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Sharing Mana‘o

Over the next few weeks, millions of Americans will observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month through numerous fundraising activities and informational outreach. Many of them will participate in “Touchdowns for Tatas” events ranging from women’s flag football tournaments to pro football watch parties.

Maui’s sixth annual Touchdowns for Tatas will incorporate Monday Night Football into a benefit for the Pacific Cancer Foundation, Oct. 28 at the Beach House Bar and Grill in Kahana. Participants, dressed in pink, will watch the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Miami Dolphins, starting at 2:15 p.m.; the party continues until 8 p.m. with a silent auction, prize giveaways after each quarter, and halftime and post-game entertainment by Marty Dread.

The first time I saw an ad for Touchdowns for Tatas, I imagined a group of older Filipino men gathered under the goalposts, “tata” being a Tagalog word for father. It’s one of those non-English words found in pidgin, or Hawaii Creole English. And it’s a cute example of how Mainland slogans and promotions may have a different meaning in our islands.

A bawdier example pops up annually when Olive Garden rolls out its summertime “Buy One, Take One” special. After several years (and many hilarious Tweets and Facebook comments), it seems the national restaurant chain remains blissfully unaware that the BOTO acronym has a whole different meaning here. For pidgin-illiterates (like the Olive Garden marketing team), boto is slang for a certain body part of Tata’s. So you can imagine how locals reacted to ads proclaiming, “BOTO and a movie . . . what could be better?” (One online wag observed that, usually, dinner comes first) or “If it walks like a good deal, and it tastes like a good deal . . . it must be BOTO!” I’m not going to repeat any of the comments I saw on that one.

While doing my research for this column, I learned that, contrary to popular belief and the online Urban Dictionary, boto is not an actual Filipino word, although “buto” in Ilocano has the same meaning. It probably entered our pidgin vocabulary due to a mispronunciation.

I also found that a good number of Filipino words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary in the past few years. Most are foods – bagoong, halo-halo, pandesal, sinigang – but the greeting “Mabuhay” also made it, as did “balikbayan box,” the care package that folks ship or carry to the Philippines. And I was surprised to see “mani-pedi” listed as a term of Filipino origin. According to the OED, the first recorded use of the term, meaning a manicure and pedicure combo, was in a 1972 essay by Philippine writer Kerima Polotan-Tuvera. However, someone lodged an appeal, so the term is now undergoing further research by the OED staff.

As reported in a previous Sharing Mana’o, the Pidgin words “hammajang” and “howzit” were added to the dictionary last December. But they didn’t credit HCE for the latter, instead citing South Africa as the place of origin for our informal greeting (it means the same thing there). Hammajang was added after the OED requested public input in an effort to add more regional terms as part of its 90th anniversary celebration. I guess it was the most popular pidgin word suggested. Too bad for Olive Garden, apparently no one submitted boto for consideration.

Or perhaps they did, and the OED didn’t consider it. Because the word already appears in the dictionary. It’s defined as “any of various dolphins of the coasts and rivers of Brazil; specifically, a pink or grey river dolphin.”

I guess there aren’t any Olive Gardens in Brazil.

* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.