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Why Can't Americans Pronounce Spanish-Named Cities in the United States Like Los Angeles Correctly?
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DEAR MEXICAN: In my hometown of Playa Larga (Long Beach, California), natives refer to a major avenida in our villa, Junipero Avenue (named for Father Junipero Serra, accused native genocider, a candidate for sainthood—but I digress), as Juan-a-pear-o. There is no “Juan” in Junipero, but that’s how everyone in this town pronounces it. People who reside on that street, real-estate agents, residents, business owners—I even heard a former mayor pronounce it that way. Why do white Americans (and even some Guatemalan-Americans) bend over backwards to pronounce Junipero as Juan-a-pear-o to sound as though they know how to pronounce it as a Spanish speaker would, yet it is the most garbled malapropism of the word (which should be pronounced “hoo-NEE-pear-o”)?

Hombre Blanco de Playa Larga

DEAR GABACHO FROM LONG BEACH: Gotta say that in my lifetime of living in Southern California, I’ve never heard nadie pronounce Junipero as you say people mispronounce it—the malapropism I hear is “June-IH-pear-oh,” a fascinating medley of the proper accent placement on the third-to-last syllable in Junípero’s Spanish incarnation and a rigid following of English grammatical structure. This is the wonderful world of the grammatical gabacho colonizing of the American Southwest, where Yankees decided to keep many of the original Spanish names of territories, cities and geographical landmarks, but Anglicize them—”Tex-as” instead of Teh-haas,” “Loss An-ju-less” instead of “Loce AHNG-heh-les,” or “A-ri-zone-ah” instead of “Hell-on-Earth” (okay, in fairness to the Sonora dog, just the parts of the state where Arpayaso and Brewer roam). Custodians of Cervantes, of course, cringe at gabachos’ mongrelization of Spanish-language place names, and that’s a beautiful thing: Remember that one of the few cardinal rules of this columna is that language is fluid, and anyone who tries to box it in or get their chonis in a bunch about it are as deluded as Rick Santorum.

DEAR MEXICAN: Why is every overweight, tattooed, goateed, bead-wearing, late-model-Tahoe-driving, non-educated enchilada in Texas a University of Texas fan? Why not A&M or Tech? Or Baylor (that’s obvious)? And one more thing: Please stop becoming belligerently drunk and taking it personal when the team on your Walmart 3XL T-shirt loses. You have no personal ties to the team, so quit throwing up gang signs and using profanity in an atmosphere that’s meant to be fun. The drunk 19-year-old college kid means no harm when he screams, “Boomer!” so grow up and get a life.

Frustrated Educated Okie


DEAR GABACHO: “Enchilada” as a slur against Mexicans? The 1950s called—they want their ethnic insult back. As for the fan question: same reason no one outside of Oklahoma gives a shit about the Sooners. Subway alumni like winners in football, and the Longhorns are the epitome of a winning program in the Lone Star State, while the Aggies, Red Raiders, UTEP Miners, Texas Christian University, the University of Houston and Texas’ many other college football programs haven’t exhibited such gridiron dominance over the years. The Sooners haven’t dominated college football since the days of Barry Switzer—you really expect non-Okies to give a damn about a third-rate university that just played in something called the Insight Bowl? By the way, your Baylor dig is lost on me. Because Baylor is a private university? USC (the Trojans USC, not the Gamecocks one) is private and has more than a few wab alumni. Typical Sooner solipsism—but what else can we expect from a university that named itself after invading illegals? Go Cowboys (both the Dallas and Oklahoma State variants)!


Gustavo Arellano is the editor of OC Weekly, author of the syndicated column “¡Ask a Mexican!”, and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. He started at the paper with an angry, fake letter to the editor and went from there—only in Anacrime!

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  1. The one that always gets me is Paso Robles, a small city about 200 miles NW of Los Angeles. The Spanish pronunciation would be Pah-so Ro-blays, which sounds natural and has a nice, pretty ring to it. But all the locals pronounce it Pa-so (with the “a” as in “cat”) Ro-bulls, which sounds just awful to me.

