Sunday, February 20, 2011

¡Aiyee! ¡Los peevologistas!

Every language has them, I suppose. But that doesn't mean every newspaper has to fawn over them on the front page whenever they come forth with their malign assaults on poor innocent language users.

We're in trouble pretty much from the outset (here's the hed from the online version):

Scholars fighting to squelch Spanglish
In South Florida, where Spanish is a vital language in home life, business, culture and politics, one might expect a good report card when it comes to the quality of the Spanish being spoken. But the reality, as educators and linguists experience every day, is quite different.

Even if one were the sort of person who used "one" in ledes, why would one expect that? English was a -- actually, "the" -- vital language where I grew up, and I rather suspect that the Herald and its "scholars" would have given that brand of English a particularly bad report card.* We're about to get a lecture on what You Kids are doing to the Language of Shakespeare, only we're going to substitute Cervantes for Shakespeare.

“Our Spanish is atrocious,” says Toni Miranda, district supervisor of bilingual education for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “You only have to look at the advertisements on the streets.”

A Miami furniture storefront ad she once saw quickly comes to mind.

“ Aquí se venden muebles para niños de madera,” a sign boasted.

The store meant to advertise wood furniture for children, but instead, billed furniture for wooden children.
That was my mom's favorite misplaced-modifier joke: "Piano for sale by old lady with carved wooden legs." It doesn't mean Spanish is in mortal danger. It means people who write ads are often careless about what gets wired into what.

Nationally, the slaughter of Cervantes’ tongue is even worse.

Told ya! But if you're wondering why we haven't gotten to any "Spanglish" yet, you're on the right track.

At the recent American Music Awards, two stars of the popular sitcom Modern Family, the burly Eric Stonestreet and child actor Rico Rodriguez, strutted to the microphone in matching pinstriped suits and purple shirts to introduce the next act, singer and heartthrob Enrique Iglesias. The duo exchanged a few barbs then, switching to Spanish, Stonestreet delivered the last lines of the introduction: “ Quiero introducir a Enrique Iglesias!”

All over the country, Spanish speakers — those who speak it properly, that is — chuckled. Stonestreet had just said he wanted to insert Iglesias into something.

Getting the peevological flavor yet? "Properly."

Ay,” laments Spanish-language guru Gerardo Piña-Rosales, “using introducir instead of presentar is one of the most common misusages of Spanish. I have even heard a university professor do it. He was introducing a speaker and he used the Anglicism introducir. The woman behind him looked like she was ready to hit him!"

Is a language guru the same thing in Spanish that it is in English? I'm starting to think so. Often, when something is one of the "most common" misusages, or even a "university professor" does it, that's a sign that it isn't really a mistake at all. And -- since Spanish has an official dictionary and a Royal Academy and all -- let's ask the Real Academia's Diccionario de la lengua espa
ñola what "introducir" means:

3.  tr. Hacer que alguien sea recibido o admitido en un lugar, o granjearle el trato, la amistad, la gracia, etc., de otra persona. Introducir a alguien en un negocio.

You won't be surprised, under the subhed "Mother tongue," to find a bit of a promotional angle:

Piña-Rosales, director of the New York-based North American Academy of the Spanish Language (ANLE), was in Miami Friday to speak during an all-day workshop aimed at helping and inspiring educators to teach better Spanish — part of an unprecedented hemispheric-wide effort by the gatekeepers of the Spanish language to reach out to those who want to perfect their Spanish skills, and to encourage future generations of Hispanic Americans to embrace being bilingual.

Ever wonder whether it's a good thing that we don't have a North American Academy of the English Language to inspire us to teach "better English"?

... The United States is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world after Mexico, but as the language becomes more widely used, as it interacts with the more dominant English and is casually exchanged in global forums like Facebook and Twitter, the opportunities to mangle it are spreading like a virus.

The culprits: Literal translations, Anglicisms, and the mingling of Spanish and English into the controversial hybrid, Spanglish.

People will tell you they’re facebuqueando (facebooking) and tuiteando (tweeting), words that don’t exist in Spanish.
Bad news here for the author (and the editors; after all, this is an editing blog). If there's a participle facebuqueando, there's all but certain to be a verb facebuquear, and -- stamp your feet as you will -- they evidently "exist in Spanish." If we can paraphrase old Lasker: The merciless fact culminating in checkmate contradicts the peevologist. But onward!

... It’s tough, even for native speakers, to use correct Spanish when one is immersed in English language and culture all day.

Honestly? It's tough enough to use "correct English" when you're immersed in any kind of language all day. (It's hard to imagine someone in Miami being "immersed in English culture," in that Miami drives on the wrong side of the road and has vastly worse beer, but perhaps the writer can't tell the difference between languages and cultures and countries to begin with.)

... “I’m guilty of speaking Spanglish sometimes, but I do it knowingly and then I stop and think of the actual word in Spanish and correct myself,” Hernández said.

Do what you want; it's your language. But just for the heck of it, let's see how long it takes for a pro to lapse into Spanglish. For Mario Vargas Llosa, it's all the way to the top of the second page of La tia Julia y el escribidor before we get to "cierto aire extranjerizante y snob."

Peevologists are peevologists. There isn't much we can do about them, whatever language we speak. But we can avoid giving them and their arguments credit they don't deserve.

Because the article itself closes with a paean to the beauty of Spanish, let's do the same. According to the handy Diccionario de argot espa
ñol that Language Czarina and I picked up on vacation back in the last millennium, there's a handy Spanish phrase for advising someone of the uselessness of further whingeing: Cuanto más digas, más te joden las hormigas.

The more you say, the more you're fucked by ants. Peevologists, take note.

* Y'all say hey to the double modal, now!


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Hey, double modal: I knew you of old!

Where does he think 'facebook' came from in English?

2:04 PM, February 22, 2011  

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