The Chabacano Uste

I recently invited my mom and her younger brother to a dinner at a restaurant in Manila. Listening to them talk was really fascinating because they are about the only people I know who would use uste (usted) when speaking in Chabacano. Here is an exchange e that I heard from them during our dinner.

Younger brother: Que tal man uste ate?
Mom: Enbuenamente man. Donde man vos (bo) ahora (ara) ta queda gale?
Younger brother: Alla cerca na casa de mio amigo.

Notice that the younger sibling uses uste and the older one uses vos. What’s stranger is that they don’t use tu. I only find this usage of uste in my mom’s family.

A few months ago, I have heard two people speaking to each other in Chabacano at the airport. They have clearly just met each other judging from their conversation but I was surprised to hear them use uste on each other. And yes, I was eavesdropping.

When I asked an uncle of mine what he knows about the Chabacano uste, he said that he and his friends who live in rural areas always use uste with each other. So I guess what we’re seeing here is that the usage of uste differs between locales. It seems that in the rural area, it is used even in informal situations (between friends). For the general population though, it appears that uste is something that is used in highly impersonal and formal situations or when speaking to an older relative.

Uste comes from the Spanish usted. Usted is pronounced by some Spanish speaking peoples as uste. In Spanish, usted means 'you' and is used among formal situations. In informal situations, the word that would be used is tu. There are families in Zamboanga city (like mine) wherein tu is used for formal situations and vos (bos, boh) is used for informal situations.

In Spanish, vos is primarily used in Argentina and is used instead of tu.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Jerome,

    The use of Usted or uste is very interesting not only in Chabacano but also in Spanish.

    Here in Mexico, we use Usted (Vd. is the written formal form) mainly when addressing our elders or when trying to be very polite. However, in northern Mexico, it is possible to hear young people treating eacher other of usted. This same use among young people is also heard in Costa Rica and Colombia.

    Unfortunately, in Central and Southern Mexico, the "modern" use of tú between generations of different ages is displacing the traditional use of Usted. With respect to vos, this treatment is still used in southern México, in the state of Chiapas. The use of vos is called "voseo". Here you have a map indicating which Latin American countries still use vos: Voseo

    Thanks for your email.
    Mario

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