  2. Discard says:

    Hombre Blanco de Playa Larga asks a silly question. He might as reasonably ask why immigrants don’t speak English like we native Americans do.

  3. Only reason you still have a colunm here is for fun because…. no way, no way chiamp!11!!

  4. Thirdtwin says:

    That all you’ve got? You sound like a sad, bitter, little man, Gus. Even the French don’t whine about our various regional pronunciations of “New Orleans”. And in case you haven’t noticed, Americans are very understanding of our ESL speakers’ mispronunciations of English words. But if you want to bitch about how a Laotian immigrant says ” Los Angeles”, or how a Nigerian immigrant says ” San Lius Obispo, that’s your chauvinistic prerogative, I reckon.

  5. Sparkon says:

    Not to be too fussy about it, but a malapropism is not the same thing as a mispronunciation.

    In California, I gave up long ago trying to pronounce the names of many localities properly; although I still can’t go for “SLO,” many people do.

    In English, “L.A.” comes out so smoothly and musically, like two sweet notes on a tenor sax, Think Eddie Harris, and you can almost hear a Wes Montgomery riff in the aftermath.

    But do Spanish speakers hear “el A” when they are learning to speak, or how does that work?

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
  6. @Sparkon

    That would be “El E”, no?

    • Replies: @Sparkon
  7. Because they speak English, not Dago?

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
  8. Seraphim says:

    Americans (and English as well) can’t pronounce correctly ANY names, be them of places or personal. That’s why they can’t really understand what other people think. It is probably a case of cognitive development arrested at the stage of egocentrism.

  9. Clyde says:

    Screw this bs! I always will pronounce Spanish locations and names here (USA) Anglo style. Only exceptions are Jesus and Angel/guys names/ I will pronounce Spanish style. I took Spanish in middle school so I know the proper Spanish pronunciations. I did not learn it in California so I am not familiar with Mexican style Spanish which I hear is a mongrelized/Azteca version.

    I am pretty sure I learned proper Castilian style Spanish because my teacher often digressed into talking about Spain, its culture and its history. But never ever about any of the crappy Latino nations south of the border. He had no use for them.

    • Replies: @Alden
  10. TheBoom says:

    I’m still confused as to why Mexicans can’t get the United States right. They keep saying Estados Unidos. Why is that?

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
    • Replies: @The Plutonium Kid
  11. Romanian says: • Website

    It seems that keeping the original place names has bitten more than a few people in the backside over the years. Maybe the unenlightened were right when they obliterated almost all remnant of the previous cultures in territories they conquered. Case in point – Turkey and many other countries in the Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe.

  12. J1234 says:

    We Americans pronounce English place names wrong, too. In Nebraska, the town of Norfolk is called “Nor-fork.”

  13. Why Can’t Americans Pronounce Spanish-Named Cities in the United States Like Los Angeles Correctly?

    Because Americans speak English. Duh

  14. TheJester says:

    No apologies. Americans anglicize the pronunciation of Spanish names because we are an English-speaking country. Indeed, unlike Spanish and French, one of the beautiful things about English is that it is (mostly) phonetic … you spell words like they sound and vice versa.

    A more interesting phenomenon than American mispronouncing Spanish words is why many Mexicans who have been in the United States for ten years still can’t speak English (verified by personal experience).

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
    , @hyperbola
  15. Since lazy Mexicants don’t bother learning English, I make sure my pronunciation of Spanish words is just as lazy, my subtle expression of disdain for Mexicants.

  16. @Romanian

    “It seems that keeping the original place names has bitten more than a few people in the backside over the years.”

    The Spanish conquistadors renamed almost everything in Mexico. Mexifornia’s cities were established by Spaniards, not Indian Mexicans. That’s why their names are Spanish, not any of the old Indian tongues (and I do mean tongues — Mexicans were illiterate savages with no written language, and even to this day many Mexicans are illiterates).

    That’s why I always laugh when I hear Mexicants speak Spanish loudly and defiantly in public places — it is the tongue of the conquered.

