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The Convenience of the Word K’wan

Just this evening on the news, a government official – or something – being interviewed by a reporter was being particularly cryptic with his reply, “Hindî mapatakbo ang kwan dahil sa k’wan…” So there you have it! Such esteemed eloquence on national television at that. Oh by the way, I am being sarcastic…

But to get back to the magic word, k’wan, does it even have a meaning? The closest English translation that I can think of is whachamacallit, which is not even legitimate English but an abbreviated version of ‘what you might call it.’

Or, its Filipinized version, ‘what do you call this.’

The translation is not a one hundred per cent fit, however, since for whachamacallit the user is trying to actually to prompt himself or the person that he is talking to for the word that he is failing to recall.

In the case of the k’wan, however, you just use it to conveniently take the place of the word that you cannot recall.

You can actually construct practically an entire sentence using the word  k’wan. For instance…

Dumating si k’wan, nasabit ang k’wan sa k’wan, naku nagpakuwan-kuwan; hayun nak’wan ang k’wan kaya dinala sa k’wan.

But of course that’s being stupid…

Albeit, I used to know somebody at work who so loved to use the word, particularly when startled. But I’m being mean…

Strange as it may sound, but most Tagalogs will probably understand even that silly sentence made up of so many k’wans.

As all Tagalogs know, the word k’wan is actually a shortened version of kuwan, with the apostrophe substituting for the vowel ‘u’ as is the acceptable practice in the use of Tagalog.

Some Tagalog-English translators will say that the word means ‘a thing.’ Yeah, yeah… But not quite…

In truth, it is really just that convenient word that you just use to substitute for something that you cannot for the moment recall.

Actually, we Tagalogs are just as wont to use ano in lieu of k’wan. Hence, the silly sentence above can just as easily be the following:

Dumating si ano, nasabit ang ano sa ano, naku nagpakaano-ano; hayun naano ang ano kaya dinala sa ano.

And all of us Tagalogs would be nodding our heads in complete understanding…

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