Friday, February 12, 2010

The etymology of "Uyab"

In one of the side conversations here at Taboan, I learned that etymology of the word "uyab." "Uyab", as everyone knows, means "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", common enough in everyday contemporary Bisaya as to be innocuous.

But do you know the origin of the word?

A playful Filipino linguistic trick is to reverse the spelling or pronunciation of a word, for example "ogag" instead "gago". It's typically applied to facetious or sardonic remarks.

Likewise with "uyab." It's a reversal of "bayu." And "-bayu" is, in turn, a contraction of "kabayo", which of course, means "horse" but in another sense means "to ride."

The word came to being during the time when American servicemen were more common in the country. Where sailors and soldiers are, local girlfriends are sure to follow. And so whenever the townsfolk would see an American and his girlfriend walking by, they would point and snigger: "Uy! Gikabayo, o!"

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