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Philippines declare war on cyberlingo

Jejebusters battle jejemongers on linguistic front line

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The government of the Philippines has declared "all out war" on what it considers a major threat to the purity of English - the "jejemon" invasion of social networks and mobe text messaging.

According to this in-depth report from Oz, the word jejemon is a fusion of 'jeje' (a variant of SMS "hehe"), and the suffix "mon", culled from the Japanese term "Pokemon".

Over the last year, jejemon has taken the Philippines by storm, in the process morphing from what was initially a way of abbreviating text messages into a linguistic monster in which brevity is no longer the prime objective.

For example, "hello" has become "HeLouWH" or "Eowwwh", and "oh, please" is rendered as "eoowHh.. puhLeaZZ". Or not, as the case may be, since this jejemon translator renders these as "H3770" and "0h, p734$3", respectively.

Still, the Australian report says that when jejemongers throw a bit of local Tagalog into the mix, "I love you" turns into "lAbqCkyOuHh" and "I miss you" becomes "iMiszqcKyuH".

Manila high school student Laudemer Pojas described jejemon as "an important part of his lifestyle that allows him to talk with friends using coded messages beyond the grasp of his strict parents".

The 17-year-old* explained: "I am a jejemon addict. I don't know what the big fuss is all about. It's orig [unique] to people my age, like street lingo but on the net and texting.

"It's also easier to do and can't be read by my parents who check my cel [mobile phone] from time to time."

The fuss, for Pojas's benefit, is that the powers that be fear jejemon "could blunt the Philippines' edge in English proficiency, which has long helped the impoverished country attract foreign investment and sustain its lucrative outsourcing industry".

Education secretary Mona Valisno recently took up the sword against jejemon, "urging teachers and parents to encourage the nation's youth to use correct English". She declared: "Texting or using wrong English and wrong spelling could be very bad. What I am concerned about is the right construction, grammar. This is for their own improvement, for them to be able to land good jobs in the future."

Valisno has some solid support from the "jejebusters", who are waging cyberwar against the inexorable spread of jejemon.

The local Catholic Church, though, is less convinced that the Philippines are going to linguistic hell in a handcart. It has described jejemon as "a form of free expression", similar to "the language of hippies decades ago".

Joel Baylon, top man at the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines' commission on youth, said: "Language is merely an expression of experience. What is more important are the values behind the language."

Or, as his country's yoof might put it: "74n6U463 1$ m'3r37y 4n 3xpr3$$10n 0f 3xp3r13nc3. wj4+ 1$ m'0r3 1m'p0wWwz'r+4n+ 4r3 +j3 v47U3$ b3h1nD +j3 74n6U463". ®

Bootnote

* Who is "portly", apparently. A nice detail there from the Oz reporter.

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