Po And Opo Origins

20150511_102717Few of us know it but the Filipino words po and opo were derived from the word ‘poon’, which in turn was derived from ‘panginoon’. Panginoon, as we all know, means lord, while poon means, to most of us, a catholic graven image such as a Sto Nino statue or the Poong Nazareno statue that the catholics parade around the area of Quiapo, Manila every year.

But the actual meaning of poon turns out to be ‘lord’ as well. It is only a shortened version of panginoon, which is why we have the expression ‘Poong Maykapal’. It’s just that the Catholics learned to worship graven images so poon was used that way. Poon was then further shortened to the one-syllable po, as well as opo, which apparently means ‘oo panginoon’ (yes lord). Apparently this has something to do with linguistic evolution due to muscular fatigue. While the muscles that control the tongue and jaw are the strongest in the human body, they probably complained too of having to utter a four-syllable word so frequently that the Filipinos yielded and shortened panginoon to po.

I’m not an expert in Philippine languages but I’m guessing that the pre-colonial Filipinos did not address their parents with ‘panginoon,’ which would have been a strange thing to hear. If your mother asks you if you have harvested all the bananas yet and your answer is, ‘yes lord,’ it’s a bit odd.

Maybe they did address their parents and older people that way like we do now, but during pre-colonial times there was also a caste system which might have had something to do with the widespread use of ‘panginoon’ among the natives.

But while Filipinos are so humble as to retain the widespread use of such a reverent word as ‘lord’ in our daily conversations even to this day and age, it’s a puzzle how pinoy pride came into being.

I think some of it has to do with racist and pinoy-pridish lessons being taught in schools. But this is something I will have to write about in a future post.


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