“It’s so init here, diba?” “Those shoes are so mahal talaga!” “Can you make para here, boss?”

Do you know anyone who talks like this?

De La Salle University always seems to be humorously associated with the conyo subculture, so one can’t help but wonder just how the typical conyo kid came into existence. The term can be used to describe a person, their language, or even the way they act or dress. As a language, some describe it as a form of Taglish, Taglish spoken in a “maarte” way, or sometimes just speaking in Filipino with a heavy foreign accent.

In spite of all this, though, does anyone really know what the exact definition of conyo is, where it started, and how it came to be?

To get a better look at the origins and evolution of the word, some students give their own ideas on what the term conyo means to them. The Menagerie takes it a step further by also talking to Dr. Ariane Macalinga Borlongan, a professor who teaches World Englishes and English Linguistics in Tokyo, Japan, and who also happens to be researching on conyo English.

A brief history

Those who have searched for the meaning of the word conyo may have come across the Spanish word coño, which refers to female genitalia. As pointed out by Dr. Borlongan, it can also be used as an interjection, much like the English word ‘fuck’. Evidently, this original meaning is very far from (and much more offensive than) the current Filipino meaning of the word.

So, when did people start habitually intertwining Filipino and English in every sentence, altering otherwise completely English statements by replacing verbs with their Filipino equivalents and inserting noh, diba, and eh, resulting in phrases like “making tusok-tusok the fishballs”?

According to Dr. Borlongan, it is unclear when exactly conyo English emerged, though he cites Br. Andrew Gonzalez’s idea that Philippine English started sometime during the American occupation, when Filipino teachers were starting to take the place of American teachers. From this, he hypothesizes that conyo English could have evolved from Philippine English sometime during the 1940s to 1950s when English had become everyone’s second language.

Despite having unclear origins at no specific point in history, the term conyo has since set its foundation in contemporary Filipino language, and it continues to be used by the youth of today. But there’s more to it than just being the result of Filipinos knowing two languages well. Today, being conyo isn’t just about speaking in a certain, peculiar way. Nowadays, there seems to be an image of a specific type of person that is associated with the word.

Conyo characterization

When students were asked about how they would define conyo, many of them seemed to have a common idea that it isn’t just a manner of speaking, but also a particular set of characteristics. Frequently given descriptions of a conyo person involved having expensive belongings like designer clothes, being conscious about their social status, being born into a rich family, and, most of all, being more fluent in English than the average Filipino.

The conyo culture is heavily associated with cafés, among other things.
The conyo culture is heavily associated with cafés, among other things.

Basically, the term is aimed towards the youth of the upper class, or, at least, those who want to be perceived as belonging to this social class. Because of this, Dr. Borlongan describes conyo English as a sociolect, a specific language used by a social group.

Speaking conyo may have little to do with how well a person can speak English or Filipino. It could simply be a language used by someone because they are among their friends of the same culture. It may not necessarily be because they are trying to put themselves above others, or because they lack the capability to speak Filipino, unlike what some students’ answers imply.

A conyo-tic future

Just like any other kind of language, dialect, or sociolect, the Filipino’s conyo English may still continue to evolve through time. “It is always possible to develop new words, new sociolects, new dialects, new languages — that is a normal process in language evolution”, Dr. Borlongan explains.  Therefore, it is quite possible that the conyo English we know today may just be the initial foundation of what is to become a full-fledged language in the future. It is possible that we may be able to find a dictionary specifically-made for conyo English speakers or a council dedicated to forming new words for conyo English users. Its potential is as endless as the future.

Though some Filipinos may not necessarily favor the emergence of conyo English, Dr. Borlongan says this aspect of language evolution is what actually excites him as a linguist. “I am excited at how conyo English is emerging, evolving; hence, my research is on conyo English,” he enthuses.

Regardless of what the Filipino population says about it, conyo English is here to stay. It’ll continue to grow as society continues to develop, so watch out Filipinos, because conyos may gradually invade the country as we know it.

By Francesca Militar

By Nathaniel Sierras

29 replies on “Behind the conyo culture”

could it have been coined from “cognoscenti?” – a person of great knowledge or high taste, i.e., “sosyal”?

Interesting but disappointing article. It has a great set-up but offers no new knowledge or answers to its initial inquiry.

It has such a promising title but as you’ve said offers no new knowledge. It would have been nice if it’s comprehensive and can give you a deeper insight or maybe some psychological aspect to it.

Perhaps “Conyo kids” developed from when kids of old, rich Spanish mestizos would group together and speak a mix of Spanish; circa 1940’s. As a cuss word, they would use it as an interjection so often, they became identified with it. So when other people would hear these Spanish kids saying “coño!”, they made fun of them by calling them Conyo kids. The term has now watered down to people who seem to be well educated or well off -something those Spanish mestizos were. However now, to be Conyo, you do not necessarily have to be of Spanish descent. You just have to appear well off or educated, or speak this “Conyo language”.

Or these people simply just can’t express themselves in full English, compelling them to use Filipino words by default. Try asking them what’s “tusok-tusok” in English, then let’s enjoy their fazed, twisted faces, revealing how airheaded they are.

Okay, so I’m no expert at all, but a long long time ago (when I was in high school 🙂 ), I hypothesized that it (the term conyo) might come from the word cognoscente synonymous with connoisseur from old Italian and Latin (we know Spanish is based in Latin as well) cognoscere which I thought would make sense to describe the upper class who would often use it..

[…] “Can you please make sama to me? I’m scared kasi e.” “I’m so ganda right?” “Look at the clothes!! They’re so maganda, bagay to me, right??” Conyo is somehow a subculture in Philippines. You can see people like them in big Universities like De La salle, Ateneo, FEU, and many more. You can also define in terms of clothes, the way they act and their language. For their language, we can tell that Conyo is in form of Taglish but in a very ‘maarte’ way. Despite having unclear origins at no specific point in history, the term conyo has since set its foundation in contemporary Filipino language, and it continues to be used by the youth of today. But there’s more to it than just being the result of Filipinos knowing two languages well. Today, being conyo isn’t just about speaking in a certain, peculiar way. Nowadays, there seems to be an image of a specific type of person that is associated with the word. You can see the full brief of history conyo here (how it started, where the term conyo starts and etc): http://thelasallian.com/2015/07/21/behind-the-conyo-culture/ […]

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