PRONUNCIATION WARS IN TEXAS.

An article by Simon Romero in today’s New York Times Week in Review describes the dispute over how to pronounce Texas placenames of Spanish origin that have long since become anglicized:

JACINTO CITY, Tex. —
Forget the Alamo. It is the letter “J” that is under siege in Texas, at least to Mike Jackson, the mayor of this town near the old shipyards and oil refineries of Houston. Nearly everyday, Mr. Jackson told The Houston Chronicle, he corrects people who he thinks are mispronouncing the word “Jacinto.”
To Mr. Jackson, who grew up here, it is “Juh-SIN-tuh.” To others, including many newcomers who are part of the city’s Hispanic population, which now constitutes nearly 80 percent of the total, it is “Ha-SEEN-to.” Jacinto, after all, was originally a Spanish word, so why not pronounce it properly in the language of Cervantes?
The pronunciation of place names is one of those quiet conflicts that are played out everyday throughout the Southwest as the numbers of Hispanics in areas originally colonized by Spain and Mexico continue to grow – and in some cases nudge Anglos into the minority.
Texas is full of place names whose pronunciations confound Hispanics but sound natural to others. Palacios is pronounced “Puh-LAY-shus” instead of “Pa-LA-see-os.” Manchaca is “MAN-shack” instead of “Man-CHA-ka.” Pedernales is “PER-dan-al-is” instead of “Peh-der-NA-les” and so on. Even Texas should be “TEH-jas,” according to some traditionalists…

Linguists studying the evolution of English and Spanish in the Southwest say that [insistence on anglicized pronunciation] is fading. Maryellen Garcia [sic; a Google search convinces me her given name is MaryEllen], a professor of linguistics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, noted that many newscasters in Texas now pronounce Hispanic names in the Spanish manner, a habit, she said, that was growing in prestige.
“It’s a bit puzzling,” Dr. Garcia said. “Even as the Hispanic middle class uses less Spanish, the rest of society is not as threatened by Spanish, perhaps because of the very emergence and recognition of that middle class.”
No one knows exactly where the intermingling of Spanish and English in the Southwest will lead. Some young Hispanics in Texas pronounce place names in the Spanish way among themselves, but use the Texan pronunciation when speaking with Anglos. That may be one model.

I’m sympathetic to both sides in this dispute and will be interested to see how it plays out, but I have to say I don’t believe for a minute that anyone anywhere pronounces the name of the state “TEH-jas.”

Comments

  1. I’ve heard both pronunciations of Jacinto, with the Anglicised one being much more frequent. But then I hear Target pronounced as French as often, if not more so, than as English (to be targ’et is a joke pronunication, but it obviously isn’t here).
    I say “TEH-jas” as often as I can get away with it, btw.

  2. Really? I stand corrected, then.

  3. Michael Farris says:

    For me, Tejas (with a Mexican, not Spanish jota -they sound pretty different) is kind of an affectation in English, but I can use the adjective Tejano (more or less like in Mexican Spanish though it won’t normally take any inflection) which refers (not exclusively) to hispanic things in Texas.
    The last time I was in Texas was Houston in 2000 not a city I’d associate with hispanic culture, but muchas gracias was much more common than ‘thank you’ (in transactions otherwise carried out in English).
    You have some of the same Spanish/English place name potential issues in Florida (I grew up in Punta Gorda, pronounced PUN-na GORE-duh by locals) very close to a street named Aqui esta (pronouned AH-kwee ES-tuh)

  4. OK, what are we talking about when we talk about TEH-jas? I assumed from the article that an English j was meant (so that “-jas” would be more or less like “jus’” as in “jus’ a minute”), but Michael’s comment assumes a Spanish/Mexican j (ie, a guttural fricative). I have heard Texas jocularly pronounced TAY-hahs in English, and I’ve certainly heard tay-HAH-no for “tejano”; is that the kind of j you mean, Claire? I was about to apply strikethrough to my rash final clause, but before I retract it I want to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing.

