Why do Pinoys love giving nicknames to their kids that repeat the same name/syllable (e.g., Dodo, Toto, Leklek, etc.). Is it true that most of their private parts are named in a similar manner? That is, in the examples given, you just change the vowels? LOL!
It’s true: Filipinos do love to give nicknames with syllables that repeat. I mean, who can deny it? The sitting President himself sports one: Noynoy. And the Vice President? Jojo. And the Cabinet's Executive Secretary? Also Jojo.
I personally grew up with neighborhood playmates, classmates and friends with nicknames like Penpen, Dandan, Denden, Dondon, Dindin, Lotlot, Lala, Nene, Bebe, Jonjon, Junjun, Tintin, Yanyan, Tingting, Toto, Katkat, Macmac, Maimai, Nognog, Ningning, Chichi, Baba, Bongbong, Bangbang, Bingbing, Bambam, Bimbim
Then, there are those with Western-sounding double-initialed names: AA, BB, CC, DD, GG, JJ, MM, RR
Believe me, I can go on and on and on.
But what accounts for this, er, national tic? Are we suffering from some sort of collective palilalia, the pathological repetition or echoing of one's own spoken words?
The answer, actually, is found in linguistics. And here below is my theory.
You see, almost all languages in the Philippines belong to the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages, which is itself a member of the Austronesian clan. As such, our languages are agglutinative – i.e., we extensively glue words together to form new words.
We do it by joining what are called morphemes in linguistics. Think of morpheme like you think of an atom: It is the smallest, irreducible component of a word that has its own semantic meaning, and a combination of several of these make a word. Wikipedia has this English example: The word "unbreakable" has three morphemes: "un-", a bound morpheme because it cannot stand alone; "break", a free morpheme because it can; and "-able", another bound morpheme. The morphemes "un-" and "-able" are called affixes: the former is a prefix, the latter is a suffix.
Generally, new words are said to be created using three methods: by affixation (i.e., by attaching affixes onto a root word); by composition (i.e., by forming a compound word); or by reduplication (i.e., the repetition of words or portions of words).
Occasionally referred to as cloning or doubling and found in a wide range of languages, reduplication may be full or partial; if the latter, it may be initial (i.e., prefixal), final (i.e., suffixal), or internal (i.e., infixal). It has many uses, but it is used primarily to indicate a different tense of the root verb; pluralize a noun; adjectivize a noun; adverbialize an adjective, noun or verb; accentuate or intensify an emotion; adopt a more expressive tone; speak figuratively; or express conceptual similarity.
Going back to Filipino nicknames, many of them are actually terms of endearment commonly used by parents in addressing their children. Bicolanos, for instance, use the generic loving terms “nonoy” (if male) and “nene” (if female) to address their babies, toddlers and young kids. But for many of these children, these common nouns stick and as their nicknames, become proper nouns, because to the dismay of some, they never outgrow them.
And when we do find ourselves absolutely needing to, we use English, or if it really has to be in a Philippine language, we use all sorts of euphemisms or less threatening language – i.e., we “speak figuratively” and/or “express conceptual similarity” – hence, our use of linguistic reduplication. That's why the scrotum becomes bola-bola instead of the rougher-sounding bayag; the penis is infantilized and gets called pitotoy instead of the more potent uten; the breasts become baby-ish, life-nurturing dede instead of the babe-ish, lust-conjuring dyoga; and vagina is turned less veteran-ish and gets called pekpek instead of the more experienced-sounding puki. (Interestingly enough, the Tagalog version of "The Vagina Monologues" was called "Usaping Puki".)
Personally, though, I do not know of any parent who would or did name his/her child after private parts (I know a couple of people nicknamed Dong but their well-meaning parents were surely after the onomatopoeic ring to it!). But to get some inputs, I actually forwarded your question to my friend, EZ, who is also a lawyer (so I have no reason to doubt his truthfulness!) and who shared with me a funny story which he claims actually happened during a Little Miss Philippines contest on Eat Bulaga! in the late 1980s.
According to him, there was a contestant nicknamed Kengkeng. When one of the hosts, Vic Sotto, asked her why she was nicknamed Kengkeng, her answer on live TV was: "Kasi po, noong ipinanganak ako, ang taba-taba daw po ng aking pukengkeng!"
[SHORT BREAK BECAUSE BLOGGER IS STILL R.O.F.L.!]
Okay, here’s the deal: If you didn’t understand the joke because it’s in Tagalog, I’m so sorry but this is one occasion which I will not translate in English. So this is a good reason for you to ask your Tagalog-speaking friend for a translation, or get to know one who is. But make sure you show this blogpost first because if you ask it verbally without properly contextualizing the line, I can’t guarantee that you won’t get slapped in the face!