Author Topic: Is "fiscalizer" a legitimate word in the English language?  (Read 19515 times)

Joe Carillo

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Is "fiscalizer" a legitimate word in the English language?
« on: February 05, 2010, 11:35:22 PM »
From Fred Natividad in Livonia, Michigan (February 5, 2010):

Upon receipt of the Yahoo group e-mail below, Fred sent me a copy with this laconic question: “Any comments, Joe?”

The e-mail message runs as follows:

“Ever heard the word ‘fiscalizer’ used extensively on Philippine TV by politicians esp. senators and their supporters?

“Well, sorry to burst the bubble, but ‘fiscalizer’ is another IMBENTO NG PINOY!!

“Follow this link to read on about the history of the word." :)

My reply to Fred:

I checked out the site indicated in the e-mail above and found it very informative, if a tad too partisan for my taste.* I’d like to be as dispassionate as possible about English vocabulary matters, you see.


Anyway, what I know is that “fiscalizer” isn’t really a new Filipino neologism; if my memory serves me well, it was already in vogue way back in the late ’60s and would resurface every time a national election or a showdown in the Philippine Senate or in the Lower House was in the offing. I know that some politicians way back then would appropriate the word to describe themselves or media would tack on the label on one, then both would liberally use it for its strong publicity recall. This would be regardless of whether “fiscalizer” really fit their self-image or the public image of a righteous fighter, or whether they had first checked the word out with a reputable dictionary to find out exactly what it means. What’s important is for the politician so labeled to develop a reputation as a fierce combatant for some cause or anything worth ranting or railing against. Of course, all the while I knew that no respectable dictionary had recognized it yet as an English word, but then who had ever stopped an enterprising Filipino wordsmith or politician from inventing a new English word from scratch—words like, say, “salvage” for “kill” (which actually means the opposite)?

Just to be doubly sure, I checked my digital Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary a while ago and found that it still has no entry for either “fiscalize” or “fiscalizer.” All it has is this entry for “fiscal”:

Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin fiscalis, from fiscus basket, treasury
Date: 1563

1 : of or relating to taxation, public revenues, or public debt  <fiscal policy>
2 : of or relating to financial matters
fiscally adverb

I would imagine that since the adjective “fiscal” denotes money things and not fighter things, the most appropriate meaning “fiscalize” could have is “monetize,” and “fiscalizer,” well, “monetizer.” Of course, I’m sure none of the self-proclaimed fiscalizers would want this meaning to stick; it’s, ummh, so demeaning—as if an honest-to-goodness fiscalizer is doing it only for the money.  

Anyway, I did a media check on “fiscalizer” and found that a story of the Philippine Star in its November 18, 2008 issue identified Senator Manuel Villar as such in the headline, “‘No regrets, I’ll serve as fiscalizer’,” although nowhere in the story is there any mention that he had described himself as such. (Question to the Philippine Star editor at the time: Was it deliberately or inadvertently edited out?) You see, this was when he was ousted as Senate President, and what he actually said (as quoted in the news story), was this: “I don’t see how it will affect me. Being Senate president had tied me down to this job. At least, I can say that I’m free to move around and have more time now to attend to the poor, to assist needy overseas Filipino workers, to serve the public more.” (Sounds like he was already campaigning for the presidency that early!) But that doesn’t sound to me like “fiscalizing” or a “fiscalizer’s” job at all! I therefore suspect that it was the reporter or the paper’s desk editor who had stuck that tag on Villar whether he wanted it or not. So perhaps it’s also media’s fault that “fiscalizer” continues to have its phantom semantic existence up to this day!

I say this in all seriousness because it looks like even Senator Joker Arroyo—a genuine, bona fide lawyer—had appropriated “fiscalizer” to describe himself way back in 2007. A Philippine Information Agency (PIA) news story on April 12 of that year reported:

Joker stresses role as Administration’s “fiscalizer”

Tacloban City (12 April) -- Re-electionist Senator Joker Arroyo defended his position in running under the Administration ticket during the Team Unity’s campaign sortie here in Samar yesterday saying he will continue to act as “fiscalizer” of the Arroyo administration.

According to Sen. Arroyo, his position of being an “opposition within the administration” will not change despite the fact that he is running under the Administration’s Team Unity as there was no agreement at all that he will stop being critical to the Arroyo government in exchange for his being picked up as its candidate.

For the current national election season, it appears that it’s Senator Benigno Aquino III who had appropriated “fiscalizer” as campaign tag and persona. It seems that he had described himself as such in an interview on “Probe Profiles” on ABS-CBN. So now “fiscalizer” has just gotten a new lease on life in an altogether new context. Anyway, I suppose that its fate and formal acceptance as a legitimate word by reputable English dictionaries will ultimately depend—or at least depend largely—on the outcome of the coming Philippine presidential elections. So let’s just wait and see what happens to “fiscalize” and “fiscalizer” when the final poll tallies are out. It just might land a well-deserved place in the English lexicon—or be consigned to semantic oblivion for posterity.

*The domain of the site has since been taken down (December 31, 2020)
« Last Edit: December 31, 2020, 10:35:25 AM by Joe Carillo »


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Re: Is “fiscalizer” a legitimate word in the English language?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2010, 07:34:35 AM »
My comment relates to "fiscalizer" as a Philippine invention. This is not the first. As a beginning accounting student of the 1950s, we had to give it to whoever introduced "routinary" (a multisyllabic form of routine) and "dation in payment" (English for dacion en pago or tender of payment. They sounded legitimate for the young learners because they could be a direct translation of Spanish terms. Students did not question the professors who introduced them to the words, but for some of us who always consulted the dictionary for "new" additions to our vocabulary, we beamed everytime a law professor or a lawyer uttered these terms and we treated him like a stand-up comic doing some malapropisms. Anyway, have these terms finally become part of educated English? Or, have they become professional jargon that has crept into good general usage? I have found it difficult to use these terms, so I just don't.


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Re: Is “fiscalizer” a legitimate word in the English language?
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2010, 09:58:13 AM »
Mr. Jose Carillo:
You and Fred Natividad are right: “Fiscalizer” is not an English word. It is not found in any English dictionary. It was coined by Filipino lawmakers early last century to describe themselves as critics of alleged government wrongdoing. Having been educated in Spanish during the 19th Century, they converted the Spanish verb “fiscalizar,” meaning “to criticize” into an English noun. The next generation of lawmakers continued the practice, and reporters soon picked up the term. However, fiscalizer did not make it to either the American or British dictionary. Anothsr non-English word that reporters had borrowed from lawmakers is “carnapping,” which means “car theft.” In the 1960s, Congress passed a law known as the “Anti-Carnapping Act.” Newspapers today have replaced carnapping with carjacking, which is a fusion of “car” and “hijacking.”



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Re: Is “fiscalizer” a legitimate word in the English language?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2010, 11:32:29 PM »
Fiscalizer may be related to Fiscal - the terms we used to call Public Prosecutors (who are the advocates of the People of the Philippines in criminal cases).

In fact, although public prosecutors are no longer officially designated as fiscals, in practice, they are still referred to as such.

Thus, to fiscalize had the connotation of taking the cudgels for the Filipino people with respect to a certain issue (usually against the government)