  5. Robert Staubs says:

    “Jacinto, after all, was originally a Spanish word, so why not pronounce it properly in the language of Cervantes?”
    As was already brought up, the Mexican and Castillian jota are different, the Castillian maintaining the pronunciation of the time of Cervantes (I believe) with /x/ instead of /h/. So maybe he’s not the best reference point.
    A number of people I know pronounce Texas as the Mexican Spanish Tejas or occasionally the Castillian. It was originally somewhat of a joke but is now more standard. But we’re Virginians, and don’t count.
    But I believe a Dallasite friend of mine quite often pronounces it as the Mexican.

  6. Michael Farris says:

    I was assuming a Mexican pronunciation of j as (roughly) [h] in Tejas, like you, I can’t imagine a pronunciation ['tedZ@s] that would be the weirdest thing ever.

  7. I like to pronounce it Te[x]as, albeit more than somewhat facetiously. (Where square brackets contain God’s Own Phonetic Alphabeth.)

  8. Patrick Wynne says:

    Growing up in San Antonio, I never heard anyone pronounce it TEH-has except facetiously. (Though I no longer live in that state, so perhaps it’s changing.)
    There’s also the Anglicized pronunciation of the county in which San Antonio sits: Bexar is pronounced not like BEH-har or even BEKS-ar, but instead as a homophone of the honey-eating ursine mammal.
    For all I know, though, that could be changing too.

  9. Just about all non-English names for places are perforce rendered inexactly in English, anyway.
    We can make a rough but useful distinction between names that are more “naturalised” (“Paris”, “Moscow”, “Baghdad”, etc.) and those that are less naturalised (“Belo Horizonte”, “Yaounde”, “Debrecen”, etc.). Most people seem to want “Texas” way out west on the naturalised end of the spectrum; most people seem to want “La Jolla” to be pronounced strictly Hispanically, no?
    There will always be room for dispute and difference, and fashions change. The French city Lyon has an old respected English form “Lyons” with a pronunciation making it homophonic with “lions”, but few say “Lyons” that way now, I warrant.
    Different English-speaking groups treat foreign vowels very differently. I was amused to hear Clinton’s and other Americans’ pronunciation of “Kosovo”: /KOHsohvoh/. British and Australian speakers would say (almost as “wrongly”) /KOsovoh/ (where “o” is as in “stop”). This is one of many pervasive differences in our treatment of vowels. To me, “cosmos” as /KOZmohs/, rendered almost as /KAHZmohs/, sounds essentially and (may I venture?) comically American.

  10. I always thought I detected a bit of bigotry in the agressive mispronunciation of Spanish toponyms by Anglos in Texas. If so, it makes since that as Hispanics become more accepted and integrated into the polical and economic mainstream, that somewhat more Hispanic pronunciations will gain currency.

  11. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s kind of a mix. San Jose is a kind of Spanglish San (rhymes with “man”) Hoh-ZAY. I notice I use Spanglish for some San Francisco streets (SEE-zar CHA-vez where many say SHA-vez, kuh-BREE-o for Cabrillo) and English for others (Ar-GWEL-o for Arguello). Ar-GWEL-o is more common, but Latino bus drivers call out Ar-GWAY-o).

  12. Texas I pronounce as I suppose most Americans say it, Teks uhs. San Jacinto I’d say with a softer Mexican Spanish (h) sound.
    My mother who hails from Guadalajara, Mexico, and I had talked about this same phenomenon. I’m much more accepting now about Anglicizing the Spanish place names. She waxed positively indignant at times at how English speakers mispronounced them.
    I suppose it’s poetic justice of a sort that the Mexican pronunciation is starting to prevail. I’ll ask Mom next time I get her on the phone. ;)

  13. I find the same mixing phenomenon in San Francisco, where people are much more hospitable to Latino culture than in Texas (IME everyone says [kabriow] for Cabrillo, never [kabrilow]), though a good example of a mangling is Visitacion Valley, where visitacion is pronounced identically to visitation. Tradition prevails more than sensitivity, in many cases (except, of course, among native Spanish speakers.)
    OTOH, I’m surprised to hear people calling the Mexican jota an [h]. I learned my Spanish from Mexicans and in Mexico and to me saying [hota] sounds weird. I couldn’t compare it to the Castillian variety, but I would transcribe it as [x].

