Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day: Bakla

The inclusion of the word bakla reflects the changing understanding of Filipinos towards the members of the LGBTQIA++ community

In celebration of Philippine Pride Month last June, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced on June 24, 2023 that their Word of the Day is the Filipino term bakla.

Dr. Danica Salazar, Executive Director for World Englishes of the OED, explained that the decision was in done in solidarity with the cause that the movement has been pushing for.

“We’ve been highlighting sex and gender terms in our Twitter feed as part of our Pride Month series, so when we learned that Manila Pride would be held on June 24, we thought it the perfect date to put a spotlight on our entry for bakla,” Danica said in a recent interview with TFC News.

In 2022, the word gay was added to the OED, along with several other terms from other languages used in the LGBTQIA+ community.

In the OED definition, bakla is:

“A person registered as male at birth who identifies with or presents a feminine gender expression, typically through behaviors, occupations, modes of dress, etc., that are culturally associated with femininity,” she said.

The intricacies of bakla

Formerly used as an insult, the OED definition also explained that the term encompasses a wide range of gendered characteristics and practices that do not correspond to heteronormative ideas of masculinity.

“It can often, but not always, denote homosexuality, although the term is increasingly being used as a synonym for Western terms relating to sexual orientation, such as gay and homosexual,” she said.

Danica claimed that their team found out that the word gay has enough characteristics to be included in the OED. The process of selecting terms to be added to the OED is meticulous, according to her, especially since every year, hundreds of thousands of words are proposed to their office.

Although the inclusion of the term in OED is important, Danica emphasized that the existence of the word in itself weighs more value as it mirrors the advancement of the understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community in the country.

“That’s why it was added to the OED in the first place—because we’ve found sufficient evidence of the word being used in Philippine English as far back as the late 1960s,” Danice explained.

Meanwhile, aside from gay, Danica said that it is not impossible that one day, other Filipino words will also be included in the OED.

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