Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I grew up in southern California, where lots of Spanish stuff has been anglicized (such as the Los Angeles neighborhood of San Pedro, which is pronounced very differently from Madonna's line, "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro"), but lots of other stuff is still Hispanicked up. Actually, compared to how they used to say "Los Angeles" on old Perry Mason episodes (and how Frank Black still likes to say it), I'd say they are moving away from anglicization. So when I grew up absorbing the conventional wisdom that words beginning "gua" are pronounced like, well, "gua," I didn't think there was anything wrong with that.

Then I started doing some work in New Mexico, where everyone pronounces those words "wa." I had never heard this before, but it made sense to me. I mean, if "guerra" means "war," those words are very similar when pronounced the New Mexico way, and as a child I'd read historic narratives of my hometown wherein it was explained that the post office refused the first proposed community name of "Calleguas" because it was supposed to be pronounced "kai-ay-wes," and no one would be able to say that correctly.

I asked my brother, who knows considerably more Spanish than I, and he laughed at the idea of pronouncing it "wa." He said it seemed to him like people trying to be authentic and failing at it. But the New Mexicans (who do more drunk driving than the Old Mexicans) kept saying "Guachupangue" like "wachupanway," "Guadalupe" like "wadalupe," and "guacamole" like "wacamole" (which, in turn, is very much like "whack a mole," a game I've never actually played but like in principle).

Well, just now I became aware of this website, which seems to be a vote of confidence for the New Mexicans. I'm more confused than ever now. Does anyone care to shed some authoritative (i.e.: something more than "I/my sibling/my spouse/my roommate served a Spanish speaking mission") light on this subject?

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