Writing laughter!

by Evans Yonson

Cagayan de Oro – I know it’s strange but words, the written ones, find their meanings differently in all cultures of the world. It’s totally diverse when you get to experience it yourself.

Demasiado (in Spanish) could mean too much. But in Filipino, it means less. Langgam (in Tagalog) means ant. But in Binisaya, it means a bird. If the written words are complicated, the spoken ones are even more intricate. Try asking any of your foreigner-friends, how their roosters crow in the morning. Or how the cows moo. I remember I had a hearty laugh when I asked this question in the dormitory in Madrid a couple of years ago.

But, laughter? Do we all laugh differently? And how do we write our laughter?

We laugh differently because of our cultural background. A Spanish will respond different to a specific Japanese laughter stimulus. However there are certain stimuli that people all over the world respond to. That might happen due to common ancestors, like it’s easier for Filipinos to laugh at an American joke than for an African who has never known any American at all.

When I was in Bangkok recently, my host, Dara, made sure that we took the mass public transportation aka the bus. It was to be my first encounter with the real Thai riding public. Most air-conditioned buses, if not all, have TV sets on board. Probably to entertain the passengers while the cruising one of the busiest capitals in the world. One particular TV commercial that struck me most was one about a food snack. The characters in the TV ad were laughing happily but with the number 5 coming out of their mouths.

Now that made me wonder and asked Dara why. In Thai, the number 5 is ha. And they write their laughter also as hahaha. It means 555! If they chat online, they just click the number 5 several times. When I got back from Bangkok last week, I got the hang of typing easily 555 instead of the usual hahaha.. Many wondered!

This reminded me of Spain’s jajaja. Friends back home (in the Philippines, that is) felt insulted when typed jajaja because it sounded like I was insulting and/or mocking at their jokes.

555 in the Philippines is the famous sardines trademark. Which one is it then? The answer is real simple. When in Spain, jajaja is it. In Thailand, 555. In the Philippines, hahaha. The written laughter, especially online, matters most with whom your laughing with. But one thing is certain though, the sound of laughter makes everyone smile regardless of cultural background or location. Now, that’s not something to think to about.

Let’s just laugh it off.