Tag: English language

Small Screen Quartet

I live in Los Angeles, so updates about the entertainment industry count as local news. As such, I couldn’t help but notice the following item:

In a “first in U.S. English-language television history,” four Latinas are headlining their own series. Cristela Alonzo stars in Cristela, Callie Hernandez is in The Club (both on ABC), Gina Rodriguez is in the CW’s Jane the Virgin, and NBC’s Shades of Blue stars our old friend Jennifer Lopez.

Jennifer+Lopez1

Now, I have no idea what these shows are about, or if any of them are remotely good. For all I know, they will all be cancelled a month into the season.

Regardless of their fate or pedigree, however, it is unquestionably a positive development that Hispanics are getting more representation on television, and even better, that starring roles are becoming more plentiful. And yes, that’s true even if JLo is involved (just kidding, Ms, Lopez; you know we all love you).

I’ll try to check out these shows when they come on. In the meantime, I will continue pitching my own idea for a show, which is about a gritty, truth-seeking Latino blogger who is smart, sexy, and devilishly handsome.

What can I say? The idea just popped into my head.


Think Different

According to many sources, Dr. Carlos do Amaral Freire can speak more languages — 115 — than anyone alive. But before you feel too intimidated, keep in mind that the professor is fluent in a mere 30 or so.

One has to wonder how balancing all those verb tenses and irregular conjugations has affected his mind (although as we know, people who speak multiple languages have more agile brains). In fact, there is some evidence that the languages we speak influence the very way we think.

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Crystal Clear

Just a short drive from my apartment in Los Angeles stands a monument to religious excess.

It is the Crystal Cathedral, built back in the 1970s when an evangelical preacher named Robert H. Schuller had a great idea to rake in the parishioners. All he had to do was spend millions on an architectural marvel that undermined everything the Bible says about modesty and humility.

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What the !#$@%*?

It’s difficult to find an American who doesn’t know what “amigo” or “gracias” means. Eventually, those words will be considered part of English, in the same way that nobody thinks “patio,” “rodeo,” or “coyote” are solely Spanish.

However, there is still one area in which American culture hasn’t embraced the allure of Spanish. I’m talking about vulgarity, obscenity, and indecency — basically, the naughty words.

I’m not sure why Spanish curse words haven’t crossed over. It’s not that we don’t like to swear in this country. And the dreaded bleep on television has now become a badge of honor.

Indeed, as the LA Times points out, “Once largely relegated to slips of the tongue during live events, censored cursing has evolved into a pre-planned, or at least largely expected, punch line that’s network-approved and no longer lowbrow.”

But will Spanish words ever be bleeped out? It’s not just an academic question.

It stands to reason that as America grows more multilingual — and it’s doing just that, regardless of your feelings on the matter — we’ll hear more Spanish on the airwaves. And some of that Spanish will be of the naughty variety.

Now, the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates broadcast indecency, says that it doesn’t matter what language the offending words are in. The FCC is always poised to bring the hammer down on those who sully our culture — well, in theory, anyway.

The truth, according to many annoyed English-language broadcasters, is that the commission frequently gives a pass to Spanish indecency because “the Spanish-speaking staff at the FCC has traditionally been undermanned.”

Yes, there just aren’t enough bilingual bureaucrats available to translate the filth flying around on TV and radio. Until recently, the FCC could get away with this. They assumed all that vulgarity came from Univision shows or radio stations that blared ranchera music — you know, the stuff that mainstream America ignores.

For the most part, the only time one hears Spanish on hit shows is for effect. It pops up when the tough cop or caring doctor is in a rundown barrio, and the natives are running wild. You also might hear it when an extra is portraying a maid or gardener. And for real diversity, they might throw a janitor in there too.

But it’s just a matter of time before a middle-America show features a character who speaks Spanish frequently. Already, we have the first truly bilingual television series.

So what happens when a lovable character on a top show mutters, “pinche”? Will the FCC take initiative and bleep “culero” or just let it go, hoping against hope that millions of viewers don’t know that it means “assfucker”?

Well, there’s only one way to find out. I challenge all those television writers who take pride in their edginess to put up or shut up. Have one of your white, urbane characters learn some Spanish and then casually throw in some obscenities. After all, who is going to complain if Liz Lemon or Sue Sylvester tells someone to go chinga themselves?

Trust me, the FCC won’t even notice.


It’s a Mezcla

One of the best movies of last year was the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit. Among the film’s many charms is the archaic, bizarrely formal speech of the characters. I have no idea if real people of the era said things like, “You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements” and “I do not entertain hypotheticals.” But it’s cool to imagine that they did.

Of course, Americans don’t speak like that anymore. A century later, in fact, we’re considered articulate if we keep it down to three uses of “you know” and a pair of double negatives per conversation.

To read full article at Being Latino, please click here.