  14. Michael Farris says:

    Lal, I’d agree that ideally the Mexican jota is [x] but then what to do with the much raspier, more forceful Iberian sound? I think I’ve seen a continuum with Iberian at one extreme of [x] and Cuban at the other with [h], I’d place the Mexican sound somewhere between (but closer to [h] for most speakers that I’ve heard).

  15. Alonso Quijano says:

    Language hat: the spanish pronuntiation for j is the guttural fricative sound you mention in your post, and I think that’s the sound the article refers to. The mexican way of pronouncing the j is much softer than the iberian or castillian one (but essentially the same).
    As you stated in the blog entry, it’s kind of unbelievable that anybody pronounced “TEH-jas”, with the english j.
    From my point of view, it’s amazing the way two different languages coexist with each other in the Southern States of the US. In the long term this could end up with the raise of a new own language.

  16. It is amazing, and it kind of makes me wish I’d stayed in linguistics so I could study it — what a valuable Petri dish of linguistic mixing and change!
    Santa Barbara has a similar (to SF) mix of anglicized and Hispanic pronunciation of street names; one that always fascinates me is Canon Perdido, which is pronounced ka-NOHN per-DEE-doh (there’s a story about a lost cannon whose historical truth is unknown to me) even though the Spanish word is cañón, so you’d think it would be ka-NYOHN.

  17. Richard Hershberger says:

    There is a San Jacinto in California. Its high school was in the same athletic conference as mine. The normal pronunciation was quasi-Spanish, with an initial /h/ on Jacinto. To pronounce it with a /j/ would mark you as a rube. The interesting thing, though, was that in casual use ‘San Jacinto’ was shortened to ‘San Jac’, with the latter part prounced the same as the English ‘Jack’. That usage was not marked as ignorant, merely as informal.
    Richard Hershberger

  18. There are towns in West/Central Pennsylvania named
    Ver-SAYLES and DOO-Boys. I am told that nobody ever pronounces them differently under any circumstances. (Take that, General Duquesne!)

  19. Cryptic Ned says:

    That’s true, but Duquesne is not pronounced Doo-Ques-Nee, except as a joke.
    You may also like to know that Latrobe, home of Rolling Rock beer, is pronounced in an odd way with the first syllable as an unaccented “Lay”.
    “lay-TROBE”.
    That’s true of lots of American cities though. Another one in Pennsylvania is New Tripoli. (tri-POLE-ee)

  20. I used to live on a street in La Jolla called “Costa Verde”. One day, I had to call my phone company to dispute something, and got a native Spanish speaker on the line. I then proceeded to catch hell from her over the fact that I pronounced it “COST-uh”, and not her preferred “COAST-ah”. I don’t just mean that she insisted on pronouncing it with the Spanish vowel inventory — I got a lecture on the proper pronunciation of Spanish names, complete with “how would you like it if?” arguments about English names.
    I would be quite curious to learn how she felt English names ought to be pronounced when speaking in Spanish.

  21. John Emerson says:

    Minnesota is full of garbled French names, such as Lake L’Homme Dieu (Le hommadoo). Most of them are probably genuine relics of early French settlement. Minnesota had many French inhabitants when it attained statehood, and there’s still a considerable sprinkling of French surnames, mostly rustic types monolingual in English.

  22. Cryptic Ned says:

    This is slightly unrelated, but I just came across a paper by a scientist named Zeno Földes-Papp, and I’d like to know how to pronounce it, because it’s the coolest name ever.

  23. Found the transposed r in Pedernales interesting. In the East Sahn Frahnseesco Bay Area there is a creek and locality named Codornices, usually pronounced “Cordon-nieces.”

  24. Michal Brody says:

    In nearly ten years living in Austin, Texas, I usually heard the name of San Jacinto Street pronounced as ‘sannasinna.’ Well, let me admit that I said it that way myself.

