoulder while telling stories? And sometimes, they tend to go overboard and the punches kind of hurt? That’s magaan ang kamay. This also applies to people who have a tendency to resolve conflicts or seek retribution with their knuckles.




13. Balahibong pusa

Loose translation: Cat fur.

It makes us think of: Kittens. Duh. (Also: Rica Peralejo).

Actual meaning: Sparse, fine those on a baby’s head. Which really doesn’t make sense because have you seen how hairy cats are?


14. Nagmumurang kamatis

Loose translation: Regressing tomato.

It makes us think of: Food. Forgive us, we’re gluttons that way.

Actual meaning: Elderly people who are having a second childhood (or rather, teenhood...tweenhood?). What baffles us is...why tomatoes?


15. Huwag magbuhat ng sariling bangko

Loose translation: Don’t lift your own bench.

It makes us think of: Baron Munchausen’s tall tale of how he extracted himself (and his horse) out of a swamp by pulling his hair.

Actual meaning: It basically refers to people who boost their own ego through self-praise. The image is very awkward: someone walking around carrying a chair on which they are seated. However, must we really wait for someone to carry us around? Better to do your own lifting than burden other people, yeah? No?


Share with us the Pinoy expressions that baffle you in the comments below!

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