Biggest-ever addition of 'Filipino English' goes into Oxford dictionary

The "balikbayan box" refers to boxes of gifts sent home to the Philippines by expatriates. "Balikbayan," a term for a Filipino who lives abroad, is one of nearly 40 terms from Filipino English recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary.
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What do the terms "carnap," "comfort room" and "mani-pedi" have in common? Not much save that they're examples of what's called Filipino English.

And that they are among the many new additions to the Oxford English Dictionary that readers will need to study up on.

Close to 40 new words were added from Filipino English, the largest addition from this particular variation of English to the dictionary so far, Oxford officials say. It's part of a move to include more of what's referred to as "world English" in the dictionary, that being English as it's interpreted and spoken around the world.

In this case, it's cross-pollenized English: Some of the Filipino English terms included in the dictionary are diaspora words that originated in the United States, while others evolved from U.S. cultural influence in the Philippines, where English is widely spoken.

Much of it involves what's called code switching, said Oxford U.S. dictionary's director Katherine Connor Martin.

"Code switching is the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of languages in conversation," Connor Martin said.

Some of the words come purely out of the immigrant experience: for example, balikbayan, defined as a Filipino who now lives abroad.

One place where Filipino English is widely spoken is Los Angeles, home to generations of Filipino immigrants and their children.

On Thursday morning in Silver Lake, some Filipino American children in a cultural summer camp learned words in Tagalog from their instructors. But they - and their instructors - grew up with non-traditional Filipino English as well.

Terms like, for example, "comfort room."

"The comfort room is like CR, that's what my mom calls it, but it means, like, bathroom," one eight-year-old girl explained. 

That's one of the words added to the dictionary recently. Other U.S. coined-terms included "carnap" - which makes perfect sense in that it involves stealing a car (having been "carnapped" means having had one's car stolen). A "carnapper" is the one who does the stealing.

Then there are terms one might think came from the U.S. but actually came from the Philippines, like "mani-pedi," a manicure and pedicure, whose first known use was traced back to Philippine writer Kerima Polotan-Tuvera in the early 1970s.

Another English term that came from the Philippines: "dirty kitchen," which doesn't literally refer to a kitchen that's unclean, but to a kitchen that's used for cooking; some upscale homes in the Philippines have two kitchens, with the one where the heavy lifting occurs is referred to as the "dirty" one.

One commonly used diaspora term that didn't make it in: The"balikbayan box," referring to the boxes of gifts that immigrants from the Philippines ship home to their families - or arrive with when the come to visit.

Shelina Miranda, an instructor at the SIPA summer camp, says her mother still regularly packs them. 

"She usually shops for like a few weeks, tries to accumulate as much as she can," said Miranda, whose family came to the U.S. when she was in her teens. "She usually asks, too: 'What do you need? Do you need canned goods? Do you need chocolate?'"

Then once it's packed tight with goods her mom sends it off, Miranda said, a care package from her balikbayan family to loved ones in the Philippines.

See all the Oxford English Dictionary's Filipino English additions here.