Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Sun Apr 3 08:31:00 UTC 2005

On Sun, 3 Apr 2005 14:46:15 +0800, Paul Frank <paulfrank at POST.HARVARD.EDU>

>Listening to an NPR piece on John Paul II a few minutes ago, I was struck
>by Silvia Pogglioli’s pronunciation of “Nicaragua.” In the middle of an
>English sentence with suitably English sounds, she pronounced Nicaragua
>as if it weren’t an English word. NPR talking heads often pronounce
>Spanish names the way one would pronounce them in Spanish. This is odd.

This was discussed on the sci.lang newsgroup a few years back... Poggioli
and fellow NPR correspondent Maria Hinojosa were singled out:

In that thread I mentioned Jane Hill's piece on "Mock Spanish", which
discusses a Saturday Night Live skit from 1990 satirizing (Anglo)
broadcasters' hyper-Spanish pronunciation of Spanish terms, from the
ambivalent perspective of a Latino correspondent played by Jimmy Smits.


The skit opens in a conference room where a television news program is
finishing up; the reporter closes her story with the words, "This is
Robin Fletcher, reporting live from Managua, Nicaragua". "Robin
Fletcher" pronounces the place name in a reasonable approximation of
educated second-language Spanish. This line, however, opens the way for
an increasingly absurd performance, in which members of the cast
pronounce everyday names for places and people that have standard
Anglicizations in exaggeratedly phony Spanish accents. For instance, one
character uses [horr'Tega] for "Ortega". Into the middle of this
absurdity comes Jimmy Smits, who is introduced as "Antonio Mendoza" an
economics correspondent. One male cast member shows off his Spanish
expertise, asking the new arrival whether he should pronounce his name
[men'dosa] or as Castilian [men'dotha]. Smits replies mildly that
[mEn'dowsdh@] (the normal Anglicization) would be fine, or even
[mEn'dowz@]. Mexican food is delivered, yielding another round of absurd
pronunciations. "Mendoza" observes that the others present really like
Latino food; one character proudly announces that his taste for such
food was developed growing up in [loh 'hangeles]. Next, the famous
sportscaster Bob Costas appears in a cameo role, introduced as "Bob"
['kosTas]. He is briefly quizzed about his predictions for the coming
Sunday's football games, with absurd pronunciations of team and place
names ([brrronkos], [Tampa] Bay, [san frrran'siysko]), until he is
called out of the room because he has left the lights on in his car, a
[ka'mahrrro]. "Antonio Mendoza" listens to these performances with
increasing consternation, finally volunteering, "You guys really seem to
be up on your Spanish pronunciation. But if you don't mind my saying,
sometimes when you take Spanish words and kind of over-pronounce them,
well, it's kind of annoying". Stunned, one offender asks him to explain
what he means. "Well", says "Mendoza", "you know that kind of storm that
has winds that whirl round and round?" "Of course", answers the butt, "a
[torrrr'na:ddho]". "Mendoza" shrugs his shoulders and gives up. Then
another actor offers him Mexican food. Mendoza has declined before, but
he says, "OK, I guess I'll have an [EnchI'laDdh@]" (in the normal
Anglicization). The other actor says, "What?" Mendoza repeats, still
mildly and politely: "An [EnchI'laDdh@]. I said, I'll have an
[EnchI'laDdh@]". The other actor still refuses to understand him, and
"Mendoza" loses it finally, leaping to his feet and shouting, "An
[e:nchi'la:dha]! [an:'to:nyo men'do:sa] would like an [e:nchi'la dha]!
It would be very muy bueno because [an:'to:nyo] is very ['ha:ngri:]! It
would make him feel really good to have an [e:nchi'ladha]!" The other
actors nod approvingly at one another, observing "Hey, this guy's all
right!". The skit ends.

Hill goes on to discuss the different reactions the skit provokes from
Anglo and Latino audiences.

--Ben Zimmer

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