American Tragedy

For the past year or so, I’ve been critical of Arizona, and with reason. But now is not the time for rehashing SB 1070 or the state’s attempts to whitewash its culture.

Instead, all of us are sending positive thoughts, good karma, and, yes even prayers to Tucson.

The assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords left six people dead and a dozen wounded.

We have no idea if the gunman was, as many pundits presume, motivated by right-wing vitriol or Sarah Palin’s crosshairs or some other conservative fear-mongering tactic.

However, it would be the ultimate elephant-in-the-room moment to avoid bringing up the unsavory connections.

After all, we’re talking about a psycho in a red state who took advantage of lax gun-control laws to carry out an attack on a Democrat. The guy spouted conspiracy theories that are close to right-wing talking points, and he expressed hatred for the government. Let’s face it: It’s unlikely that he’s an Obama man.

Still, we don’t know what this domestic terrorist’s agenda or motives are, and we’ll set aside the hyper-defensiveness of right-wingers who are tripping over themselves to shout, “It wasn’t us, so don’t you dare even bring it up!”

Instead, what interests me is the story of Daniel Hernandez, the young intern who is credited with saving Giffords’ life. Five days into his job, he wound up running toward gunfire, taking action to prevent his boss from choking to death on her own blood in a Safeway parking lot.

The irony, clearly, is that in Arizona, a lunatic can obtain a Glock without question, while a hero named Hernandez may be stopped by cops and asked to present citizenship papers.

It should also be noted that the maniac in question is a native-born American. I mean, I thought undocumented immigrants were causing all our crime. But here this suburban thug raised in comfort has caused more death and destruction than whole neighborhoods of illegal immigrants ever have.

It’s all very depressing, of course. But even this most grotesque of events has its black-comedy moments. For example, the gunman was apparently obsessed with grammar, and he believed that the government controlled people through the manipulation of the English language.

Who knows; maybe he would have been less crazy if he just spoke Spanish.


The Scrabble Dictionary Does Not Accept It

Although I’m a writer, I’m not in the habit of coining new words. I think the half-million English ones that we have are sufficient for most occasions.

However, modern life sometimes introduces a fresh grotesquerie to our society. In such cases, it’s acceptable to mix and match syllables – and even languages – to make the new concept clear.

For example, I’ve noticed that in my neighborhood, there is a small cadre of homeless people. But they are different from the homeless I saw in New York or the Midwest. Those individuals, for reasons I cannot explain, tended to be deranged or blackly comedic, and they instigated confrontations regularly.

These West Coast unfortunates, on the other hand, are more likely to be quiet and to avoid panhandling altogether. In fact, I usually see them engaged in some isolated, odious task to scrap out a living. Most often, they’re digging through trashcans or recycling bins in search of aluminum cans or glass bottles. I then see them pushing grocery carts overflowing with their clanging treasures.

Our neighborhood is hilly, so it’s tough work lugging the carts up steep inclines. These are individuals who labor hard for their pittance.

Recently I passed by a guy who had hit a motherload of empty bottles. Evidently, one of our neighbors is rich and/or had something big to celebrate, because the bin was overflowing with spent champagne bottles and high-end wine vintages. The irony of seeing a man stockpile empty containers of Dom Perignon, in the hopes of scoring a few cents, was inescapable.

Perhaps it is just my neighborhood, but these foragers are overwhelmingly Hispanic. They don’t snag the day jobs like the trabajadores, but like them, they strain mightily for chump change.

To call them homeless or street people is inaccurate, and even a disservice. In honor of their hard-working brethren, I think of them as the aluminumadores.

We’ll see if the word catches on. But to be honest, I hope the term becomes irrelevant long before then.


Resistance Is Futile

Recently, President Obama surprised many of us by directly addressing immigration reform. Apparently, the man hasn’t had enough criticism aimed at him. In any case, one of the aspects of the president’s plan is that all immigrants should learn English.

Certainly, it is in the best interests of immigrants to learn the nation’s dominant language. The economic disadvantage of not knowing English is a very real phenomenon.

However, as I’ve written before, we Americans get more than a little self-serving when it comes to immigrants speaking English. The argument that it benefits them is rarely invoked. Instead, we’re told that it’s part of the process of assimilation — necessary for them to become integrated into American culture.

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Nobody Speaks English Anymore!

I’m going to make a bold, even confrontational, assertion: My English is better than yours.

I’m not saying that it’s perfect. If you dig through my posts, I’m sure you’ll find a grammatical error or two. In general, however, I have a solid grasp of the fundamentals. Considering that I make my living as a writer, editor, and copyeditor, I should know my independent clauses from my subjunctive tenses.

In any case, I bring this up to make clear that I have a deep love of English. Having said that, I don’t see why we need to make it our national language.

Now at this point, many readers may object and sputter, “But English is already our official language!”

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