Origins of the Chabacano Menta

In the Chabacano language, the word menta typically means to accuse someone of something. Although the word acusa (from the Spanish acusar) does also exist in Chabacano, the word menta is employed more often. In a book about the Chavacano de Ternate written by Esteban De Ocampo, it appears that the verb menta also exists in the Chavacano de Cavite and it also means to accuse.

In his book, De Ocampo says that this word comes from the Spanish mentar. What is interesting is that in Spanish, mentar doesn’t mean to accuse. In Spanish, mentar means to mention someone’s name.

Here are some examples of how we use the Chabacano word menta.

Chabacano: Ta menta man vos conmigo?

English: Why are you accusing me?

Chabacano: No tu conmigo menta. No hay yo cosa ya hace.

English: Don’t accuse me. I didn’t do anything.

Chabacano: Ya menta conmigo aquel gente na ladron daw yo.

English: That guy accused me of being a thief.

I posted this article on the Facebook group Zamboanga De Antes and here is a very enlightening comment which I received.


As you can see, some speakers of the traditional Chabacano de Zamboanga say that the word menta used to mean to mention (as is the case in Spanish). However, it would be hard to find anyone nowadays in Zamboanga who would use the word menta like this. Personally, I have heard someone use the word menta in this manner only once in my entire life, when someone admonished me for mentioning names. 

In the dictionary of Camins, the word menta is defined as to mention. This was published at the end of the century (1999). In the dictionary of Rolando Arquiza Santos however (which was published in 2010), the word menta is defined as to mention, to allude to, to blame, to accuse.

I can see a conversation transpiring between two people maybe in the early years of the 20th century which would go on like this:

Mario: Quien ya come conel chocolate na mesa?
Maria: No hay yo come conel chocolate na mesa. Basi si Flor el quien ya come conel chocolate.
Flor: Ha? No vos menta mi nombre!

From such conversation, I can imagine how the word menta later came to mean to blame or accuse instead of to mention.

It is curious however because as has been mentioned, the word menta also exists in the Chavacano de Ternate and it means to accuse and not to mention. What makes this strange is the fact that de Ocampo wrote his dictionary in the 1940s and it is supposed that the Ternate Chavacano is the oldest Chavacano among the Chavacano dialects.

It is possible that in the past, mentar meant both to mention and to accuse in the Chavacano de Ternate but that by the time de Ocampo wrote his dictionary in the 1940s, only the second meaning existed.

Clearly, both definitions (to mention and to accuse) exist in the Chabacano de Zamboanga. The first meaning is, as has been discussed in this article becoming extinct.

Maybe it’s like the case of the word manada. In his dictionary, Camins explains that it is incorrect Chabacano to say manada gente na cine (there were so many people in the movie house) or manada yo cen (I have lots of money). Camins says that we can only use the word manada for animals (specifically quadrupeds). An example given by him is: Un manada de cabrito. Manada in the Spanish language means a herd or a flock. Today, however, we use the word manada as an adjective to mean many, or much. It is not hard to imagine how the noun manada which supposedly was used to mean a herd of quadrupeds evolved to its present day meaning. 

Here are some examples of how the word manada is used today:

Chabacano: Bien manada gayod gente na iglesia
English: There were a lot of people in the church

Chabacano: Manada cen el mio amigo
English: My friend has plenty of money.

Camins explains that instead of the word manada, the word mucho should be employed in the sentences above. If you ask present-day Chabacano speakers, though, they'll probably tell you that you can use either of the two.

The truth is without any help from the academe or whatever regulating body which can impose a standard on the Chabacano de Zamboanga, it would be very hard to establish that a certain way of speaking Chabacano is incorrect or correct. I don’t think you can find many people today who will say that the statement manada gente na cine is incorrect. 

Chabacano is indeed a fascinating language and one that has captivated a lot of linguists all over the world. No matter what the story is behind the word menta, I think we can all conclude that Chabacano is a very resilient language.

3 comments:

  1. Jerome, ta usa se siempre kame el palabra Menta para indica "to mention o Mention"

    como kame que acostumbrado habla "favor no menta mi nombre alli na lista."
    "favor no menta ningun palabra para jendeh le sabe si cosa man kita ta conversa."

    ACer_Cyle

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