☸☼☸☼☸ (steamage) wrote in linguaphiles,

QUESTION: About San Ababis

I read this anecdote in a blog which deals with weird historical events and trivia. I'm not sure whether it happened or not; my real question is, what were the American soldiers really saying? I've gone over every pronunciation for "San Ababis" I can think of, and it means nothing to me. I feel like I'm missing the punchline. Do you have any clue what they were saying, which was misconstrued as the saint's name?
But my favourite example is a story told by the American linguist Charles Hockett, who reports that at least one Filipino father, during the American occupation of the Philippines, named his son Ababís — after the patron saint of the United States. But no such saint exists. So what happened? Well, before the Americans arrived, the Philippines were a Spanish colony, and Spanish was widely spoken. In Spanish, the word for ‘saint’, when it occurs in a male saint’s name, is San — hence all those California place names like San Francisco, San José and San Diego. The Filipino father had noticed that American soldiers, in moments of stress, tended to call upon their saint by exclaiming San Ababís! — or something like that. – Robert Lawrence Trask, Language: The Basics, 1999
source EDIT: Okay; the general consensus is that they were saying "sonuva-" and the Spanish-speaking inhabitants misconstrued it as piety. Thanks, guys. :)
Tags: english, spanish

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