Sunday, September 13, 2009

Putting to rest unspeakable Spanish

FOR once, I was glad my boys have difficulty untangling certain Spanish-influenced words in colloquial use.

While our family was listening to a late night TV report, the anchor mentioned the word “pendejo” to refer to Luis “Chavit” Singson.

The deputy national security adviser was recently accused by his common-law wife of physically and emotionally battering her due to jealousy. Chavit denies that he hurt his partner, whom he says he caught in the act of sex with another man.

He alleges that his partner has had a string of lovers during their live-in arrangement of the past 17 years, a fact he sighs he would have kept private had she not publicly accused him of abusing her.

Authorities and advocates of women’s rights have condemned Singson for violating Republic Act 9262. The Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 prohibits the physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse of women and their children.

This law protects the human rights of wives, ex-wives and other women who have a “sexual or dating relationship” or have “common children” with the accused.

Recently, the Magna Carta of Women was also passed, strengthening the state policy of outlawing the violation of women’s rights in all spheres, from the personal to the social.

But that late-night newscast shows that Singson is not the only “Neanderthal,” as one paper’s editorial alludes, with an inability to accept the changed terms of gender relations.

When the broadcaster dropped the term “pendejo” in his report about the Singsons, I shot a glance at my boys whose expressions hardly registered signs that they heard anything at all. Spanish-influenced terms, such as those used for counting coins and telling time, still befuddle them.

On the other hand, I wondered about the media man’s choice of word, which retains the literal meaning as the English word, “cuckold,” but spits harsher implications.

In many Spanish-speaking nations, “pendejo” is never used in polite society. It is based on the Latin “pectiniculus,” referring to pubic hair. At its most diluted, the insult alludes to an oaf of bumbling incompetence. At its most virulent, the “pendejo” laughs at and pities the fool that does not know how to handle his woman.

While my grasp of the language is limited only to 12 units of unspeakable Spanish in college, I can hear the sneer and the smirk in the three-syllable profanity for the thrice-insulted: in the boudoir, in his place as head of the family, and in the company of other males who will applaud him if he drops his pants for other women other than his wife but who will jeer and call him names behind his back if his wife or her lover pulls down his pants for him.

In the ancient lingo of machismo, another sticky leftover from nearly four centuries of Spanish rule, the “pendejo” never goes stag. For every emasculated imbecile, there is his partner, the “puta.”

While the origin of the word is listed by the Royal Spanish Academy as uncertain, the Wikipedia cites popular usage for shortening the Spanish word “prostituta (prostitute)” to “p’uta.”

In referring to any female of “loose morals,” the catchall may do for the street walker as well as for the traitorous wife, both of whom machismo lumps with other she-devils who deserve what they get, their dignity as forfeit as their life.

That is what RA 9262 seeks to redefine. No matter what the female provocation—addiction to nagging, execrable cooking or shopping, an uninvited guest in the marital bed—men must never cease to communicate with their partners, seek counseling and pacific resolution of domestic problems, and curb the Neanderthal reflex to resort to violence.

But first, we must throw out the dirty macho talk. 09173226131

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s September 6, 2009 issue of “Matamata”

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