You put the wrong em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble.

The past few weeks have been pretty exciting. In 26 years of being able to understand spoken language, I don’t think I’ve ever heard my last name said aloud as much as I have in the last twenty-some days.

There are a lot of news stories floating around out there about my ‘cuz, most of them at least somewhat warranted. Is she qualified to be on the Supreme Court? Will she overstep her role as a jurist? Is she a “reverse racist”?1 But also apparently there’s a controversy over her influence on the English language.

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Having a four syllable last name is pretty trying sometimes. I’ve heard every variation.

I usually don’t give it much thought since I always have to spell it out regardless, but now, not entirely without precedent, it’s all the rage at the water cooler. So this guy doesn’t know how to pronounce my name. Welcome to the club. He goes on to say that emphasizing the last syllable of my name, as opposed to the first, is an unnatural English pronunciation and caters too much to foreigners.

Surely, it’s not unnatural. Our mouths are fully capable of making these sounds. You don’t usually run a MAY-o-ral campaign, it’s may-O-ral.2 Just remember this handy mnemonic: Soto, may oral.

Also, hate to break it to you, but English is pretty much the whore of all languages.3 Look at her over there, a million words and counting, letting just about anyone with a trebuchet and a big enough diphthong inside her.

Normally, I agree that when English speakers go out of their way to pronounce a word more like its language of origin4 it usually comes off as silly and pretentious. This whole thing is just quickly devolving into blatant, unapologetic racism, which I actually prefer to insidious, soft-spoken racism, but still.

The New York Times had a report over the weekend on Sonia Sotomayor’s background, which noted that the judge, as a young woman at Princeton, “spent summers reading children’s classics she had missed in a Spanish-speaking home and ‘re-teaching’ herself to write ‘proper English’ by reading elementary grammar books.”

Pat Buchanan, at his most Pat Buchanan-esque, is not only using this anecdote to mock the judge, but he continues to push a baseless, insulting far-right line about Sotomayor’s intelligence.

“Well, I, again in that Saturday piece, she went to Princeton. She graduated first in her class it said. But she herself said she read, basically classic children’s books to read and learn the language and she read basic English grammars and she got help from tutors. I think that, I mean if you’re, frankly, if you’re in college and you’re working on Pinocchio or on the troll under the bridge, I don’t think that’s college work.”
Steve Bennen, Washington Monthly

You know what Pat? You’re right. Clearly, Princeton has become little more than a safety school. Just look at this year’s valedictorian.

Wear sunscreen!

I’ve said it before and will say it again: we take words far too seriously. Names are something you can ignore. They’re such a bizarre idea that everyone takes for granted and invests far too much of themselves in.5 6

A few years back when Adam Gadahn, the “American Al-Qaeda” first slithered onto the scene, I remember distinctly not knowing what to find more ridiculous, a Jew born to born again Christian parents who grew up to be a militant Muslim, or how the media couldn’t quite figure out how to handle something as simple as what to call him. I can’t remember what network7 aired this: “Adam Gadahn, whose real name is Adam Pearlman…”.

Oh, is that a fact? His real name? So is a name real by fiat of race, nationality, circumstance or god? A male name is more real than a female name. A white name is more real than a black or brown name. An American name is more real than a Middle Eastern name. A Jewish or Christian name is more real than a Muslim name. Am I forgetting anything? When a woman gets married but takes her husband’s last name, her maiden name becomes imaginary right?

This gets at the other issue I have with patrilineality in paritcular. We need to stop all this ancestor penis worship. With little exception, every time a black American has a British or French surname, every time a Phillipino has a European surname, every time a hispanic person exists, is evidence, circumstantial though it may be, of a rape or enslavement, and in many cases both.8 Why is everyone so eager to memorialize this?

Reno 911!, the most erudite racial scholars around.

Speaking of segues, I mean MayOral races, I think my current mayor is one of the few people to have the right idea. I’ve always thought that as soon as two people get married both of them should choose their own new last name. Villar + Raigosa = Villaraigosa. Simple, no? Although, maybe he should have gone with his second choice, Villareallyhotspanishreporters.

It doesn’t have to be this boring though, hyphenates are fine, but go nuts, invent a new last name, borrow one from another language, possibly Klingon. Also, I think once someone reaches an appropriate age, either upon entering puberty or maybe once you turn 18, you have to choose your own first name. Names are important solely to the extent that they help us know what we are talking. They are useful and necessary, but they should also be voluntary.

It’s a common trope in fantasy stories that to know someone’s true name is to wield power over them.

Best sports documentary since Hoop Dreams.

Back to the matter at hand. The most famous Ricardo already died leaving a giant power vacuum I’m manuevering to fill. Now I just need to become the second most famous Sotomayor and I’m all set.

Sort-of-my-whore out.

  1. *Fingers crossed* []
  2. Don’t even get me started on gubernatorial. []
  3. Esparanto is more a hideous Brundlefly abomination. []
  4. Putting some ‘english’ on it, as it were. []
  5. Mr. Churchill you can take your rules and shove them…up…the place where your poo comes out…of. []
  6. Grammar jokes, folks! Obscure ones, even. That’s what’s been missing all along. Big time, here I come! []
  8. First names aren’t safe either. The same is mostly true every time a European has a Middle Eastern first name: Michael, David, Paul, John, Joshua, Rachel, Sarah, Ruth, Hannah, Deborah, you know, real foreign sounding names. []