  25. Zeno Földes-Papp is indeed a magnificent name. Földes is a Hungarian name, so would be pronounced FÖL-desh; if Zeno is also pronounced à la hongroise, it’s ZEH-no.

  26. solus rex says:

    Well, I may be going against the prevalent current (which in itself is an additional virtue), but I’m with Derbyshire (http://olimu.com/Journalism/Texts/Commentary/Ethnonymy.htm) on that one:
    “Damn whatever committee of the U.N. [yeah, I know it's not the U.N. this time] is foisting this gibberish on us! To hell with them and all their works! GYPSIES! PEKING! LAPPS! BOMBAY! HOTTENTOTS! Come and get me, you bastards!”

  27. Yes, Language Hat. Égy kis jegyzet: if “Zeno Földes-Papp” were pronounced Hungarianly throughout, the “Papp” would be pronounced more as /pop/ than /pahp/.
    A légpárnásom teli van angolnával.

  28. Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira says:

    Pronouncind the Spanish names as they were English doesn’t affect me much, I think that’s quite natural, but what I find utterly interesting is how some cities and neighborhoods were named in sloppy/ludicrous Spanish (Boca Ratón: mouth mouse, if it were to mean the mouse’s mouth/the mouth of the mouse, you’d say Boca del Ratón; Aquí está: here it is, here you are). What’s that? What explains that? And La Jolla? If it means the Jewel (but here I must plead ignorant), it should be spelled La Joya, not La Jolla. What is Jolla, by the way?
    Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira

  29. La Jolla is indeed a misspelling of “la joya”. It’s also a neighborhood in San Diego, where UCSD is located. I have never gotten a good explanation of why the spelling ended up that way, despite living 20 years in SD.

  30. “La Jolla” is interpreted to mean either “the hole” or “the jewel”. (Depends on your opinion of the place, perhaps.)

  31. Like Minnesota, Maine is also full of slightly garbled French-origin names (native French speakers will shudder at the way we pronounce the town spelled C A L A I S up here). In my High School graduating class there were four students all with the last name Deschanes, and each family pronounced the name a very different way. What makes it more interesting even is that those French-origin names are mixed in with place names adapted from the languages of the indigenous peoples.
    Thought provoking stuff as always, Languagehat!

  32. I’m not sure what to make of this but: reading “San Jacinto” (a name which I never have read prior to this post) I say “san yacinto” and I think such a place name would have been pronounced that way by non-Mexican people in the town where I grew up, viz. Modesto California.

  33. No one has commented on the use of the term Änglo, I assume to referred to what the US Census Department means non-Hispanic whites. I find the word ridiculous and ignorant, kind of like when Spanish speakers in Spanish refer to any Asian as chino, including the former president of Peru, Fujimori, of Japanese descent. Or when numerous uneducated Americans refer to Hispanics as Spanish.

  34. Y’all gotta remember: It’s like a whole ‘nother country.
    I’m a TX native (though I’m now in New York where folks pronounce “Houston” as “Howston”) and can think of several examples of each case. Some cities just plain take “proper” Mexican pronunciation (or close enough–like San Antonio) and some require “proper” Texan-English pronunciation (like San Jacinto). The public school systems (most? all?) require Spanish classes too, so it’s not like most Texans don’t know the difference.
    My personal favorite has always been Llano. I have never in my life heard anybody say YAH-no. It’s just Lan-oh with plenty of twang on that “a.” If you said YAH-no, everybody would think you were nuts. Guadalupe Street in Austin (and probably anything with Guadalupe in the name) is a split case; it can be pronounced Hwadaloopeh, Gwadaloopeh, or even Gwadaloop and nobody blinks.
    Same situation with the many Czech and German towns in Central Texas.
    Then again, TX has towns with names like Fred, Gun Barrel City, Hot Coffee, and Cut-and-Shoot. And for a period of at least a year, following a Cowboys’ Superbowl win, the town of Troy became Troy Aikman, TX.

