By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Illustration by Mark DancyDear Mexican,
Why do some Mexicans who speak fluent English without an accent insist on pronouncing their names and Spanish place names with the Spanish pronunciation? Especially reporters: "This is Julio Luís Sánchez reporting from Neek-a-ra-wa." I get that this was once Spain and Mexico, that many Mexicans here can trace their roots back generations and that many of the place names are Spanish, but I don't use an Irish brogue to pronounce my last name, we don't say Anaheim with a German accent, and it's Des Moines, not "Day Mwahn." It's fine to say words correctly—La Hoy-a and not La Jol-la—but the overly dramatic accent comes off as annoying and pretentious (same with when someone speaking Spanish comes to an English word and drops the accent as if to say, "Look, I'm bilingual!"). On a related matter, does it piss Mexicans off when non-Latinos who happen to speak Spanish do this too?
A Cunning Yet Clueless Linguist
Give me a pinchebreak. Everyone wants his last name pronounced correctly, whether you're a Jauregui ("Yah-reh-gwee"), Nguyen ("Win,"), Schou ("Skow," not"Shoe") or Haidl ("Run, girls!"). If you notice Mexican reporters do it more often than other ethnically surnamed scribes, it just means they're not ashamed of actively correcting decades of mispronunciations. Really, Cunning: Why don't you lend a lilt to whatever your Irish moniker may be? Afraid the English might trample your potato crop?
"Why do I pronounce my name in Spanish? That's the only way it feels right," says Adolfo Guzmán López, a chingón reporter at KPCC-FM 89.3. He frequently encounters strangers who can't understand his name until he Anglicizes it for them ("Uh-doll-phoe" instead of Ah-dohl-foh"). "If you're bilingual and bicultural, you know how to navigate in those two worlds," Guzmán López told the Mexican. "But I grew up speaking Spanish, and it's never sounded right to pronounce it any other way except in Spanish. Besides, my mom would probably get mad if I did it the other way."
By the way, Mexicans love it when gabachos try to pronounce Spanish correctly. Oh, they usually butcher our rolling double-r and "n" with the squiggly mark over it, but we respect their effort. Contrast that with my gabacho co-workers, who howl whenever I fumble words like gamut (I say "gah-moot," not "gah-muht") and harpsichord (I'll spare you the cacophony of spittle and laryngal scratches). Gabachos can profess all the progressive ideals they want, but put them within earshot of a Mexican gamely attempting to speak the King's English, and hear the snickers spread.
What's up with all of you Mexican men pissing in public?! I was in a low-rent part of Santa Ana the other day. I was at a stop sign in front of a Mexican beauty parlor when two little Mexican boys ran out in front of the shop and pissed right on the curb! All of the Mexican women inside the parlor were laughing, and so were the little kids. Then I drove to a 7-Eleven, and there is an old Mexican dude with his pants down taking a piss in plain sight! I see this shit all the time! It happens in nice neighborhoods too. Okay, I know that every guy has taken a whiz outside once or twice, but I don't think my parents would have laughed if I were pissing in public. Don't they have toilets in Mexico? And please don't compare homeless white bums pissing on the street to what you guys do all the time.
Don't Piss in My Pool
I'm so glad you asked this question, Piss, because it allows me to plug my new favorite blog: (Recycled) Cholo Knows . . ., an anonymous SanTana native who writes on city and county politics in a cholo argot that's the best Chicano Spanglish since American Me. The Cholo revealed "it feels good to piss outside" in a recent post on Oscar Zeta Acosta, famed Chicano lawyer and Hunter S. Thompson confidant. So the Mexican posed your question to the Cholo.
"Ese, it's more pinche memory than al fresco whizzing," confessed the Cholo. "Mira, en la vida hay dos baños: the indoor private one for the proper shy sons, and the pinche public one, which is anywhere not muddy for us well-endowed cabrones."
Translation: only manly men dare whip out their wangs in public and tinkle. But it's more than that, Piss. Orange County is shockingly lacking in public restrooms—no grand, sterile lavatoriums à la those of imperial Rome or even like those found in all major Mexican cities. Instead, SanTana residents—who live in the country's toughest-to-live-in town—must relieve themselves when away from home in graffiti-infested, never-cleaned, rancid, no-doors park restrooms where the possibility of a mugging or rape is always a pee away. Meando in public isn't some disgusting Mexican trait—it's a means of hygiene and survival.
Read more of the Cholo's musings at recycledcholoknows.blogspot.com.
Got a spicy question about Mexicans? Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org. And those of you who do submit questions: include a hilarious pseudonym,por favor, or we'll make one up for you!