Origins of the Chabacano Mete

Sometimes, if you don’t speak a language, there is a tendency to just guess the meaning of frequently used words that you don't understand. In Chabacano, there are so many words today whose definitions are being changed because the speakers (mostly parents) fail to explain the meaning of these words to their audience (the children). I heard recently that Chabacano is now being taught in preschools and that is really wonderful news for Chabacano enthusiasts. This will prevent the next generation from failing to understand the meaning of Chabacano words and subsequently misinterpreting it.

A good example of this phenomenon in Chabacano is the word menta. It turns out that the “real” meaning of the word menta is 'to mention' but today its meaning has changed 'to blame' or 'to accuse someone'. It’s not hard to imagine how a nonspeaker of the Chabacano de Zamboanga would ultimately derive to the conclusion that the word menta means to blame or accuse somebody. The same thing actually happened to me. I have never spoken Cebuano but always try to do so when a Cebuano speaker is around. I have always thought that the word tikalon referred to a liar. This was because my high school classmates would always use this word to describe a person who I thought of as a perennial liar. A few days ago (after having this notion for more than ten years), an acquaintance of mine told me that it actually means a person who is boastful. You can imagine my surprise when I heard this.

So this brings us to the main topic which is the Chabacano word mete. Camins defines the word mete as 'to get in', 'to place', or 'to put in' in his dictionary. Meanwhile, Santos' dictionary defines it as 'to insert', 'to put in', 'to interfere with', and 'to meddle with'. Meter has similar but a wider array of usages in the Spanish language.

In today’s Chabacano, however, the word mete largely means to touch something that is not yours and sometimes to bother someone as to pester that person. If you ask me, this is a direct translation of the Tagalog galaw (like huwag mong galawin ang mga gamit ko). Here is a conversation between three people using the word mete and its two definitions.

Situation: Ya usa si Maria el laptop de Pilar sin permiso.

Pilar: Hoy Maria, ta mete man vos mio laptop?!
Maria: Ay sorry, ya olvida yo pedi contigo permiso.

Situation: Ya mira si Pilar que tiene cosa ta hace si Maria na Facebook.

Pilar: Na cosa man vos ta hace na Facebook?
Maria: Envia yo message con Joy, aquel novia ahora de Philip.
Pilar: Ay señor, no mas ya vos mete con Joy. Alegre ya sila dos de Philip.

Here is an English translation.

Situation: Maria uses Pilar’s laptop without her permission.

Pilar: Maria, why are using my laptop?
Maria: Sorry, I forgot to ask for your permission.

Situation: Pilar sees that Maria is doing something on Facebook.

Pilar: So what are you doing on Facebook?
Maria: I’ll send a message to Joy, Philip’s current girlfriend.
Pilar: Can’t you leave Joy alone? She and Philip are happy now.

I asked an old speaker of the Chabacano de Cotabato give some examples using this word and these are his contributions:

Chabacano: No mete este kay hende este de tuyo
English: Don't touch this for it's not yours

Chabacano: Ta mete gayod este si talpolano na mga de ila problema. 
English: This (certain someone) is really interfering with their problems