The Chabacano Uste

I recently celebrated my twenty fourth birthday. I celebrated my birthday with a dinner which my mom and her brother attended. Listening to them talk was fascinating because they are about the only people I know who would use uste. Here is a mini dialogue that I heard from them.

My uncle (younger sibling): Que tal man uste ate?
My mom (older sibling): Enbuenamente man.
Donde man bo ara (ahora) ta queda gale?
My uncle (younger sibling): Alla cerca na casa de mio amigo.

Notice that the younger sibling uses uste and the older one uses voh (vos). What’s stranger is that they don’t use tu. Now, as I have mentioned earlier, I only find this usage of uste in my mom’s family. Although, a few months ago, I have heard two people at the airport who clearly have met each other at that moment judging from their conversation (yes, I was eavesdropping) use uste.

When I asked my other uncle (father side) what he knows about uste, he said that he and his friends who are rural folk (by rural folk, I mean the people who Zamboangueños refer to as the de monte derogatorily because they speak with a distinct accent, eating their s’, are unable to pronounce the letters d and g, and use very archaic Chabacano words) use it on each other all the time. So I guess what we’re seeing here is that the usage of uste differs between locales. It seems that in the rural area, uste 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 bo (from the Spanish vos) is used for informal situations.

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.