  35. ferdydurke says:

    Another native chiming in. You’d expect Hispanics to pronounce the various borrowings in Spanish, but Anglos’ (or, more specifically, Texans’) using those pronunciations raises eyebrows. One particular shibboleth in Houston is the name of a biggish street, San Felipe. Non-natives tend to pronounce Felipe in Spanish rather than the Texanized SANN FIH-luh-pee. I’ve never heard San Jacinto (which, in addition to being a nearby town, is also a street here) pronounced in Spanish except jocularly.

  36. To answer your earlier question, LH, I meant IPA [x]. And yes, it’s a bit of a joke, with a really unaspirated and dental t too. Unless I’m speaking Abriginal Engish, of course, in which case it’s tejaj, no voicing, no aspiration, and palatal stops.
    I’ve only heard San Felipe with penultinate stress.

  37. Toby: To my mind, “Anglos” in this case clearly refers to “Anglophones” (i.e., English-speaking people). I have no idea about Texas, but in Canada (and especially here in Quebec) the abbreviated term “Anglo” is quite current in English both as a (capitalized) noun refering to people and (uncapitalized) as an adjective. However, now that I look at it, Merriam-Webster does seem to corroborate your claim: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=anglo

  38. speedwell says:

    The students at San Jacinto College here in Houston commonly pronounce the J as if it was the J in “jump.” It comes out sounding like “jasinda” and is typically shortened to “San Jac” (think “San Jack”).

  39. You can think “San Jack” if you like; me, I think Sanjak of Novi Pazar (scroll down to the section on Lord Blatherard Osmo, and cf. my puckish citation in the last comment here; if you want boring old history, it’s summarized here).

  40. Wow, hubba hubba, the text of GR online! is there an index or table of contents to be had?

  41. My Texan in-laws vacation in Ruidoso, New Mexico, which they pronounce “REE-uh-DOH-suh”.

  42. Jeremy: Apparently those guys just have a few sections online (plus a few other Pynchon bits). But do check out the searchable web-guide!

  43. Thanks LH — I know about Tim’s pages but a reminder to go look at them is always appreciated. And before today I had not seen Douglas Lannark’s “love” concondance (prominently linked at the Hyperarts site).

  44. That’s a nice bit of work! But boy, talk about obsession: “As my other editions were so full of multi-colored markings, I bought a fresh copy (my fourth)…”

  45. I suspect that “Texas” is probably from a Nahuatl word, and also “Mexico” itself. Based on my extremely limited knowledge of that language, the Nahuatl pronounciation would probably be more like “TAY-shas” and “may-SHEE-ko” than the modern Mexican pronounciations.

  46. Ted McClelland says:

    Come to Illinois if you want to hear Spanish names butchered. We have towns founded by people who’d read about the Mexican War in the paper, but never met a Mexican. San Jose is San JOZE, Eldorado is El-duh-RAY-do, and Sandoval is Sand-OH-val.

  47. It’s funny I read this because someone just asked about it yesterday.
    I have reading through the comments, and I don’t think it has been already… in most of Mexico, “jota” is realized as a unvoiced velar fricative, IPA /x/; while in Spain (the North), it is realized as an unvoiced uvular fricative, which can be found in some French dialects for /r/, and whose IPA symbol looks like a capital x: /X/. So that’s the difference between the two: the Mexican is velar, while the Spanish one is uvular. Yet in other places, like the Caribbean, it is reduced to aspiration: /h/.
    Hopefully it’s not too technical.

  48. Actually, I think it’s at exactly the right level. Thanks!

  49. I am a native Texan currently living in the country near the Pedernales River. It’s not uncommon to hear “Peh-der-NA-les” around here, although the ciy folk in Austin do say “PER-da-nal-is”. Refugio is another interesting example. Locals say Reh-FUR-ee-oh (my best guess with the pronounciation grammar, but you get the idea).

