What's catcalling? Searches spike after Duterte drew flak

Thea Alberto-Masakayan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2016 12:25 AM

Photo by Gigie Cruz

Searches for the meaning of catcalling surged on Merriam-Webster website after President-elect Rodrigo Duterte drew flak for wolf-whistling a TV reporter in a press conference.

"Lookups spiked after the president-elect of the Philippines whistled at a reporter," Merriam-Webster dictionary said in its trend list dated June 2. 

Duterte was called out for wolf-whistling GMA-7 reporter Mariz Umali during a televised press briefing in Davao City. 

His spokesman, Salvador Panelo, however said the president-elect meant no harm and was just fond of the reporter.

"Mayor Duterte is a very kind, playful individual. Pag siya'y pumito, ibig sabihin he's fond of you, ibig sabihin mahal ka niya, kaya ka binibiro. Hindi po isang pambabastos yun. On the contrary, the receiver of that should be complimented," Panelo had said.

READ: Duterte's wolf-whistling a compliment - Panelo

Merriam-Webster defines catcall as "a loud, sexually suggestive call or comment directed at someone publicly."

The dictionary traces the word, initially a noun, to as far back as the 17th century, where it meant “a small instrument for producing a sound like the cry of a cat, formerly used especially in theaters to express disapproval or contempt.” 

"This earliest sense of the word meant early uses of the word are found most frequently in plays, showing the theatrical roots of the term," Merriam-Webster says. 

Catcall became a verb by 1681, "as seen in an anonymous political satire from that year."

Merriam-Webster says the first meaning of catcall as "the noisemaking device" is rarely used these days. 

READ: Duterte blasts 'vultures pretending to be journalists