Kain na (come eat with us)

Background Information: Vanessa is a Filipino American who grew up in Texas. She speaks primarily English, but also Tagalog. She told me about this Tagalog saying that her family uses — kain na, which means “come eat with us”, and is pronounced “ka-in-na”.

V: Honestly I’m not sure if this is just my family, or if it’s like, all Filipinos, but I’ve noticed that my parents do this, and like people in the Phili— like, my relatives in the Philipines will do this even if we’re on the phone with them… When I read my grandma’s letters to people in the Philippines from way back when, she had this stuff written out too, where it’s like, even if we’re not gonna eat with these people we say kain na, which is like, “come eat with us”, basically. Like, inviting people to come eat with us basically, but it’s not like a… we’re not like actually telling them to come eat with us because they’re like in the Philippines and we’re over the phone…haha, so they’re not gonna like, take a plane to come over and eat with us. It’s like um… I don’t really know! It’s like, it’s just a thing it’s like saying hi.    

A: So it’s like a greeting, sort of?

V: Hmm, it’s just like, if food is happening. If we’re about to eat, or we’re on our way to eat, if we’re at the table and we’re on the phone with our family members from the Philippines, we just say kain na, like, as if they actually are eating with us… I think it’s like a connecting thing… like we try to use it to connect us to people in the Philippines and pretend they’re here. Or it’s like, we invite people to come eat with us even though they’re not going to, because it’s like, polite? It’s hard to say really what it is for… It’s something that’s not very translatable.

A: Does it means literally “come eat with us”?

V: Well like, directly if you translate it, kain na just means “eat now”. So actually it can be used like that too. Like, if a parent is kind of giving a command to their child to eat now or something. But then in another context it becomes more like a request or greeting sort of thing meaning “come eat with us”.

Thoughts: This example of folk speech gives us insight into the role that food traditions play in Filipino culture, or at least the culture within the folk group of Vanessa’s family and extended family. Even if the physical act of eating together does not take place, the simple request itself serves as a connection between two geographically distant places. Alternatively, in a different context (with people outside of one’s family, perhaps), it is also a way of being “polite”. The act of eating together, therefore, acts as a bonding agent between people, and an invitation to eat together shows solidarity on one hand, and courteousness on the other.