  50. christine says:

    i’m originally from california (bay area) – in san leandro, a major street is estudillo. pronounced by the natives so that it rhymes with pillow. or, as i am told, with armadillo (yipes!). now i live in temple, texas. the town just south of here is salado. i am told that the correct pronunciation is sa-lay-do, not sa-lah-do. the natives tell me “just think of it as a salad with an o”. that makes NO sense, ‘cuz they don’t say it that way. they are quite offended if you say sa-lah-do (kind of like frisco grates on my ear). they even insist that sa-lay-do is the correct spanish pronunciation. can someone ‘splain this to me?

  51. It’s Texan. Don’t expect it to make sense (except in a weird Texan way), just say it the way they do and take notes. Somewhere I’ve got a book of Texan place names, with pronunciations; it’s a fascinating and often hilarious read. (I’d say “no offense to Texans,” but I’m pretty sure no Texans will take offense — in my experience, they’re proud of their idiosyncrasies, just as New Yorkers are.)

  52. I’m a transplanted New Jerseyman living in California. My friend in Texas told me about about a place near Houston named the Bolivar Peninsula. He pronounced it as “BOLLYVER”. Does anyone know if it was named after Simon Bolivar, one of South America early liberators? Or was there some early Texan called BOLLYVER who wrote it as Bolivar?

  53. It was named after Simon; that’s just the way they pronounce it. I believe it was the usual anglicized pronunciation of Bolivar in the 19th century.

  54. I don’t know if your friend is originally from Texas or not, Jeff, but speaking personally as a native Houstonian of 35 years, I can attest to the fact that not a single person I know pronounces “Bolivar” as “Boll-y-ver”… rather we pronounce it as “Bal-ih-var” as in “Ball-eh-var”.
    I’ve spent 35 years here on the Gulf Coast and I’ve seen and heard a lot of strange things, but that pronunciation is one of the strangest to date.

  55. How exactly DO you pronounce Duquesne??

  56. /duw’keyn/, like the words “do cane.”

  57. I am a native “Anglo” ( actually not Anglo at all but Irish ) Houstonian, who was born to parents living in Jacinto City 48 years ago.
    My family has lived in Texas since before it was a state. While I do agree that some of my dear neighbors do have very peculiar pronunciations that seem to make no sense whatsoever. Some of the pronunciations listed on this site make even those seem reasonable.
    Personally, I tend toward the Mexican/Spanish pronunciations, having had Spanish language training from elementary school through college. There are times that for the understanding/ recognition of the person with whom I am speaking, I must recognise the issue and pronounce a word (often a place name) in the way they know it.
    It seems to me, that among anglo-phones it is primarily the working class and poor and those whose background is working class or poor who tend toward the non-phonetic pronunciations. One of my most frequent reminders is a local “newscaster” well, actually more of a “news” personality, the approximately 84 year old Marvin Zindler.
    Mr. Zindler is by my best guess, a product of the “look-see” or “whole-word” method of reading as was my grandmother. This situation causes the person to memorize the locally common sound of a word even when it is garbled. I bring Mr. Zindler into the discussion because, by his very position on the nightly news as a local personality, he perpetuates many of the peculiar pronounciations or mispronounciations from an earlier time. One of Mr. Zindler’s primary “soapboxes” is the restaurant report, in which he tramples the pronunciation of all sorts of ethnic and language names of local restaurants. He does equal disservice to the person names on his “birthday and anniversary congratualtions” Where he announces names of those with birthays >=100years, and anniversaries >= 50 years. I have actually had a non-native ( my former father-in-law) hold Mr. Zindler’s pronunciations up as the standard.
    In fact, though Mr. Zindler does substantial good work in the community through the use of his personality and contacts, I hold him up as the founder of the fictional “Marvin Zindler School of Elocution”, a notorious school that garbles names and words, and perpetuates the errors through the generations by presenting them to more and greater numbers of people daily.
    I appreciate Mr. Zindler as one of our local characters, and grant that he is quite valuable in that way. However, the problem is one of over-generalization. The idea that because he is well-known and holds a visible position, does not entail that he is the arbiter of any other topic, such as the topic of prounciation. As dear as he is, he is primarily an expert in self-publicity. He managed to turn a position in law-enforcement (he was in the Sheriff’s Department) into a lifetime contract to sit at the anchor’s desk on the nightly news. We can be thankful that he has, in turn, used that talent for self-promotion toward benefitting individual less fortunate citizens. One must never lose sight of the fact that he makes certain that he personally gets a great deal of publicity for doing so.
    For those who do not know of our Mr. Zindler; he is the man who was characterized in the film and play “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” as the news reporter.
    While Mr. Zindler has slightly improved his attempts at pronunciation in recent years, he is still a chief perpetuator of old errors of ignorance in pronunciation.
    I am thankful that the common practice among other local news reporters, many of whom are native Spanish speakers, has become more and more Spanish, regardless of which dialect.
    It makes more sense to me to hold any variety of Spanish up as a model for pronouncing Spanish words, rather than any variety of garbled mispronunciation, from any source, regardless of the reason.
    meanwhile…..welcome to Texas y’all!
    Don’t forget your pronunciation guides, they will likely be at least as helpful as your maps.