  17. @Je Suis Omar Mateen

    It seems I forgot the purpose of my comment. My point is that Mexicants’ proud embrace of Spanish city names is an embrace of the white Spaniards who utterly conquered the brown aboriginals centuries ago, utterly extinguished the old Indian tongues, and utterly annihilated the bloodthirsty gods Mexicants once worshiped, converting every man, woman, and child to Roman Catholicism.

    O, the irony.

  18. Why is one white European language (Spanish) immune to American colloquialism and not another (English)? Live with it. Bastardized language is now part and parcel of a land invaded and inhabited by sub-normal IQs.

  19. @Bill Jones

    “Dago” was a slur against Italian-American immigrants like my ancestors, not against Mexicans as far as I know.

  20. @J1234

    And in Virginia, the city of Norfolk is pronounced something like “Nah-Fik.”

  21. @TheJester

    It is apparently too difficult to figure out what “Emergency” means, so they need signs translating “Emergencia.” It’s also apparently too hard for them to grasp what a sign with a cigarette with a line through it means, so they need signs saying “No Fumar.”

    Yes, let’s import millions more of such geniuses.

    • Replies: @hyperbola
  22. @Je Suis Omar Mateen

    Don’t gloat much, bro.

    Unfortunately, ENGLISH will be “the language of the conquered” here in Southern California, as well as much of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, etc., unless we lawfully regain control of the US government and change policies drastically.

  23. @J1234

    In Virginia we say No-Fuck.

  24. OK Gus, I got one for you. How come you see all these signs at the Mexican fleabag bodegas like “Pague sus biles aqui” o “Preparacion de Income Tax” . Or at the fleabag llanterias signs like “rines” ?

  25. @TheBoom

    I’m still confused as to why Mexicans can’t get the United States right. They keep saying Estados Unidos. Why is that?

    They seem to be awfully confused about the exact location of our border, too.

  26. Clyde says:
    @Je Suis Omar Mateen

    Mexicans were illiterate savages with no written language, and even to this day many Mexicans are illiterates

    The Aztecs and Mayans used no wheels. These assclowns couldn’t figure out something so essential, though they are pimped out as world class astronomers who knew the stars and planets and had the equinoxes pegged for spring planting times.

    Wheels would have made it lots easier to build their pyramids for their blood thirsty sun gods. Sun gods fed by human sacrifice.

    • Replies: @Alden
  27. Alden says:

    To he!! with you Gustavo. My family arrived in the Bay area in 1938, 150 years before you and yours invaded. I’d also like to remind you that Mexico only held California from 1824 to 1848, exactly 24 years which is just a blip in time. Spain waved a flag around in the 1500s but didn’t settle the California until 1769. Spain held California for 75 years and did more in one year of its occupation than the useless Mexican government did in 24 years of occupation. Actually, it was Fr. Serra and his missions that did virtually everything in those 75 years 1769 to 1824.

    That’s why the Spanish government sent him and his monks as the Spanish government knew it would be useless to send useless Mexican lay men to colonize the area.

    Know why America was able to seize the southwest from Mexico so easily you idiot?

    Because you Mexicans were so incredibly stupid and shortsighted as to believe the English masons who instigated your ridiculous revolution from Spain in 1822. The USA would have never, never, ever gone against Spain to take away its colonies. Spain was a declining but still great power at the time with one of the greatest navies in the world.

    Our navy was miniscule at the time.

    So quit complaining. Had you idiots stayed with Spain the southwest USA might still be part of the Mexican colony of Spain. And under European control instead of you idiots Mexico would be far, far better off.

    Another thing you don’t know you POS. The last Mexican census of 1840 counted only 2 races, Mexican and Indian. There were only 6,000 Mexicans in the entire state. Counted as Mexicans were many Europeans, various S. Americans especially from the Pacific like Chile, Peru and Central America, Chinese fleeing the Taiping revolution and numerous black and White Americans.

    And of course you and your kind are destroying the state. So go to he!!

