Author Topic: Getting used to common English colloquialisms  (Read 11357 times)

Joe Carillo

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Getting used to common English colloquialisms
« on: February 17, 2022, 07:47:56 AM »
It’s no surprise that English, as today’s leading global language, is spoken or written with such a wide range of informality and formality like dialects, slang, argot, gobbledygook, jargon, legalese, and academese. Even within countries of predominantly native English speakers, acceptable variations in vocabulary, spellings, idioms, and syntax can become so pronounced as to constitute a Babel of tongues.

So I must say that since we Filipinos don’t have a proprietary right over the English language, we need to get used to and be forgiving with common English colloquialisms, which are defined as words or phrases not formal or literary but are typically used in ordinary or familiar conversation.

                                                     IMAGE CREDIT: SLIDESERVE.COM/GITANO/COLLOQUIALISM

Let’s start with these observations posted by Forum member Miss Mae two weeks ago: “I often hear a beauty contest judge of an afternoon TV variety show use the phrase ‘the both of you.’ Other times, Filipino celebrities use ‘the both of us’ in talk shows. Are those usages correct?

“And I heard my second choice for President use ‘What matter?’ in a statement. I quickly checked the phrase in online dictionaries and wasn’t really surprised that it isn’t acceptable. I then thought that maybe, spontaneity in a morning interview just got the better of a him as nonnative English speaker. But then he used ‘What matter?’ again two days later for not fewer than three times, making me sure that he was deliberately using the phrase. What should be done in this case?”

Likewise two weeks ago, reader Laurence Dacanay posted these thoughts on my Facebook Messenger: “I have a question about something that has been bothering me for some time now. It’s about the usage in news headlines of  ‘vs.’ abbreviating the word “versus,” as in ‘SC dismisses case vs ex-SBMA exec after nearly 10 years’ and ‘Wiretapping case vs Hontiveros a harassment suit – opposition senators.’ This usage, which I suspect is wrong, can only be found in Filipino news media and is used quite commonly in Filipino headlines. as in ‘Pagsasampa ng kaso vs. Yang, Lao kulang sa ebidensya.’ Am I wrong to say that ‘vs.’ is being used incorrectly in this manner? I think they should just use the word ‘versus’ or ‘against.’ For Filipino headlines, they should use ‘laban sa’ or ‘laban kay’ instead.”

Regarding Miss Mae’s concerns about “the both of you” and “the both of us,” both phrases are acceptable colloquial usage, as in the sentence “Remember that this trip is only for [both of you, the both of you] [both of us, the both of us], so don’t bring along anybody else.” Of course, the forms “both of you” and ”both of us” that most are accustomed to are the scrupulously correct grammatical forms, but either of their colloquialisms “the both of you” and ”the both of us” is widely used particularly in the United States. In fact, the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage assures us that “There is no reason you should avoid it if it is your normal idiom.”

As to that presidential candidate’s repeated use of  “What matter?” in the sense of “What does it matter” or of the dated expression “What should that worry us?”, the Collins English Dictionary cites this colloquialism as acceptable usage in British English. That the candidate used that colloquialism isn’t surprising at all as he stayed in the United Kingdom as secondary and college student for about eight years.

Finally, in the case of “versus” and “vs.” in English and Philippine news reporting, it has long been used worldwide as shorthand for the idea that two entities are opposed to each other. Thus, while this colloquialism for the Latin “against” may grate on Laurence’s nerves, my friendly advice to him is, well, just learn to grin and bear it.

(Next week: The matter of capitalizing names and position titles)        February 24, 2022

This essay, 2085th of the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Campus Press section of the February 17, 2022 Internet edition of The Manila Times, ©2022 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

Read this essay in my column in The Manila Times:
Getting used to common English colloquialisms

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« Last Edit: February 17, 2022, 09:07:36 AM by Joe Carillo »