Number of searches for the meaning of ‘catcall’ rises after Duterte’s catcalling incident

  • Searches for the definition of catcall spiked after a catcalling incident involving President-elect Rodrigo Duterte
  • Duterte whistled at a female reporter during a press conference, drawing criticism from the public
  • The reporter, Mariz Umali, has since said that she was “shocked” by his behavior but is not expecting an apology

The number of searches to find out the meaning of catcall rose after President-elect Rodrigo Duterte drew flak for catcalling a female reporter during a press conference.

According to the official website of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there was a sudden spike in searches about catcall starting June 2, when Duterte whistled at GMA News reporter Mariz Umali.

“Lookups spiked after the president-elect of the Philippines whistled at a reporter,” the website reported.

The dictionary defines a catcall as “a loud, sexually suggestive call or comment directed at someone publicly.”

The word first appeared in the English language around the middle of the 17th century, originally to mean “a small instrument for producing a sound like the cry of a cat, formerly used especially in theaters to express disapproval or contempt.”

However, by the year 1681, it has become a full-fledged verb as used in its present context of making a rude, sexually suggestive comment.

Duterte was criticized for making the catcall on the reporter, drawing various reactions from the public, online and offline.

Umali herself said she was “shocked” by the president-elect’s behavior but adds that she is not expecting him to apologize and instead tried to understand the “palabiro [mischievous]” character of Duterte.

Inisip ko na lang na I must understand na talagang palabiro lang itong si President-elect Duterte, based from how I know him o kung ano ‘yung mga alam ko dun sa mga coverages sa kanya ng ibang reporters. So minaintain ko na lang ‘yung composure ko [I just thought that I must understand that our President-elect is really just mischievous, based on how I know him or on what I know about the coverage of other reporters. So I just maintained my composure], tried to understand what the situation was, and tried to get my answer, which I did,” she was previously quoted by the Inquirer.

Duterte has since maintained he was not trying to harass the reporter, adding that whistling was part of his “freedom of expression.”

“You cannot stop anybody from whistling. But I would say, who gave you the right to presume I was whistling because I saw you? I was exasperated by the question. Whistling is not a sexual thing,” he told GMA News.