    • Replies: @Discard
  28. Alden says:

    The California Indians were far worse. The ones in S. California didn’t even know how to hunt. They ate acorns and grubs and worms when they could find them

    • Replies: @Clyde
  29. Clyde says:

    If I could be any pre-Europeans Indian I would want to be one in the Pacific Northwest. Their tribes had a great eats, food from the ocean. Easy to get clams, mussels, salmon and so on. They left behind large piles of clam shells-middens. I like their totem poles.
    They seemed intelligent and generous w their potlach. As far as I know they were not into pointless wars that much. Many tribes made wars as a way for braves to enhance their status via killing and grabbing sex slaves and concubines. iow these wars were not fought over hunting grounds and scarce resources.

    I know that these days they use and contract out large boats employing non-Indian deckhands to grab as much salmon as possible. Their treaties protect this and others get the scraps.

    • Replies: @M_Young
  30. Discard says:

    Mexico shut down the missions, thereby destroying half the infrastructure in the territory. Then they had to get Whites to get things running again. Whites like Jonathan Temple, Abel Sterns, John Tidwell, and John Sutter, all of whom were given large grants of land if only they would do something with it. Whites didn’t take California from Mexico, Mexico gave it to Whites, saying, “Please Mr Gringo, make the crops grow and the cattle breed.

    • Replies: @Alden
  31. The answer to the headline question is simple, and it concerns all foreign countries like Iraq, proudly mis-pronounced as “Ay rack”.

    An American, believing himself above the lowly Mexicans, Iraqis and etc. would never deign to pronounce their names correctly. It is specifically a point of derision to mis-pronounce their names.

    Of course, we do need to account for the provincial, the ignorant, who have never heard anything but the mis-pronunciation.

    Why can’t Americans roll their “r’s”? Are Spanish-speaking people genetically superior? The same is true in reverse – I am disgusted with Filipinos who use “B” in place of “V” and “D” in place of “TH”, etc. It isn’t difficult and I always struggle to use precisely correct pronunciation in their countries because it is not only clear communication, but demonstrates respect.

  32. Zenarchy says:

    Back in the day when I watched sports, foreign reporters always mispronounced Slovenian surnames (I’m Slovenian), but most at least tried.
    What I noticed, however, was that the English commentators typically stopped trying after the first syllable, so I think there’s a particular form of arrogance/supremacism combined with disinterest that Anglo-Saxon cultures dominate (at least compared to other whites).

  33. @ boob the rube-
    actually, boob, there are real linguistic development type reasons why people who are not born in and grow up exposed to a language who -for example- roll their “r’s”, are thus unable to roll “r’s” in adulthood…
    same for a number of other language characteristics like the subtle phonics of asian languages, etc…
    if we don’t get exposed to it at a certain period of babyhood, it is very difficult to pick up in adulthood…
    as other posters have pointed out, mispronouncing hispanic words/names ia hardly unique, nor even confined to fat, stupid, ugly amerikans… BESIDES the fact of WHO KNOWS what is the ‘correct’ pronunciation… local town here is said 3-4 different ways, WHICH is the correct way ? ? ? who knows, who cares, really…
    someone gets their panties in a bunch over trivial shit like that, they are just looking for an excuse to go holier-than-thou on them…

    • Replies: @Backwoods Bob
  34. @art guerrilla

    Thanks for proving my point, Art. You decided to mis-write my name in derision, and there is no linguistic reason whatever. You are just better than me, and you demonstrate that by miswriting my name and adding an ad-hom as well.

    I teach English to adult Filipinos. So the “Rube” comment is pretty ironic. It is absolutely false in my experience that adults “can’t” learn how to roll r’s or in my classes pronounce “V” and “TH” correctly despite their total absence in Visayan, which constitutes most of my students, or Tagalog, the most common language in the Philippines. It is primarily a Spanish-based language as the Spanish ruled the Philippines for about four centuries. Very easy to learn if you are fluent in Spanish, which I am.

    Adults that are already established in their culture, careers, and family have no incentive whatsoever to pronounce new sounds. The instant they arrive in the USA though – now in order to get a decent job or just to avoid being made fun of with comments like “Speak American” they suddenly want very much to look at my diagrams illustrating the tongue needs to be past the teeth when pronouncing “TH”. In one lesson, the disability vanishes. Nobody had ever shown them the diagram and they had no reason to even try before they came to America.

