Lourd de Veyra: Attack, Jejemons, Attack!
Lourd de Veyra on the jejemon phenomenon: "One day, out of all the chaos, someone from the jejemonic ranks will earn a goddamned PhD in linguistics and creative writing and make sense of it all."
They have a strange relationship with the caps lock button. Their fascination with the letter ’Z’ borders on the perverse. They like to make awkward contractions (i.e. "aq" for "ako"). They also aspirate their syllables: "po" becomes "poh." It is argued that brevity and convenience is their rationale for the bizarre spellings. But then again, "poh" is a letter longer than "po." They will probably be the first to use this icon Ã¢âÂ„¢ ¥ and "LOLZ" as certified punctuation marks.
They’re called jejemons. They’re basically the species of humanity that types in this charmingly odd manner, as if a chimpanzee had danced on the keyboard and hit "enter:"
guyZzZ, dHid yU Miz Mi? kOnTi NLnGz aNd Da CaNdy CutiEzZ iZ VaCkZ! KiTa KitZ zA StArbuhCkz!
eNkz tO aLL my ZupOrtErZz, and tO aLL mY HaTerz, LiVre KoH KaYoz nG MoCha FraPpez za Da Port
Unless you’ve been living inside Ping Lacson’s colon, maybe you’ve read or heard about them by now.
They have been hailed as the new jologs. But this time, it’s not really about what they’re wearing or what they’re listening to or who they’re watching in theaters. What is interesting about the whole "phenomenon" is that it is happening virtually-on blogs, chatrooms, social networking sites, and even on your mobile phone. And more importantly, it seems to be a language issue.
As with any linguistic system, the idea is to achieve a certain degree of consistency. At this point, the decision on whether or not to strike the caps button or when transform the "s" into a "Z" seems like a mere matter of temperament and improvisation. How the jejemon brain works we have no idea, but maybe it’s a climactic mixture of the noise that hovers around Internet gaming cafes, along with the extra ventilation permitted by those oversized shirts and even more oversized trucker caps perched on their head, and maybe constant bombardment to songs like this:
Certain websites have enumerated the jejemon’s supposed lifestyle choices: rap songs made with tinny synthesizer beats, Dota, Ragnarok, and other online network games, One description of the jejemon is that he/she inhabits the dark and danky environs of Friendster and Multiply.This smacks of wrongheaded snobbery. As if being on Facebook and Twitter represents a quantum leap in intellectual development.
Jejemons have been unfairly disparaged as morons because of their rather eccentric method of typing. Of late they have been on the receiving end of attacks from supposedly "elitist" forces on online social networking sites. People who cannot distinguish between "it’s" and "its" have no right to look down on jejemons. Even this anti-jejemon site, which is apparently run by people who skipped the class on apostrophe marks. Also, the high and mighty, who think that reading the Twilight trilogy lends them a sense of intellectual superiority.
The point is that we are all jejemons in our own small, helpless ways. Who among us can claim to never have typed even once "TNX" on our cellphone? Who among us have never resorted to Microsoft Spellcheck to save us from utter shame when attempting to spell "propitious?"
Before we cast aspersions on spelling and grammar of jejemons, we must first examine the infallibility of our own. That goes for both command of language and tastes in culture.
But wait-what if it’s not really the language we’re talking about? What if the jejemon is just a jolog armed with a cellphone or a PC? What if what we’re really sneering about is their lifestyle-their tastes in music, clothes, food, movies, television shows, reading materials, etc?
But sorry. That’s just pure elitism. Not everyone can afford to send their kids to expensive schools (IMPORTANT: Everytime we make jokes about how jologs someone’s school is, we are not insulting the poor student’s intellectual abilities but their parents’ financial capacities). Not everyone wants to go on a meatless diet because most people can’t even afford to buy meat. But to snicker at the jejes because they listen to cheap gangsta rap? How are Lady Gaga or the Black Eyed Peas any more tasteful than Salbakuta? You look down on jejemons but you’ve read New Moon? That’s like the pot calling the kettle Jojo Binay.
Conversely, jejemons, in a sense, might even posses a high degree of aesthetic appreciation. One of the demands of art is the element of complication. What is a drawing but a single line developed into its own intricate universe? What is painting but a single blot of color amplified? Such is the restless nature of the human mind. What is a jeje-word but a basic clump of letters systematically arranged to make sense-only with extra ornaments? Indeed, why be content with a simple "po" when "poh"-like "Bhong" or "Vhong" or "Vhingo" and "Rhose"- sounds more beautifully aspirated? Why does "ingat" sound mysteriously better, more sincere and lighthearted, and more importantly, modern, when slapped with a "Z"?
"Language is a labyrinth of paths. You approach from one side and know your way about; you approach the same place from the other side and no longer know your way about." This is by Ludwing Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. As to what this really means and its relevance to the subject, I’m not really sure. But I only like to quote Wittgenstein to sound smart (I’ll probably read the whole book someday).
Language is an organic entity-a big, fat, squirming worm of Dune-like proportions. Remember that once upon a time, Tagalog was written like this. But 417 years later, the center of cultural power has now shifted. We all have to accept the fact that the future of the language lies in the hairy hands of the masa, the bakya, the jologs, the jejemon, or whatever we’ll call them next month. Academia, after all, has always been helpless in the face of the ranging river that is popular language. No coven of hunchbacked, grey-haired, hemorrhoidal PhD-holders ever prevented the emergence of a Jolina Magdangal or artistas named Aljur. No language nazi from academia ever stopped the proliferation of words like "lobat" and "miskol."
The epic story of how "como esta" warped into "kumusta" then mutated into the Arabic-sounding "uZtazzz?" is something worth investigating. Someone advised to know the rules before we break them. One day, out of all the chaos, someone from the jejemonic ranks will earn a goddamned PhD in linguistics and creative writing and makes sense of it all. One day, the jejemons of today will be dancing on our graves, and laughing at the primitiveness of our tongues.
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Artwork by Warren Espejo.