IF only the world could talk its way into true peace!

The world news about China and the US having different ideas over the ownership of islands in the South China Sea and international waterways is just one of the issues between the two world giants. Still, of the latest cyber attacks on the US with the US suspecting China to be part of it, US Vice President Joe Biden, according to a news sub-head, says the US continues to avoid “clouding cooperation.”

So the talk for peace continues.

But using what language?

So far, the pending quarrel, if it is one, is like in sounds and tones, not really in a chilling and hard language, neither consenting. There are comments here and there from both camps but which are also softened with PR reactions and interactions. The situation, so far, is like edging into disconnectedness, but not quite.

At this point, both countries are careful with their words and actions in order not to mess up the relationship. Both are speaking through the air in media but being careful with their words in order not to “cloud” cooperation.

I keep wondering how a world language could help build trust among nations. I wish there was one language actually used by all because language can do so much to build global oneness, or destroy it.

Dialects, for one, are doting, forgiving. Language could be deeply affectionate and healing. In the Filipino dialects, there are words that restore a relationship by skipping them to help erase stress.

In a conversation with a friend in which I’m not interested, I’m thankful for noncommittal terms like, “Bitaw no,” “Mao lagi kuno,” or “Sus, santissima!”

In simple examples, there is language as a source of connection that is supple and meaningful, where languages and dialects link up.

What I have in mind, for one, is the Cebuano word “kuan” which you’d think has no real meaning, or is sort of full, or too full, of it. Over 21 million Filipinos use the word daily. Sometimes I listen to conversation in the office where an employee would use kuan several times in just one sentence where emotion is not displayed. If you listen to the sense of the sentence, it’s soft and affable.

Kuan is also useful hesitant speech, or a quiet expression of anxiety, a word that allows continuous flow of a conversation but not in thought.

The word kuan helps in maintaining a relatedness. And it’s part of the life of most Filipinos, like in mine.

At work, I stay in a corner table. In between the writing of a weekly column and copy consultancy work, I watch co-employees and guests pass by and can’t help but listen to the conversation that spills over from the mid-aisles. I sort of relax while I write or edit and get to catch on quietly with everyone else’s presence at work where people relate with each other as though in a family of over 200.

No one expects me to add up on stories in the office or in the journalistic world, I keep quiet. But I keep updated. And what I enjoy listening to is the language or dialect we use—especially words which allow speakers to be on the conversation but seeming to stay away, like in the use of unmentionables referred to as kuan, kuwan, or ku-an in tonal differences.

I see the kuan used as reflective of our culture. “Ang pamuli nga pulong alang sa dili mahinganlan o mahilwas.” The word is a substitute for unmentionable things.

It comes easy for a circumstance at the moment. “Kuan na siya kon manuyo….” is a situation of hesitancy. It comes softer than what it really means in a moment of stress.

There are other uses of kuan. Forgetfulness is saved by kuan, like in a hesitant speech. “Unsay ngan anang kuan?”

In the English dictionary, this single word has more than one meaning—the thing, the what, whatchamacallit, I mean, rather, aw, ow, um. The expressions of kuan in the absence of the word in mind includes: aw, ang kuan ba, ah.

The talk for peace hopefully continues.