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Title: Swardspeak  
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Subject: Lavender linguistics, LGBT in the Philippines, Bakla, Polari
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Swardspeak (also known as "Bekimon" and "gay lingo") is an argot or cant slang derived from Englog (Tagalog-English code-switching) and used by a number of homosexuals in the Philippines.[1]


Swardspeak uses elements from Tagalog, English, Spanish, and some from Japanese, as well as celebrities' names and trademark brands, giving them new meanings in different contexts.[2] It is largely localized within gay communities, making use of words derived from the local languages or dialects, including Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, and Bicolano.


A defining trait of swardspeak slang is that it immediately identifies the speaker as homosexual, making it easy for people of that orientation to recognize each other. This creates an exclusive group among its speakers and helps them resist cultural assimilation. More recently, though, even non-members of the gay community use this way of speaking, particularly heterosexual members of industries dominated by gays, such as the fashion and film industries.

By using swardspeak, Filipino gays are able to resist the dominant culture of their area and create a space of their own.[3] The language is constantly changing, with old phrases becoming obsolete and new phrases frequently entering everyday usage, reflecting changes in their culture and also maintaining exclusivity. The dynamic nature of the language refuses to cement itself in a single culture and allows for more freedom of expression among its speakers. Words and phrases can be created to react to popular trends and create alternatives to a strictly defined lifestyle. By these characteristics, swardspeak creates a dissident group without any ties to geographical, linguistic, or cultural restrictions, thus allowing its speakers to shape the language as appropriate to the times. In this way, the language is not only "mobile" and part of a larger community, but also open to more specific or local meanings.[4]

Gay people who speak the language almost exclusively are humorously called Bekimons (a contraction of Baklang Jejemon, 'Gay Jejemons').[5] Swardspeak is also spoken by babaeng bakla, women who associate exclusively or mostly with gay men (literally 'gay women', though they are actually heterosexual).[6]


The word "Swardspeak", according to Jose Javier Reyes, was coined by columnist and movie critic Nestor Torre in the 1970s. Reyes himself wrote a book on the subject entitled "Swardspeak: A Preliminary Study".[7] "Sward" is slang for 'gay male' in the Philippines.[8] The origin of the individual words and phrases, however, has existed longer and come from a variety of sources.[9]


Swardspeak is a form of slang (and therefore highly dynamic, as opposed to colloquialisms) that is built upon preexisting languages. It deliberately transforms or creates words that resemble words from other languages, particularly English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, and German. It is colorful, witty, and humorous, with vocabularies derived from popular culture and regional variations.[10] It is unintelligible to people not familiar with the Filipino gay culture or do not know the rules of usage.[11] There is no standardized set of rules, but some of the more common conventions are shown below:[12]

  • Replacing the first letter/syllable of words with the letter "J"/"Sh" or the syllables "Jo-"/"Sho-" or "Ju-"/"Shu-".
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Jowa (variant diminutive: Jowabelle) Asawa (husband, boyfriend) Tagalog
Junta Punta (to go [to a place]) Tagalog
Shupatid (further corrupted to Jupiter) Kapatid (sibling) Tagalog
Shunga Tanga (idiot) Tagalog
Julalay Alalay (assistant) Tagalog
  • Replacing the first letter/syllable of words with the diphthongs "Ky-" or "Ny-".
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Kyota Bata (child) Tagalog
Nyorts Shorts English
Nyormville FarmVille English
Kyoho Mabaho (smelly) Tagalog
  • Replacing the end syllable of words with "-ash", "-is", "-iz", "-ish", "-itch", "-ech", "-ush", or "-oosh" as a diminutive or augmentative suffix.
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Jotis (a very small amount) Dyotay (a small amount) Cebuano
Jubis (very fat) obese English
Wish wash (nothing) Wala (nothing) Tagalog
Taroosh (very bitchy) Taray (bitchy) Tagalog
Itech (this one) Ito (this one) Tagalog
Anech (what, usually exclamatory) Ano (what) Tagalog
  • Replacing "a", "o", or "u" sounds with "or", "er", or "ur", especially directly before or after the consonant "l".
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Haller/Heller Hello English
Churchill Sosyal (high society) Tagalog (from Spanish 'Social')
Kalurkey Kaloka (insanely [entertaining], maddening, crazy) Tagalog (from Spanish 'loca')
Gander Ganda (beautiful) Tagalog
  • Inverting the letter order of a word, similar to Tagalog syllable switching slang. It is predominantly used in Cebuano swardspeak.[13]
Swardspeak Original word Language of origin
Ilij (no, not) Dili (no, not) Cebuano
Bayu (lover, boyfriend) Uyab (lover) Cebuano
Nial (bad, unpleasant) Lain (bad, unpleasant) Cebuano
Swardspeak Original word(s) Language of origin
Crayola (to cry, to be sad) Cry English
Antibiotic (obnoxious, unpleasant) Antipatika (obnoxious, unpleasant) Tagalog (from Spanish 'antipática')
Liberty (free) Libre (free) Tagalog (from Spanish 'libre')
Career/Karir ('to take seriously', used as a verb) Career English
Fillet O'Fish (to be attracted to someone) Feel (to sympathize) English
Kape / Capuccino / Coffeemate (to be realistic) 'Wake up and smell the coffee.' (a Philippine English humorous corruption of 'Wake up and smell the roses') Philippine English
Thundercats (old, particularly old gay men) Matanda (old) Tagalog
Chiminey Cricket (housemaid) Deliberate corruption of Jiminy Cricket, Chimay (Tagalog slang for housemaid) Tagalog
Nota (penis) Description as music note. Tagalog
Pocahontas (prostitute) Pokpok (slang for 'prostitute) Tagalog
Pagoda Cold Wave Lotion (tired, exhausted) A locally available brand of lotion, Pagod (tired, exhausted) Tagalog
Mudra (mother, also used to refer to female friends with children) Madre (mother) Spanish
Hammer (prostitute) Pokpok (slang for 'prostitute), Pokpok (onomatopoeic Tagalog word 'to pound', 'to hammer') Tagalog, English
Biyuti/Beyooti (beautiful, pretty) Beauty, word play of Cebuano Bayot ('gay') English, Cebuano
Silahis (bisexual male) Silahis ([sun]beam, ray) Tagalog
Boyband (fat kid) A pun on Baboy (Tagalog for 'pig') Tagalog, English
G.I. Joe (A foreign lover, particularly American) Acronym for 'Gentleman Idiot' English
Opposition Party (A social occasion with a lot of expected problems) Pun on Opposition (politics) English
  • References to popular culture, usually celebrities or TV shows. They can be selected to replace a word in reference to the things they were famous for, simply because parts of the words rhyme, or both.
Swardspeak Original word or concept Derived from
Julie Andrew (to be caught [cheating]) Huli (Tagalog 'to be caught') 'Julie' rhymes with 'Huli' and Julie Andrews, a British actress.
Gelli de Belen (jealous) Jealous Gelli de Belen
Tommy Lee Jones / Tom Jones (hungry) Tom-guts (Tagalog syllable switching slang for 'gutom', hungry) Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Jones
X-Men (formerly appearing to be heterosexual, coming out, especially from being hypermasculine to effeminate) 'Ex-man' X-Men
Fayatollah Kumenis (thin) Payat (Tagalog 'thin') Ayatollah Khomeini
Barbra Streisand (to be rejected bluntly, blocked) Bara (Tagalog 'to block') Barbra Streisand
Murriah Carrey (cheap) Mura (Tagalog 'cheap') Mariah Carey
Lupita Kashiwahara (cruel) Lupit (Tagalog 'cruel') Lupita Aquino-Kashiwahara (A Filipina Movie and TV director)
Carmi Martin (karma) Karma Carmi Martin
Rita Gomez (irritating, annoying) Nakaka-irita (Tagalog 'irritating') Rita Gomez
Mahalia Jackson (expensive) Mahal (Tagalog 'expensive', 'precious', 'dear') Mahalia Jackson
Anaconda (traitor, to betray) Ahas (Tagalog slang, 'to betray', literally 'snake') Anaconda (film)
Badinger Z (homosexual) Bading (Tagalog derogatory slang 'homosexual') Mazinger Z
Taxina Hong Kingston ([to wait for a] taxicab) Taxi Maxine Hong Kingston
Noël Coward (No) No Noël Coward
Oprah Winfrey (promise) Promise Oprah Winfrey
Sharon Cuneta (Yes, Sure) Sure Sharon Cuneta
Jesus Christ Superstar/Optimus Prime (Fashion make-over, to change into [more fashionable] clothing) Resurrection, Transformation Jesus Christ Superstar, Optimus Prime
  • Borrowed words from other languages, particularly long disused Spanish words in the Philippines (which has feminine forms of words preferred in Swardspeak that is absent in most Filipino languages), English, and Japanese.[14]
Swardspeak Definition Origin
Drama Melodrama, exaggeration, drama [queen] English
Carry/Keri To carry [oneself well] English
Siete Pecados Nosy, Gossipmonger Spanish 'seven sins'
Puñeta General profanity, roughly equivalent to 'fuck' Spanish slang, with varying degrees of perceived obscenity. Literally translates as 'in a fist'
Chiquito Small Spanish 'small'
Coño High society, especially [affluent] socialites who speak Taglish exclusively Spanish slang 'vagina'
Otoko fangirl octopus Japanese 男 (otoko)
Berru Beer Japanese ビール (bīru)
Watashi Me, I Japanese 私 (watashi)


  • Translation of the traditional Filipino nursery rhyme 'Ako ay may lobo' (I have a balloon) into Swardspeak.[15]
Original version Translation into Swardspeak Approximate English translation
Ako ay may lobo

Lumipad sa langit
Di ko na nakita
Pumutok na pala
Sayang lang ang pera,
Pinambili ng lobo
Sa pagkain sana,
Nabusog pa ako.

