A Crotchet

by Don Boudreaux on May 25, 2005

in Media

Here’s one of my admittedly trivial crotchets: the increasingly common habit of English-speaking newscasters to pronounce Spanish and Latino proper nouns with a (usually pretend) Spanish or Latino accent.

You know what I mean. If reporter Jones of CNN or ABC is reporting on some goings-on in, say, Mexico City, he’ll not say "Meks-e-ko" (as native English speakers pronounce that country’s name); instead, he’ll say "Mea-he-ko" (the way native Spanish speakers pronounce it). If reporter Smith of NBC or CBS is on air discussing, say, recent elections in Madrid, she’ll invariably pronounce the politicians’ names as if she were speaking in Spanish to a Spanish-speaking audience.

I suspect that pronouncing Spanish and Latino names the way that Spaniards and Latinos pronounce their names is regarded as politically correct, or at least more respectful of Spaniards and Latinos. But why? Do Spanish and Latino reporters, when reporting in Spanish to Spanish-speaking audiences, say "United States" (in a faux American accent) rather than "Estados Unidos"? I doubt it. And I’m glad that they don’t. To do so would be silly as well as condescending to Americans, implying that we Americans are so very sensitive that we cannot bear to hear foreign renditions of the name of our country.

And why do English-speaking reporters do this proper-noun-pronunciation thing only with Spanish and Latino proper nouns? Why not with French or even British-English proper nouns? Why doesn’t the same NPR reporter who says "Mathreed" (in a poor attempt to mimic the Spanish pronunciation of Spain’s capital city) say "Pa-ree" when referring to France’s capital city? Why doesn’t she call the current British Prime Minister "Tyony Blaaa-ay" rather than "Tony Blair"?

It’s a small and unimportant point, I know. But I feel good having vented about it.

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