Mexifornia is a term coined by Victor Davis Hanson. It may be an exaggeration, but it is becoming less of one day by day. One way to describe Mexifornia is a place where P.C. pronunciation is practiced.
If you live in Southern California, you know that some newscasters pronounce the names of American people and places as if they were in Mexico. So long as the names are of Hispanic origin, they are pronounced as if the reporter were speaking Spanish, not English. Women are no longer named Linda but “Leenda.” San Francisco is pronounced “Sahn Frahnceesco.”
But we are speaking American English, not Latin-American Spanish – or a mixture of the two called Spanglish. Besides, Saint Francis was Italian. If one insists on a non-English version, it should be his real name, Francesco, pronounced “Frahnchesco.”
Newscasters also pronounce the names of Latino criminals, even murderers, with a Spanish intonation. So the intent is not to honor the person, but to convey a message − that the Southwest was, or should be, or actually is part of Mexico.
The problem is not foreign accents. Some of my relatives had accents. Foreign accents remind us that we are all descended from immigrants. The problem is that people who speak unaccented English feel pressure to pronounce words of Spanish origin as if they were speaking Spanish.
Newspapers now use the tilde, the little wiggle over the “ñ,” in some Spanish words. George Casteneda is now Jorge Casteñeda, pronounced (more-or-less) “Horhe Cahstenyeda.”
I enjoy languages. I speak passable French and some Spanish and German. I was taught to speak one language at a time, and avoid mixing and confusing them. But political correctness now requires us to pronounce words of Spanish origin as if they were still in Spanish.
Even then there’s a problem. A town near Los Angeles is named Calabasas. I heard a man with a Hispanic name correct a woman who pronounced the word as it is written. He insisted that she pronounce it “Cahlahvasas.” But that’s Latin-American Spanish. In pure Castilian Spanish, it would be “Cahlahvashash.” If the lady was wrong for not pronouncing the word as it would be pronounced in Mexico City, he was equally wrong for not pronouncing it as it would be in Spain’s capital, Madrid. If we must be purists, let’s be real purists.
But Spanish-speaking purists would call a pickup a “camioneta,” not a “troque.” They would call parking “estacionar,” not “parquear.” They would use genuine Spanish words. People who speak Spanglish are in a poor position to insist that English speakers use “correct” pronunciation.
Of course, this insistence on pronouncing names of persons and places as if they were in Mexico is a not-so-subtle way of implying that the Southwest should “go back” to Mexico, to which it “belonged” before we “stole” it. Really?
The Southwest belonged to the local Indian tribes, who probably had taken it from other tribes. Aztecs or Mayans have no more business in Los Angeles than do Celts or Slavs. Spain conquered the area by force. Mexico revolted and achieved independence in 1821. Texas revolted and achieved independence in 1836. Mexico controlled Texas for 15 years. Texas was an independent republic, which then sought admission to the United States. If Texans had no right to independence, neither did Mexicans. If Texas belongs to Mexico, Mexico belongs to Spain.
Californians revolted and raised the Bear Flag in 1846, during the Mexican War. Mexico thus controlled California for 25 years. The argument that the Southwest “belongs” to Mexico is reminiscent of Bin Laden’s argument that Spain “belongs” to Muslims, who conquered much of it in the Middle Ages.
Spain ejected the Muslims in 1492 after centuries of fighting. But Muslim extremists claim that any area they ever occupied “belongs” to them forever, regardless of who was there before, or who is there now. We see an example of this in the current strife over a Palestinian state. The Jews were there before, and the Jews are there now, but that doesn’t matter − the Muslims were there in the interval, so it “belongs” to them.
But what happens if we carry this argument to its conclusion? If the Southwest “belongs” to Mexico, then Mexico “belongs” to Spain, but Spain “belongs” to the Muslims. And judging from the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, they may be preparing to take it “back.” Such arguments are illogical and fundamentally racist.
What about “diversity” and “fairness”? If newspapers use “ñ” in words of Spanish origin, they should be consistent and print all words of foreign origin with the accent marks that would appear in the original language. The front of a building must be a “façade,” a man with his head in the clouds must show “naïveté,” and a part we play must be a “rôle.” We mustn’t disrespect the French. They are very proud.
And what about German? We must pronounce the name of the former governor of California “Ahrnold Shvahrtzeneggah.” The “r” is pronounced with a slight gargle − unless you’re in Southern Germany or Arnold’s native Austria, when the “r” may be rolled as in Italian. And if a newspaper reports his election by declaring “Arnold uber alles,” it must be spelled “über Alles,” with the Umlaut (the two dots) over the “ü,” and “Alles” capitalized, like all German nouns. The former German chancellor must be “Schröder,” not Schroder. Oh, I almost forgot, some (not all) double-ss must be written “ß.” We mustn’t insult the Germans. In the past that caused really big trouble.
Danes are particularly nice people. We must use Æ, Ø and Å for Danish words. And what about Icelandic? It requires Ð and Þ for the “th” sounds in “these” and “thorn,” respectively. Czech words require a “č” with a small “v” over it, but some computer fonts don’t have this character – a clear case of “ethnic insensitivity.” And I’m just getting started.
If San Francisco is “Sahn Frahnceesco,” then the capital of Idaho can’t be Boise but “Bwazay,” meaning “wooded” in French. Havre, a town in Montana, can’t be called “Have-er,” as residents say it, but “Ahv,” as in French. Of course, if you ask a Montanan the way to “Ahv,” you’ll get a blank stare – or worse. But getting lost is a small price to pay for political correctness.
The University of Idaho is located in “Moskva.” We mustn’t insult the Russians by calling the city Moscow. And the city in New Hampshire can’t be Manchester but “Mahnchestah,” as a native of the British city would say it. Surely we can’t slight our British allies.
Speaking of cities, my father’s family came from the Polish city of Łodź. But there’s a serious problem here. In Polish, there is a diagonal slash across the “Ł” indicating that it’s pronounced something like a “w,” so the city is pronounced roughly “Woodzh.”
Perhaps I should sue every newspaper, magazine, and website that ever published my articles, for insulting my “ethnic heritage” by not spelling “correctly” the city where my father’s family originated. But some computer fonts do not have “Ł” with the slash, and others do not have a ź with an accent over it. Perhaps I should sue computer manufacturers and software companies as well. I’m sure Microsoft could spare a few dollars.
If I must call the city where I used to live “Sahn Frahnceesco,” I insist that the place I lived before that must be called “Bwazay,” and that the city my father’s family came from be called “Woodzh.” If I must be politically correct, so must you. Put that diagonal slash across the “Ł” and the accent over the “ź” – and be quick about it.
Or we could save ourselves a lot of trouble and just go back to speaking American English − you know, the language of our nation. Now there’s a radical idea. But it wouldn’t suit those who want to divide and weaken us for their own purposes. No, it wouldn’t suit them at all.
Map according to MEChA
In the past I used as examples of Spanglish the words “loncha” for lunch, “lonchear” for eating lunch, and “lonchería” for lunch room. But a Spanish scholar pointed out that the origin of our word “lunch” may be the Spanish “lonja” or “loncha,” meaning a slice of ham – such as what workers carried with them for a midday meal. So we should be careful when accusing others of borrowing our words. We may have borrowed the words from them.
Mixed languages are common in areas near borders. That’s not a problem. The problem is that the “area near the border” now extends throughout the Southwest, and is beginning to encompass the entire nation. What we do about that fact is up for discussion. But that it is a fact is no longer in doubt.
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