Filipinos Wrestle with 'Language Monster' Jejemon

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MANILA--The Philippines is wrestling with what authorities say is a language monster invading youth-speak in Internet social networks and mobile phone text messaging.

The phenomenon has triggered enormous social debate, with the government declaring an "all out war" against the cyber-dialect, called 'jejemon', but the Catholic church defending it as a form of free expression.

The word 'jejemon' is derived from 'jeje' as a substitute for 'hehe' -- the SMS term for laughter -- and then affixing it with 'mon' -- taken from the popular Japanese anime of cute trainable monsters called "Pokemon."

Education Secretary Mona Valisno believes it could blunt the Philippines' edge in English proficiency, which has long helped the impoverished country attract foreign investment and sustain its lucrative outsourcing industry.

"What I am concerned about is the right construction, grammar. This is for their own improvement, for them to be able to land good jobs in the future." Jejemon emerged over the past year as young people tried to shorten text messages on mobile phones, language experts say.

It then morphed into a unique language that spawned new words and phrases by deliberately stringing together mis-spelled words without syntax and liberally sprinkling them with punctuation marks. And the initial idea of tighter texting got lost as many "words" became longer than the originals.

Instead of spelling "hello" for example, jejemon users spell it as "HeLouWH" or "Eowwwh", while the expression "oh, please" becomes "eoowHh.. puhLeaZZ." Or, throwing a bit of the local language Tagalog into the mix, you can tell your significant other "lAbqCkyOuHh" (I love you) or "iMiszqcKyuH" (I miss you), and convey that you're happy by texting "jAjaja" or "jeJejE."