Aketch ai may lobing

Flylalou sa heaven
Witchels ko na nasightness
Jumutok lang pala
Sayang lang ang anda
Pinang buysung ng lobing
Kung lafangertz sana
Nabusog pa aketch

I had a balloon

It flew up in the sky
I can't see it anymore
[I didn't know] it had popped
Money just wasted
Buying the balloon
If I had bought food instead
At least I would have been satisfied

  • Translation of the traditional Filipino nursery rhyme 'Bahay Kubo' (Nipa hut) into Swardspeak.
Original version Translation into Swardspeak Approximate English translation[16]
Bahay kubo, kahit munti

Ang halaman duon,
Ay sari-sari
Singkamas, at talong,
Sigarilyas at mani
Sitaw, bataw, patani
Kundol, patola, upo’t kalabasa
At saka meron pa
Labanos, mustasa
Sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya
Sa paligid-ligid
Ay puno ng linga

Valer kuberch, kahit jutey

Ang julamantrax denchi,
Ay anek-anek.
Nyongkamas at nutring,
Nyogarilyas at kipay.
Nyipay, nyotaw, jutani.
Kundol, fyotola, kyupot jolabastrax
At mega join-join pa
Jobanos, nyustasa,
Nyubuyak, nyomatis, nyowang at luyax
And around the keme
Ay fulnes ng linga.

Nipa hut, even though it is small

The plants it houses
Are varied
Turnip and eggplant,
Winged bean and peanut
String bean, hyacinth bean, lima bean.
Wax gourd, luffa,
white squash and pumpkin,
And there is also radish, mustard,
Onion, tomato,
Garlic, and ginger
And all around
Are sesame seeds.

See also


  1. ^ Empress Maruja (27 July 2007). "Deciphering Filipino Gay Lingo". United SEA. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Jessica Salao (30 April 2010). "Gayspeak: Not for gays only". Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  3. ^ "swardspeak". Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  4. ^ Cynthia Grace B. Suguitan. "A SEMANTIC LOOK AT FEMININE SEX AND GENDER TERMS IN PHILIPPINE GAY LINGO". University of the Philippines. Retrieved 25 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Sharlyne Ang (July 7, 2010). "Ang Bekimon (Baklang Jejemon)". Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  6. ^ Jessica Salao (30 April 2010). "Gayspeak: Not for gays only". Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Reinerio A. Alba (June 5, 2006). "The Filipino Gayspeak (Filipino Gay Lingo)". Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  8. ^ """GAY SPEAKS on "SWARDSPEAK. May 13, 2005. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  9. ^ Norberto V. Casabal (August 2008). "GAY LANGUAGE: DEFYING THE STRUCTURAL LIMITS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN THE PHILIPPINES". Kritika Kultura, Issue 11.  
  10. ^ Danton Remoto (2008-05-05). "On Philippine gay lingo". Retrieved 25 December 2010. 
  11. ^ "Gay Lingo (Made in the Philippines)". November 16, 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  12. ^ Empress Maruja (27 July 2007). "Deciphering Filipino Gay Lingo". United SEA. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  13. ^ Reinerio A. Alba (June 5, 2006). "The Filipino Gayspeak (Filipino Gay Lingo)". Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  14. ^ "Gay Lingo Collections". July 5, 2009. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  15. ^ Norberto V. Casabal (August 2008). "GAY LANGUAGE: DEFYING THE STRUCTURAL LIMITS OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN THE PHILIPPINES". Kritika Kultura, Issue 11.  
  16. ^ Lisa Yannucci. "Philippines Children's Songs and Nursery Rhymes". Retrieved 25 December 2010. 


  • DV Hart, H Hart. Visayan Swardspeak: The language of a gay community in the Philippines - Crossroads, 1990
  • Manalansan, Martin F. IV. “’Performing’ the Filipino Gay Experiences in America: Linguistic Strategies in a Transnational Context.” Beyond the Lavender Lexicon: Authenticity, Imagination and Appropriation in Lesbian and Gay Language. Ed. William L Leap. New York: Gordon and Breach, 1997. 249–266
  • Manalansan, Martin F. IV. “Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora”, Duke University Press Books, November 19, 2003. ISBN 978-0-8223-3217-6

External links

  • Gay Language
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