Thursday, November 15, 2012


I HAD no idea.

I thought I had known what it meant, "torpe," a word I hear in every day parlance, in songs, on television, but I didn't take the effort to search for its actual meaning, the same way I didn't bother looking for the definition of "astig," "toma," or "chever" because, well, people just happen to know what they stand for. But my lexicographical laxity gave way to ignorance, and I had been mistaken all along. I still don't know a lot of things, apparently, and all these years I've misunderstood "torpe" entirely.

"Seriously, Lance?" my friends asked, their reactions a combination of disbelief and shock. They thought I was joking, but I wasn't. I thought "torpe" was short for "torpedo," which I took as a metaphor for a man who's involved in many relationships that eventually fail. I thought a man considered a "torpe" had a lot of girls following him, obeying his whims, because he's tall, dark, handsome, and oozing with self-confidence.

My classmate Miguel got out of his way to tell me, "You haven't figured out what 'torpe' means? Look for the lyrics of Torpedo; it's a song by the Eraserheads." I told Migz I'd do my research. Meanwhile Casti played the song in his iPod. The interns and my wretched blockmates in the call room were fascinated as I listened intently.

The song goes this way:

"Pasensya na
Kung ako ay
Di nagsasalita
Hindi ko kayang sabihin
Ang aking nadarama

"Huwag mo na akong pilitin
Ako ay walang lakas ng loob
Para tumanggi
Walang dapat ipagtaka
Ako ay ipinanganak
Na torpe
Sa ayaw at hindi"

As soon as I got back home, I searched for "torpe."

According to this wiki, the word comes from the Latin "turpis" (ugly, dishonest). In Tagalog, it's defined as "the quality of being too shy to pursue amorous desires." It can also mean "ludicrous and stupid."

I found the website of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies of Northern Illinois University, which has a page on "Tuksuhan." I found this passage very helpful:

"A man who is unable to express his affection to a woman (who may have the same feelings for him) is called a torpe (stupid), dungo (extremely shy), or simply duwag (coward). To call a man torpe means he does not know how to court a girl, is playing innocent, or does not know she also has an affection for him."

With that definition, it's reasonable to consider the book characters David Copperfield and Oscar de Leon torpe. I enjoyed reading how they dreamt of the women they wished to be with. In his novel, Charles Dickens allowed Copperfield to marry Dora Spenlow. Junot Diaz kept Oscar a hopeless romantic.

I asked my blockmates if they consider themselves "torpe." "No" was the prevailing answer.

"But you all seem so shy," I said.

"O, Lance, you haven't seen us roll."

And that, my friends, is what you call confidence.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can imagine Marvyn Chan saying this line: "O, Lance, you haven't seen us roll."


Thu Nov 15, 06:41:00 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Lance said...

Pwede nga, ano? But Marv wasn't with us this afternoon, AAce. :p

Thu Nov 15, 06:53:00 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Ado said...

for educational purposes, I prefer Torpe by Hungry Young Poets (

also Lance, ano ka ba?!

Thu Nov 15, 09:09:00 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Lance said...

Sorry naman! (Salamat, Ado!)

Fri Nov 16, 05:09:00 AM GMT+8  

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