But of course, everyone jokes about foreign words. French, however posh it sounds, is never an exception–especially in the Philippines, a country that thrives on humor.
Filipinos love mispronouncing merci so that it sounds like “mercy.” Saying “mercy buko” is common (buko is Filipino for coconut), and in keeping with the joke, the reply is “durian.” One of my friends even came up with “silver plate” for s‘il vous plaît.
One joke about a Filipino word in a fake French accent, however, stands out in my memory.
In my first few months of studying French at Alliance Française de Manille, I befriended a classmate, a Swiss-Filipino girl. Let’s call her K. Her English was impeccable, her French was certainly better than mine, and she was more interested in learning Spanish. However, she admitted to having difficulties with very formal Filipino (think Tagalog as spoken by a Caviteño or a Bulakeño).
We were also friends with a classmate whom we considered the class clown–let’s call him S. He loved to tease our French teacher. Now, most Pinoys expect expats to know a little bit of Tagalog, from the simple “hoy, pare” to the tongue-twisting word “nakakapagpabagabag.”
During lulls in class, or break times, or whenever S was frustrated with a lesson, he would make funny jokes and side comments in formal Filipino so that our teacher wouldn’t understand. Sometimes, he would talk in Filipino with a French accent.
I coudn’t remember what we were talking about one time, but I remember him blurting, “napaka-le vogue!” (“How horny!” Libog is the Tagalog term.) Everyone laughed.
Except for K, who gave me a look.