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Kilig in English: Describing Aldub, Kathniel, Jadine and a Pee Shiver

Image captured from Pangako sa 'Yo trailer on YouTube.

The Tagalog word ‘kilig’ has got to be among the most overused these days in the entertainment industry, or at least in the contemporary sense as a way to describe the response to the numerous love teams that local audiences simply devour with gusto.

How the meaning of the word has evolved the way it has is of particular interest to me because I used to understand it differently to the way younger people of today do.

Somebody on Urban Dictionary defines the word as “the sudden feeling of an inexplicable joy one gets when something romantic or idealistic occurs.”

To which my reaction was, like, dafuq???!!! Excusez-moi pour le French!

An article entitled “Filipino Words that Don’t Translate to English” written by a Wincy Aquino Ong defines the word as “a feeling of being intoxicated by the idea of love, whether subjectively experienced or through mirror neurons.”

Same reaction; and by the way, there is an English translation albeit not into a singular word. But more on this later…

Still another definition put forth by a Br. Clifford Sorita cited in an article on GMA news online defines the word as an ‘initial attraction’ similar to a crush or an infatuation. This makes it weirder for me; although I understand it perfectly that the younger generation gets him completely.

Finally, TagalogTranslate.com comes up with a definition that I finally can relate with: shudder; to chill; tremble. The definitions given are not perfect; but close enough to how I used to understand the word in the old days.

On particularly cold days when one has been with a full bladder for a while and finally gets to relieve himself, the act of urinating may sometimes conclude with an involuntary shudder not unlike the rude drumbeats at the end of Ravel’s Bolero.

This involuntary shudder, which is somewhat ticklish in sensation, is what used to be called the ‘kilig.’ In the washroom, anybody who got this could get a bit of teasing from fellow schoolboys.

To females reading this article, you likely do not know what I am talking about and with good reason. This involuntary shudder is predominantly a male thing, although in extremely rare cases some women are supposed to have experienced it too.

It even has an English name: pee shivers. It is not at all a condition to be alarmed at but doctors have nonetheless given it a lengthy name: post-micturition convulsion syndrome.

The convulsion only happens after a large amount of urine has been expunged from the body and never after trickles. You know, like when you force yourself to go even if your bladder is not full because you are going on a road trip.

It is not known for sure what causes pee shivers, but those who have given the matter some thought suspect it is either the body’s response to the sudden loss of a large amount of warm fluids or protection against the drop in blood pressure due to urination.

This is just me; and I lay no claims to any sort of expertise in the Tagalog language. What I do recall of ‘kilig’ was that it was used almost exclusively in the context of a pee shiver.

If one shivered involuntarily from the cold, the word used was ‘kaligkig’ rather than ‘kilig.’ Again I reiterate that this is just from my own recollection and I do not know it for a fact that word ‘kilig’ is used interchangeably with ‘kaligkig’ in other Tagalog localities.

The big curiosity, needless to say, is how the word at all became what it is now almost universally known to mean: a positive reaction to a romantic situation or to entertainment personalities cast in such situations.

Hence, in reference to contemporary love teams that have become box office and network staples these days, ‘kilig’ has become the broad overused term to describe positive reactions such as joy, upliftment, infatuation, admiration and other emotions people experience.

What I do not know is if schoolboys still call that involuntary shiver at the end of a good pee the same way people describe seeing Aldub, Kathniel or Jadine. I have always been fascinated by how language evolves; but this has got to be among the stranger ones as far as I am concerned.