Wednesday Word: Mother-Father!

Who you gonna call?   (Mom and Dad, of course) Exclamations are a fun part of language. They don’t necessarily fit all the patterns. And sometimes, kin terms and other surprising words are shouted out to express deep feeling.

You know how you always yell, “Oh cousin!” when you’re exasperated. No? Oh yeah, sorry. It’s brother, not cousin. And these meanings are arbitrary. There’s no real reason why it’s brother and not sister, or cousin, or uncle…

…no, wait. We do cry “Uncle,” but that means “I surrender.” And even the nonreligious will exclaim “Oh God!” or “Oh my God!” (or, omigosh! or even OMG, for short, on their smart phone.)

Filipinos use Diyos ko (“my God!”) as an exclamation. But they don’t stop there. They will cover all the holy family bases with Susmariosep! which is a way to say JesusMariaJoseph without stopping to take a breath.

But how come earthly parents get left out, here? Well, they don’t. At least, in Palawano, they have their moments of exclamatory fame.

A Palawano who is extremely sick or writhing in pain will continually moan, Indoooooo! Amaaaaaa! (gotta draw out those final syllables), which means “Motherrrrr! Fatherrrrr!” Even adults will do this, long past the age when an American would cry “Mommy!” without shame. They even do it after their parents have passed on. Whether that’s just semantics or due to their tradition of ancestor worship is just a guess.

They will also scream “Indo-Ama!” when deathly afraid. And that’s the expression I heard today.

My friend Ruben had to catch a ride on the back of a motorcycle over a rough logging road through the jungle as part of his journey to see me here in the city. Apparently his brother-in-law drove the bike a little too fast for Ruben’s comfort and peace of mind. Ruben described it to me like this:

Neg-indo-ama ko!

That literally means, “I mother-fathered!” No verb meaning “cry, call out, or scream.” He put a verb-making prefix on the noun cluster mother-father and he was good to go. Palawano is flexible that way when it comes to building words.

And sorry, dads… it’s not father-mother. Mom always comes first in Palawano.

And if you want to be ready in case you you’re in such pain that you cannot speak, you could always point to this tattoo…

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About Bill Davis

Writer, speaker and translation and language learning consultant. I write technical articles, poetry and humor, and I am working on my first novel which is set on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
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2 Responses to Wednesday Word: Mother-Father!

  1. may says:

    Very cool, Bill!

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