  58. “I suspect that “Texas” is probably from a Nahuatl word, and also “Mexico” itself.”
    Decided to check up on that… Mexico is possibly a Nahuatl word “Metzthixihtlico” meaning either “in the middle of the moon” or “the place of the god Metztli.” Texas is from the Caddo Indian word “teysha” meaning “hello, friend” in the language of the Caddo Indian tribes.
    I’m in California, and we even mangle Spanish words. In the Bay Area, the city Tiburon is pronounced TIB-burr-on instead of ti-boo-ROHN. I live in Torrance, and a school here is Calle Mayor Middle School pronounced CAL-lee MAY-ur. If I ever tried to pronounce it the Spanish way, no one would know what I was talking about.

  59. For the town La Jolla – my understanding is that people call it “the jewel” because it’s pronounced like la joya. La Jolla is a band of Luiseño Indians – and this (I think) is where the city’s name originated.

  60. Nope. From the impeccably researched California Place Names by Erwin Gudde:
    Jolla (hoi’ə). Joya, also spelled hoya or jolla, is a common Mexican Spanish geographical term referring to a hollow in the mountains, a hollow worn in a river bed, or a hollow on the coast worn by waves. Peñafiel calls it a… ‘corruption of the Castilian word hoya, which means hollow or excavation in the ground’….
    La Jolla town… It is not known whether the name at the coast has any connection with La Jolla Valley [from the preceding word] or whether it was applied independently… The popular tradition that the name is derived from the Spanish word joya ‘jewel’ sounds plausible, since y and ll were interchangeable, but is supported by no evidence. An alternative etymology is from Diegueño matku-laahuuy ‘place that has holes or caves’…

  61. I’m a bit of a Texas history geek, and I thought ya’ll (nice touch, huh?) might like to know something about our long standing habit of mispronouncing names with Spanish origins. If you’ve read this far down in the comments then you’ve seen many examples of the way we “mispronounce” names of Spanish origin. For example, tourists in Austin usually laugh out loud when they hear how we locals slaughter the word “Guadalupe” /gwah-duh-loop/ (the main drag at UT and the oh-so-cold river down in New Braunfels). Anyone who has lived here or gone to school at UT will tell you that there simply is no other acceptable pronunciation. Comments above mine also point out the resistance by Texans to “correctly” pronounce Spanish words (see the post about Salado). Why are Texans so inflexible about this issue?
    As you may know, until 1836, this land belonged to Mexico. Prior to Mexico’s own fight for independence, this was Spain’s territory. Most of the original maps were drawn by Spanish or Mexican surveyors, and most geographic features received Spanish names, like “Rio San Jacinto.”
    At The Battle of San Jacinto, the Texians (the correct spelling in 1836) finally won their battle for independence from Mexico. This was a fight for independence from a merciless dictator – Santa Anna – and from religious oppression – all religions other than Catholicism were banned. This was also a fight against the odds, much like the American Revolution. It pitted largely untrained volunteer pioneers against a massive professional federal army. The emotional stakes were high too: the Texians were still reeling from the deaths of their countrymen during Mexico’s brutal take-no-prisoners strategies at the Alamo and Goliad.
    After victory at San Jacinto, the newly independent nation searched for ways to distinguish itself from the then hated neighbor to the South. One of the most demonstrative acts (and one of the easiest to implement) was the issuance of new maps with the new country’s borders. By no accident, these new maps renamed every river, replacing “Rio” with “River” (with the only exception being the border with Mexico, which went from “El Rio Grande” to “The Rio Grande River” – some see this as a concession to the idea that ownership was shared). The Texians also very purposefully adopted anglicized pronunciations of the rivers and other geographic features.
    Today when we pronounce San Jacinto with a hard “j” and a soft “i”, we are pronouncing the name correctly, as the first Texians intended it to be pronounced. This is not, as an earlier poster indicated, an act of racism. The rich Hispanic culture that existed for nearly 300 years before the War of Independence remains a respected and integral part of Texas life. It is no small fact that the list of fallen Alamo defenders includes many Spanish surnames. Likewise, the modern pronunciation is not meant as, and should not be viewed as, an act of disrespect to the Hispanic population now living in Texas. Rather, it is a polite nod to those who fought for liberty and freedom, even when defeat and death seemed certain.
    To tell you the truth, growing up in Austin, I spent decades confused by our apparent display of “Texas red neck ignorance.” I was actually glad to find out the little history lesson above, and maybe you will be too.

