A new entry in the Duterte lexicon | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

A new entry in the Duterte lexicon

Thanks to the piquant public speaking style of President Duterte, our vocabulary is constantly enriched with some of the most outrageous use of English words, especially where his personal security is concerned. This is not to include his arsenal of invectives and cusswords that he spews on a daily basis.

Since Mr. Duterte took office, print and broadcast media have feasted on the daily staple of new spins on old English words and concepts. Perhaps this is because he chooses not to use the speeches routinely composed for him, and instead speak extemporaneously, perfunctorily.


Consequently, in his speeches, Mr. Duterte rambles on, with his standard bravado-laced oratory, with unfinished sentences sprinkled generously with gutter-level words and expressions. It seems Mr. Duterte is oblivious of public expectations of behavior befitting a head of state. When he starts speaking, he puts on his “macho-on-the-street” persona, unleashing words and terms that usually draw delight from audiences wanting to have a good laugh to escape from their daily woes.

It would not be a surprise if this collection of concepts and their new meanings becomes a substantial part of any English dictionary that will be used worldwide.


It might become the country’s distinct contribution to the “internationalization” of Philippine meanings of English words and concepts.

For social linguists, a possible exciting research project is to examine the growing list of Mr. Duterte’s words and their meanings that can be assembled as his distinctive lexicon. This has attracted widespread attention, both positive and negative. Either way, he always gets into popular consciousness — despite mounting derision from some influential politicians and thought leaders. Publicity, whether good or bad, sustains one’s popularity or notoriety.

This is no mean feat, considering that Mr. Duterte is no lexicographer in English, nor is he an expert in social linguistics.

In one of his most recent speeches, Mr. Duterte expressed that he is already being pressured to do something about the myriad problems confronting the country. He said that if he is pushed to the “limits” (pag nasagad na ako), he will be forced to declare a “revolutionary war.”

In our simple understanding of “revolution” and “war,” both are associated with the goal of rebel groups or those who want to contest the authority of the state. When a head of state declares war or revolution, he does it against an invading force from another state or country — but not against his own people. Maybe he thinks that some people in this country are subhuman, and that they deserve to be wiped out from the face of this part of the earth?

When asked for her views on the term “revolutionary war,” professor Rowena Daroy Morales of the University of the Philippines College of Law, explained in a GMA television phone-in interview that the term the President used might actually be referring to “revolutionary government.” And to the question whether the present situation warrants a revolutionary government, the professor said this is debatable.

But as to the use of the phrase, “revolutionary war,” Morales noted that maybe it is the President’s intention to wage a war against forces stronger than he is in order to protect himself.


Is China one of such forces? Or is his imagination going on overdrive? Does he hear whispers that his detractors from the political left, right and center are out there to cause him harm? Is this the reason for requiring a bulletproof glass shield in front of the presidential podium?

While this could be a manifestation of presidential paranoia, it could also be just one of Mr. Duterte’s newest entries to his growing lexicon.

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TAGS: Duterte's vocabulary, Kris-Crossing Mindanao, revolutionary war, Rodrigo Duterte, Rufa Cagoco-Guiam
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