    There are at least three ways to teach the trill, but what matters is motivation. You roll out Jennifer Aniston and award a week-end with her for whoever learns it and not a man in the room will fail.

    Overseas I dealt with two types of people. The first was call center employees. They were top flight. The second was pedestrian, mostly girls who were marrying foreigners. They were generally younger and hot. Their strategy seemed to be showing me their cleavage.

    In statistics there is a well-known bias referred to as omission of a relevant variable. When you account for the fact adults will respond to monetary or other incentives, their “disability” vis-a-vis children who simply do whatever they are told vanishes. I see that in almost every Filipino I have taught English to. The ones who don’t suffer from an extreme level of foolish pride or else have some really perky tits and got their wedding ring on that basis. It was their fiance or husband enrolling them, and in the end it was the tits and not their pronunciation that mattered.

    • Replies: @Discard
  35. M_Young says:

    This is yet another example of the coloreds white guilting the cucks.

    Nobody bitches about Nu Or Leens vs. Novelle Orleaaaaaan or whatever it should be.

    Nobody bitches about Boy See instead of Bwahsay. (Boise).

    Looking abroad, we still call Rome “Rome” vs. Roma, Munich “Munich” vs. Munchen (btw, its ‘Monaco’ in Spanish, including in the bastardized Spanish the Aztecs speak.

    No, only colored cities have to be changed from Bombay to Mumbai, Peking to Bejing, etc.

  36. M_Young says:

    Fish, and plankton, and sea greens, and protein from the sea!

  37. hyperbola says:

    English is about the LEAST phonetic of any major language. Spanish is MUCH more phonetic than English and it even includes “tildes” that tell you when the oral emphasis on syllables is outside the normal practice. Of course, there are regional differences in the pronunciation of things like “j”, “x” and “ll”, so our author is a bit foolish (why do only some hispanos properly pronouce “spanish” place names in EEUU). Champion in the phonetic league is probably Hindi with its 50+ characters.

    • Replies: @Romanian
  38. hyperbola says:

    It is not only place names that the “english-speakers” took over from “latin” languages like italian, spanish and french. In fact, a large proportion of the english language itself is made up of words copied from latin languages (although usually misspelled and mispronounced in english). For example, think of almost any “english” word ending in “tion” and its virtually certain to be a copy of a latin language word (e.g. constitucion -> consitution ). As for “phonetic”, “see-ohn” is far more phonetic than “shun”. Although there are more native speakers of Spanish than English in the world, spanish seems to have the advantage that mutual intelligence in different spanish-speaking countries may be higher than amongst english dialects (various parts of england are almost unintelligible to americans ).

    • Replies: @Alden
  39. Seraphim says:

    Bucharest=Budapest, the capital of Bulgaria? Actually, is not Romania in Transylvania? See Dracula.

    • Replies: @Romanian
  40. Discard says:
    @Backwoods Bob

    I have known lots of well-educated naturalized Americans, mostly German, who spoke English with their native accent. In fact, I don’t know any non-native English speakers who don’t have foreign accents. I know many foreigners who came here in their late teens. None of them speaks without an accent, either. So I doubt your story. It does not square with my many years of experience living in southern California amongst lots of the foreign-born.

  41. Romanian says: • Website

    I don’t get it.

    In Europe, multiple place names coexisted because of diversity, sometimes with the same origin. The arrival of the nation-state meant that one of them would become official, and the other appellations would be regional or left with the minority community. Romanians say Cluj, Hungarians Kolosvar, Germans Klausenburg. You say Bucharest, I say București. I say Timișoara – and the Germans say Temeswar, also formerly Temeschburg or Temeschwar; Hungarian: Temesvár‎; Serbian: Темишвар, Temišvar; Banat Bulgarian: Timišvár; Turkish: Temeşvar; Slovak: Temešvár. Greek Smirna became Turkish Izmir and so on. The same goes for outside my country’s borders, where the official name of a place is that of the country’s main ethnic community, and the alternatives are related to the minorities. There were attempts over the years to extinguish many local names, as well as languages, religions, as part of the process of forced assimilation, which happened in many places. The most wildly successful were not in Europe (though some were), but in places that were successfully colonized and little living trace of the previous culture remained.

