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Flashing One’s Ethnic Badge Linguistically

As another contemporary example supporting the veracity of the apothegm, “You are what you say,” speakers of Hispanic (Latino) extraction who are in every respect native speakers of American English often deliberately pronounce Spanish words that are part of English utterances, including their own surnames, “authentically,” i. e., using Spanish phonetics rather than English. This can regularly be heard, for instance, in the reports of two WNYC radio correspondents, Sarah Gonzalez and Cindy Rodriguez, who pronounce their forenames in conformity with American phonetic norms but not their surnames.

It is evident from this trait alone that Mmes. Gonzalez and Rodriguez are thereby bent on affirming and signaling their ethnic membership to the listening public, which will strike a non-Latino listener sensitive to phonetic distinctions between foreign and native vocabulary as both fatuous and odious.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

[ADDENDUM: My fellow New Metaphysical Club member, Benjamin Udell, informs me that “I suspect that it’s a newsroom policy aimed at maximizing viewership. Peter Jennings (from Canada) on ABC Nightly News used to pronounce “Nicaragua” as if he were speaking Spanish. He did not pronounce “Quebec” or “France” French-style. The point seems to be to catch the interest of listeners who speak Spanish as their first language, hear Spanish more clearly than English, and tend to identify with reporters with Hispanic family names.” Apropos, I used to have a friend, an Englishman who spoke no Spanish, but habitually pronounced Nicaragua like Peter Jennings, which annoyed my wife and me no end.]

3 Responses to “Flashing One’s Ethnic Badge Linguistically”

  • Gary Richmond says:

    Well, it’s not especially “fatuous and odious” to 1/2 the members of the New Metaphysical Club 🙂 (and certainly not as fatuous and odious as emoticons, for example). But I do think Ben may be right that it’s a TV “newsroom policy” meant to increase program appeal to Spanish speaking viewers.

  • Gary Richmond says:

    Agreed!

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