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All Because of the Word ‘Scarce’

I used to have a player whose bansag – a derogatory nickname – within the team was tutâ (a puppy). And so one afternoon at the football field, probably more in jest than anything, I was supposed to have told him, “You don’t have a personality! You have a dogsinality!”

In all honesty, I had completely forgotten all about this incident. It was a classmate of this player who happened to work very closely with me all of two decades later who reminded me about it.

This colleague was a classmate of the player in first year high school. One day during an English class, my colleague told me, they were asked to volunteer new words that they had recently encountered.

“Ma’am,” my player was supposed to have vigorously raised his hand. When he was called, he beamingly recited, “Dogsinality!”

If I know this player at all – and he was a handful when young – he was probably trying to draw laughs from classmates. The English teacher, however, was fuming!

“Go find me a dictionary that will carry that word ‘dogsinality!’

Cue then the customary annotation in reference to the source. “Sabi ni Sir!” (According to Sir.)

Oh well… What can I say? It was just one of those things that always came with the label NOT TO BE TAKEN TOO SERIOUSLY.

Fast forward now to roughly two decades later and a totally different set of high school players. We were travelling to a match early one morning and a few of the lads were discussing a subject.

When one of the lads said the word ‘scarce’ and pronounced it as skars, the teacher in me kicked in immediately.

“Skairs,” I corrected. Naturally, as all young people do upon hearing a new word – or pronunciation – the boys started parroting me.

Although, I was careful to point out, older dictionaries considered both skars and skairs correct. However, I continued, the native English language speakers are wont to use skairs rather than the other one.

And I thought that was the end of the matter…

Weeks later and likewise travelling early one morning to another match, the same boys were talking about the subject again. Inevitably, the word ‘scarce’ came up as well.

One boy, after having said skars immediately corrected himself. “Skairs,” he repeated the word, albeit unprompted. Probably for my benefit…

The boys then told me, “Napagalitan pô kami ng teacher!”

Seriously? “Opô! Skars daw pô!”

Do not for one moment even think that there is such a thing as Filipino English. As the bogus Queen Elizabeth account on Twitter once haughtily tweeted, “There is only British English and there are errors.”

I hope you had the good sense to keep my name out of it, I gently told the boys.

Boys being boys, however, they are nothing if not invariably honest. “Sabi ko pô sabi ni Sir…” one boy replied.

Yown! Contravida na naman ako! (I’m the villain all over again!)

What funny old creatures teachers can be sometimes, especially in this business called learning. I would have said, “Let me find out and get back to you.”

Is it not just the strangest thing when the student has learned something new and the teacher has not? Or refuses to…


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