Television and Radio Broadcasters: Please Stop Mispronouncing "Itzcoatl"

Folks in the media: just because Itzcoatl Ocampo is accused of butchering six people to death doesn't mean it's okay to butcher his first name. Oh, it's understandable: outside of food terms and a couple of other stray words, Nahuatl didn't exactly penetrate American English like, say, Vulgar Latin. But in the month or so since authorities arrested Ocampo for murdering four homeless men in northern Orange County, it's been a verbal massacre.

I've heard announcers, reporters, and people pronounce Itzcoatl as everything from "Iz-coat-l" to "Iz-co-ate-el" to "Itz-coat" to "Is-Kuwait-l" and every other possible pronunciation--except the proper one.

So how do you pronounce what's now the second-most notorious Aztec name in Orange County after Montezuma's Revenge?

Very simple, if you know Nahuatl pronunciation rules, which roughly follows Spanish. So the Itz- prefix is prounounced "eets," because the I is pronounced like the "ee" in "beet", and z's in Spanish are pronounced like s (see "mezcal").

The -coatl suffix is a bit trickier. "Coat" is not pronounced like the garment we'd wear on this gloomy day but two syllables: a co- like "taco" in Spanish (just don't linger on that final o so you make it an "oh"), and the infamous -tl of Nahuatl, which is pronounced fast and in its own separate syllable--though if you really want to be down, you'll elide the l altogether.

Got it? Get it? Good! Next lesson: how to pronounce the county seat as "SanTana"...


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