  62. So your position is that if a bunch of foreigners are allowed to live in a country and decide they don’t like the government, they’re entitled to rebel against that government and take the land they were allowed to settle on away from the country that foolishly allowed them in? Would you feel the same way if a bunch of immigrants into the US decided Bush was a merciless dictator and announced they were seceding?

  63. Language Hat -
    My post was about the way Texans pronounce words. It was not a manifesto of Texas supremacy or a defense of war and revolution in modern times.
    Languages evolve, and that process is unstoppable. Spanish itself is a great exmaple of this. Modern Spanish uses 3 types of verbs (those ending in -ar, -er, and -ir). However, we know for a fact that it used to employ no less than 5 types of verbs. Over time, and for a variety of reasons, 2 verb types have disappeared completely. The process continues today, as any Spanish speaker will tell you: -ir verbs are far outnumbered by the other two types. In fact, -ir verbs today are conjugated just like -er verbs with 80% of the subject pronouns. So, in the not too distant future, we can expect that -ir verbs, too, will disappear.
    This is language evolution! Why does it happen, and how does it happen? Most of the time, we just don’t have a good way to know. For this reason, I appreciate the history of Spanish word pronunciations in Texas. It is rare that we have such detailed knowledge of how a language develops its quirks.
    Just in case you don’t think that Texas has a role in the evolution of Spanish, understand this: Spain is no longer the country with the most Spanish speakers. Mexico holds that title and many estimate that the US is second. In fact, recent census estimates purport that the Hispanic population in Texas has taken over as the majority. The “purity” of the language can no longer be preserved by its homeland. It is here, and it will evolve here.
    NOTE: I am nothing short of surprised and dismayed by your attempt to escalate this discussion into a political debate. I will not engage you.

  64. Whoa there, pardner! You started this skirmish; if you don’t mind, I’ll quote your own words, which were entirely irrelevant to the linguistic discussion:
    At The Battle of San Jacinto, the Texians (the correct spelling in 1836) finally won their battle for independence from Mexico. This was a fight for independence from a merciless dictator – Santa Anna – and from religious oppression – all religions other than Catholicism were banned. This was also a fight against the odds, much like the American Revolution. It pitted largely untrained volunteer pioneers against a massive professional federal army. The emotional stakes were high too: the Texians were still reeling from the deaths of their countrymen during Mexico’s brutal take-no-prisoners strategies at the Alamo and Goliad.
    I’m willing to forget the politics if you are, but I didn’t “escalate this discussion into a political debate.”
    As for the language stuff, I completely agree with you, and I think you’ve made a valuable contribution to this thread. I apologize if my taking a contrary position on the glories of Texian independence discombobulated you.

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