Politic365

 
 


Culture

8:00pm March 4, 2012

Why Mock Spanish is a Problem

snooki-660

Borrowing is a linguistic phenomenon that we encounter when two languages come into contact. Basically, it is the adoption of a word from one language into another.

Spanish, which has over the years come into contact with more than a few languages, has a vast number of borrowings or préstamos. Many of these borrowings are not even recognized (or recognizable) by native speakers as ‘foreign linguistic material’, such as bodega (grocery or winery) and escuela (school) from Greek, almohada (pillow) andajedrez (chess) from Arabic, and aguacate (avocado) and chocolate (I don’t think this needs a translation) from Nahuatl.

English, too, has encountered its fair share of other languages and, as a result, is chock full of borrowings from around the globe. Over the years, Spanish has loaned quite a few words that now go unnoticed in the English lexicon, from patio to canteen, to tobacco, to canoe.

Some Spanish words used in English, however, are still quite marked as ‘foreign’ in the minds of many English speakers, although they understand and maybe even use them. These include a great number of food and drink-related vocabulary items from tacos to tequila, titles like donseñor/señora and jefe, and other culturally-loaded words like machismo. The foreignness of these words is often used strategically in media and advertising, and this is where the age-old process of borrowing runs headlong into language ideologies, or sets of beliefs about language held by groups of people to justify and further their own sociopolitical and economic interests.

Many of these words are from a special variety of language that anthropologist Jane Hill calls ‘Mock Spanish,’ which is the inauthentic often incorrect use of Spanish by non-speakers of the language to, for example, name and advertise pseudo-Mexican fast food items. Hill explains that while allegedly harmless and all in good fun, Mock Spanish is actually a problematic practice as its very humor relies on negative stereotypes of Latinos, particularly Mexicans. In other words, Mock Spanish is the linguistic equivalent of the Frito Bandito or that Mexican caricature wearing the large sombrero and a colorful sarape enjoying a siesta under the shade of a saguaro cactus who shows up on paving tiles, bookends and everything in between.

Cinco de Mayo has spawned many examples of mock Spanish, from the verbal-visual gag t-shirt with five jars of mayonnaise to a certain iconic Mexican beer being advertised a few years back as The Drinko for Cinco™. This last example employs the ever-popular ‘just add o’ rule for creating Mock Spanish nouns from English words. These days, the holiday is frequently referred to as the Cinco de Drinko.

In fact, it seems ‘Cinco de’ has become a productive phrase, generating no end of slogans around this time of year. So far this year, I’ve seen the Cinco de Gato, a local humane society cat adoption event with a sombrero-wearing cat shaking maracas logo, and the Cinco de Miler, a 5-mile road race the logo of which features a running stick figure with sombrero and maracas.

The borrowing of Spanish words into English and the growing understanding of Spanish words by the English monolingual public are surely indicators of a widespread and flourishing Latino influence in the U.S. It’s important, however, to ask how Spanish is being used and why, what it reflects about the sociocultural context and what stereotypes it encodes and reproduces. As a linguist, I cannot help but see Cinco de Mayo as an annual celebration of Mock Spanish, with new items added to the repertoire every year.



About the Author

Holly Cashman
Holly Cashman
I am a sociolinguistic who specializes in Spanish with a particular focus on Spanish in the U.S., bilingualism, queer linguistics and conversation analysis.




 
 

 
ANGA-supports-naming-Colette-Honorable-as-a-FERC-Commissioner-510x370

Honorable Assumes Post as Newest FERC Commissioner

                    On January 5, 2015, five months after being nominated by President Barack Obama, Colette Honorable was sworn in as a Commissioner for the Federal Energy Regu...
by Kristal High
1

 
 
rooftop-solar-modules

Net Metering Raises Inequity Concerns Amid Solar Transition

Many Americans like to say that “if you work hard, you’ll get ahead,” but fewer and fewer of us actually think so.  A recent poll found that only 42 percent of our fellow Americans agree with that statement, down from 53...
by Guest Contributor
3

 
 
4303508702_2c6eae2427_b

President Obama to propose plans for 2 years of free community college

President Obama announced on Thursday that he is proposing a program that would pay the community college tuition of students who are making steady progress toward degree completion. According to the White House, the program wo...
by Adriana Maestas
1

 

Advertisement
 
5708625905_502f6d8f08_b

Latino support for President Obama up, and majority of Americans still support path to legalization

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released some new data today from a recently conducted survey that shows a mixed response from the public for the President’s recent executive action expanding the numb...
by Adriana Maestas
0

 
 
Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 3.55.30 PM

Activists gear up for Dec. 3 protests to highlight US role in funding Mexican security forces

As activists in Mexico have been protesting for weeks to draw attention to the 43 missing students from the Mexican state of Guerrero, their counterparts here in the United States are gearing up for an action on December 3 to d...
by Adriana Maestas
0

 




3 Comments


  1. I had not heard of Cinco due Drinko before but it's accurate. That holiday was commercializedin the US by Mexican beer companies like Corona so I guess one could blame them for starting a trend about that holiday.'


  2. One solution is to learn the real language – we can teach far more interesting ways of talking about drinking in Spanish! http://www.fluentbrooklyn.com


  3. Roberto Vazquez

    Languages are dynamic and interesting. We can only guess how the languages will change in the future by cross fertilization.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>