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Mark Mysln

Janie Lee
Ling 50
5 April 2010
Assignment 2: Mock Spanish
1. Although most of the appropriations of Spanish are potentially offensive, I would argue that
some tactics, such as semantic pejoration in Hills (2008) sense, are more offensive than others.
Contemporary and Southwestern Dining, For Pesos is an attractive proposition: elegance on
the cheap. However, it relies crucially on an association of the Spanish-speaking world with
cheapness, at least in the inexpensive sense if not the second-rate sense. A similar association
of Spanish with disreputable worlds is evident in Gangbangers: La muerte y la sangre en el
Barrio Centro. Accompanied by a threatening green-tinted picture of a thuggish-looking
Latino, this tagline iconically and dramatically associates Spanish with violent crime and gang
2. In addition to cheapness and gang culture as above, the topics and domains associated with Spanish
are not particularly dignified: Adios cucaracha associates it with the grimy world of pest
control, while Caca de toro invokes excrement. Instances of Spanish that are not linked to
overtly disreputable themes nonetheless establish Spanish as a domain of the jocular and the
silly. This is true of many of the greeting card puns such as Fa la la la bamba as well as, for
example, El tigre nmero uno, an absurd ad hoc title that satirizes Calvins claim of authority.
In sum, the examples Hill chooses to present in this collection do not illustrate Spanish as a
language associable with gravitas and serious pursuits, a claim (not surprisingly) also made in
Hill (2008).
3. With the initial assumption that actions can be racist even without sinister intent, yes, uses of
Mock Spanish can bebut, in my view, are not automaticallyunintentionally racist. Indeed,
as Hill (2008) points out, Mock Spanish is after all a covert racist dialogue that whites do not
understand as racist but that the targets may find offensive. Instances of semantic pejoration
such as pesos~cheapness may be relatively easily recognized by many whites as being in poor taste,
but it would be difficult to show that the creator of the ad had a malicious and specifically anti-
Hispanic agenda, especially since this would alienate what is presumably a large customer base
in Tucson. Some of the perhaps more subtly demeaning uses of Mock Spanish, in particular
the euphemisms or greeting card puns, are probably even more difficult to show as being
(intentionally) racist. In Caca de toro, it is useful to keep in mind caca is already a lighthearted
nursery word in Spanish, and is not really equivalent to shit as Hill (2008) seems to imply (the
closest term would be mierda). When one imagines an English near-equivalent for caca, for
example poo, the prospect of a coffee cup that says this in English becomes much less offensive
than Hills claim about bullshit. In the case of the greeting cards, while some do seem to consist
of gratuitous and potentially offensive hodgepodges of stereotypes (Deck the halls with hot
frijoles/tis the season to eat tamales/Fa la la la la bamba), others, like Grassias with a
picture of grass and no implication of ass, simply seem to be innocuous wordplays germane to
the greeting card genre. Given the quantity of irreverent monolingual English wordplays in
greeting cards, it is not a simple matter to claim that the same function is racist when Spanish is
involved. Not every appropriation of Spanish necessarily asserts disorder in Spanish speaking
communities, and in my view should not automatically be construed as doing so. Absolutely
there are racist functions of Mock Spanish that associate the language with things jocular and
disreputable, as I mentioned above, and I agree with most of Hills claims, but I think not all
functions fall in to this category and in some cases crying racism may be unwarranted.