by Daniel Cubias
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.
It’s no wonder that the characters in True Grit sound almost foreign to us. After all, English is a constantly evolving beast, and each passing year twists and shifts the language in surprising new ways.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the rise of Spanglish. The intermingling of English and Spanish has been going on for decades, but it has accelerated as the Latino population has grown.
I first became aware of Spanglish as a kid, when my mother (who is fluent in both languages) expressed her frustration at running late by exclaiming, “No tengo mi car keys!”
No doubt you’ve heard similar half-and-half constructions, like “Compramos en el shopping mall” or “I have to pick up mis hijos.”
But such mixed phrases are only part of Spanglish’s ascension. Where the hybrid really shows its strength is in the formation of new words.
In some places, “signear” has replaced “firmar” for the verb “to sign.” “Marketa” is used for “market,” rather than the Spanish “mercado.” And I recently heard someone here in Los Angeles refer to going out for “lonche,” a new term for the midday meal.
Similarly, we see the Spanish suffix “ando” taking over for “ing” in some English participle forms. That’s how we get “smokiando” and “partyando” and “Facebookando” (you can thank the Being Latino team for that last one).
Some will say that this trend is exaggerated, and that there is no metamorphosis taking place. Well, keep in mind that the novelist H.G. Wells, who was uncanny in his ability to foresee the future, predicted that sometime in the twenty-first century, English and Spanish would “become interchangeable languages.”
English will change, regardless of our standards, preferences, or actual speech patterns. If we are fated to sound like weirdoes to future generations (and that is an inevitability), then we could do a lot worse than have Spanglish be a strong factor in that evolution.
Yes, one has to wonder if True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn would be perplexed at this latest development in American culture. Perhaps the grizzled sheriff would quote himself: “Not only do you continue to talk, but you spill the banks of English.”
Whatever that means.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.