  42. Romanian says: • Website

    I give you Romanian, which is read entirely as it is written, with a few added letters whose sounds must be learned – ex: you have a, but also ă and â. There are four more special sounds like these, corresponding to things like sh and tz sounds for English speakers, but that is it, and they’re also read as they are written.

  43. Big Bill says:

    You think that’s bad? The effing’ gringoes call the freakin’ Son of God “Jesus” instead of his proper Spanish name, “Hay-soose”

    • Replies: @Clyde
  44. MBlanc46 says:

    They’re our cities. We can pronounce their names however we please.

  45. Clyde says:
    @Big Bill

    You mean the Spanish name, “Hey-Zeus”

    • Replies: @M_Young
  46. M_Young says:

    Dayum, beat me to it!

  47. iffen says:

    By the way, your Baylor dig is lost on me.

    Baylor is a private Christian university.

    Some people have the idea that said described behavior is not compatible with Christianity.

  48. Sparkon says:

    Yes, you’re right, unless perhaps for Spanish speakers studying English, where “El A” comes before “El B”.

    In pronunciation, and alphabetical name, Spanish “E” corresponds to and rhymes with English “A”, as in “No way, Jose.”

    When used as an article, English “A” should be pronounced as the the schwa or ə (uh) –”A time for love”– but many people say ay, especially weathergirls, one of whom I heard recently promising “ay nother sunny day.”

    The character “A” in Spanish is pronounced ah, and the character “L” is pronounced elle, so “L. A.” in Spanish takes three syllables: elle ah, where we can say it with two in English, where it sounds so good, it has now taken on a life of its own.

    However, now I see some sources say English “A” is actually a 2-sound vowel ei, and there is an entire Wikipedia article on the English character “A,” which begins:

    There are a variety of pronunciations in modern English and in historical forms of the language for words spelt with the letter ⟨a⟩.

    All that notwithstanding, in English, there’s only one way to say it, and that’s “L. A.”

  49. n230099 says:

    “Why Can’t Americans Pronounce Spanish-Named Cities in the United States Like Los Angeles Correctly?”

    To be fair they also have problems with חלת and חנוכה.

  50. RAH says:

    I would suggest that citizens of the USA speak “American.” Where as citizens of the UK speak “English.” That is in keeping with “Mexican” and “Spanish.” After many years, languages diverge and deserve separate identities! I have lived with “American” for many years and have difficulty with moves from the UK or actors from that island.

  51. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “{—the malapropism I hear is “June-IH-pear-oh,” a fascinating medley of the proper accent placement on the third-to-last syllable in Junípero’s Spanish incarnation and a rigid following of English grammatical structure.”

    June-ah-pear-o today, tomorrow, forever.

    Al L.

  52. “Why can’t Americans pronounce Spanish named cities in the United States like Los Angeles correctly?”

    Does it offend you? That’s probably why.

    Actually, I would like to answer that question with another question:

    Why are Latin American countries such latrines and why can’t your people do something about that?

  53. Alden says:

    Mexico did not shut down the missions in 1833. The government of Mexico took them over from the Church but the priests and monks stayed. That was actually the original agreement between the governemt of Spain and the Church. the Church would establish a basic civil society based on agriculture and in 1833 the missions would be turned over to the government.

    So it was done.

    The government of Spain assumed the Mexicans would take over from the Church and continue the work of building a modern society. It’s just amazing what the Church accomplished in 60 years, a mission and its farms, irrigation a village of businesses from San Diego to Sonoma about 600 miles. We still use the roads and irrigation systems although they have of course been vastly expanded

  54. Alden says:

    The question should be, Why can’t Mexican and central American Indians pronounce Spanish correctly.

  55. Alden says:

    Gee I had no idea that English is basically a mix of Latin French and German. Wow!!! I must have cut school when it was taught in 6 grade world history class.

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