'Sobrang Thank You' and the Useless Subversion of Language

Sobrang thank you talaga!

I first heard the phrase, an expression among the younger Pinoy, mostly teenagers on television and on the streets, during the months of April and May 2006 that I went to the Philippines for a short visit.

The expression came as a shock to me, the way texting and text messaging had shocked me long before, what with the dissemination of a mobilization in an instant like the Universiity of the Philippines and Miriam College and Ateneo de Manila University mobilization right after that sad scene of the senators of the Republic deciding, with finality, to not allow the opening of the envelope purportedly containing prima facie evidence against the sitting president at that time, the B-film actor Joseph Estrada.

By B-film, I mean the second rate kind because it is basically bang-bang: that B-rate of a hero with a gun from some dubious source, its sound one of a bang-bang, the hero on a furlough for the salvation of the oppressed, coming from somewhere with all his glory and might to save those who are in dire need of saving.

That is the plot--or its lack.

And the B-moviegoers simply loved that flat plotline that they even glorified the hero of the B-film genre by (a) electing him president of our sad and sorrowful republic and (b)almost electing another B-film actor, his friend, president of the land.

The text messaging thing evolved into a language beholden to this new form of communications technology, dependent as it is on commerce and chips.
But just the same, the end-product answered the need of the oppressed people, oppressed by the monopoly of a telecommunications company that had lorded it over the lives of the middle classes who need the telephone most by simply making them wait for an average of ten years from the date of application before they even see the telephone line hooked on to their own homes.

Ten years of waiting had to change, and the chips revolutionized the way communications had to be conducted.

And now this texting thing revolutionizing everything, with technology providing the infrastructure of delivering the message.

The trope to all this could be: 'Message Sent.' Or in the internet, simply 'Sent'.

The whole revolution thing that even Marshall Macluhan could not have fully comprehended even when he was hypothesizing about a new gospel that could be reduced to 'the medium is the message'.

The impact of all these on human language has been enormous, with Filipino texting going back to the primeval Hebrew or Aramaic minus the vowels, minus the diacritical marks. You simply have to guess, move around, grope in the dark until you guess the whole expression right. Yes, just the expression. I see that the language of the young now is one of speed, brevity, abbreviation, acronym, Da Vinci Code-like, much like those of the pidginized Hebrew of the Tadtad cults or their many transformations with their absurd notion of what constitutes 'a sacred and sanctified language'.

And now this abomination, this 'sobra' in everything that the young utter, the 'sobra' appellation really sobra, really now, superfluous, unnecessary.

It has to be deleted right away, with the utterers punished by not allowing them to speak any single word for 40 days and 40 nights as part of the cleansing and purging process of their clogged mind, their mind polluted by so many things unnecessary including this abhorrent sound of a 'sobra anything' that is part of their collective strategy to exaggerate everything even if they do not know the meaning of that figure of speech that calls for one some of the time.

Unless, of course, some linguists can come forward and explain to us this aberration so we can give our communal pardon, our collective absolution.

The English language has committed a grievous sin, unpardonable in any time, when it invented the word 'very'. It is useless. It does not mean anything. Like this 'sobra' in that word of thanks that is not necessary. Like the 'sobra' that the young add up to a word already described, defined, modified, 'adjectivized', 'adverbialized.'

The more annoying thing is that this is a linguistic dis-ease, a social malady of the Word that is being spread like wildfire in summer by well-meaning but foolish residents of the idiot box, those wanna-be teen actors and actresses who have nothing substantial to say to the public except to say, 'Sobrang tenk yu to yu ol!'

Come on, quit it, this exaggeration, this penchant for that which is meaningless.

For that which is empty.

But there is a cure here: Say the Word with honesty and sincerity. Mean it. Mean what you say, say what you mean.

It is only in this way that this 'sobra' could be eliminated, eradicated, wiped out, erased. Totally, finally.

Ok, I grant some debate here.

That is, if some linguists can tolerate this 'subversion of language' that is not even subversive in the real sense of the word.

For subversion is empowering, liberating, freeing.

Pray, tell, what is empowering, liberating, freeing in useless exaggerating like this use of the 'sobra' to sound as if you mean anything?

A. S. Agcaoili
Torrance, CA
May 29, 2006
Memorial Day

No comments: