¡Spanglish spoken aquí!

EspanglishThe latest US census shows 53 million native Spanish speakers living in the US. That’s a population bigger than many developed countries in the world, and more than Spain’s 2014 population of 47 million. The largest concentration of Spanish speakers in the US are mainly in California and Florida, although they can also be found far north where some occasionally work as migrant field workers.

New Mexico has been a bilingual state since the area was first colonized by Don Juan de Oñate in 1598. Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the US and the second oldest European-settled city after St Augustine in Florida, which was also established by the Spanish in 1565. Thus speaking Spanish in the US is no new trend.

In fact the English language is full of words that originally entered through Spanish: abalone, adobe, aficionado, albatross, alligator, alpaca, armada, armadillo, anchovy, avocado, banana, barbeque, barracuda, bonanza, burrito, burro, bronco, cabana, cafeteria, cannibal, canyon, cigar, cockroach. And the list goes on and on.

There are television and radio stations as well as newspapers in Spanish. And telenovelas – Spanish-speaking soap operas.

Adiós is used as often as ciao or sayonara; and let’s not forget hasta luego and hasta la vista, with a nod to Schwarzenegger as The Terminator. In fact the film Blade Runner from 1982 hinted that a language based on Spanish, Japanese and German would evolve in Southern California. (But they hadn’t yet anticipated the flood of post-shah Persians who also play into the mix as parts of LA are informally called Little Teheran.)

Spanglish has become such a staple in the US that a movie of the same name was made in 2004. Then in 2006 the amazing and brilliant 2015 academy-award-winning Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu included a bilingual family in Babel, his tale of communication, noncommunication, miscommunication and discommunication. Basically, Culture Clash 101 were it to be included as a university course.

Many of the words that are now being included in Spanglish are new to English too like Googlear or gugulear (to google), clickear (to click), taguear (to tag), and tuitear (to tweet).

So Spanish enriched English with vocabulary and culture. And Spanglish, or Espanglish if you are a native Spanish speaker, is realizing the latest inflow or influx, or actually incursion, of English into Spanish. Again. And so the circle continues.

From Spanish Mid 17th century: from Spanish, alteration (influenced by avocado 'advocate') of aguacate, from Nahuatl ahuacatl.avocado: Oxford Dictionary (online) Mid-17th century: from Spanish, alteration (influenced by avocado ‘advocate’) of aguacate, from Nahuatl ahuacatl.

4 thoughts on “¡Spanglish spoken aquí!

  1. I would argue that many of our loan words came through Latin, bypassing Spanish, Italian,Portugese, …

    That’s what gives English its amazing range (some 250,000 words): we borrow shamelessly from other languages.

    And we nounify verbs and verbify nouns.


    1. Yes they did…first the first borrowings were from Latin and the monks early on in the church, then after 1066 from French after the Norman invasion. Finally we again started borrowing directly from French and Spanish … so we have gone back to the “well” numerous times at different historical periods. There are some great sites that discuss this process. Chair is a great example from French where we took chaise and applied rhotacism (changing s or z to r as in chair) then later again took chaise as in chaise longue. Again, this is worth another blog — coming soon.


      1. You may have seen this one, but if not, I’d say it was essential reading for any language historian (Wiki tells me that study is “diachronic linguistics”, but I’m naturally skeptical of anything on Wikipedia) (It took me a while to find it, as I forgot the title and could remember only a few key words):

        “The History of the English Language

        Copyright (c) 1994 Corrie Bergeron and Ben Tucker all rights reserved
        This has gotten copied and reproduced all over the place, including Oxford’s Merton College. But this is the original. Enjoy!”:

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You are right to be skeptical…in linguistics it’s standard to study diachronic (historical) linguistics (compare: synchronic or comparative linguistics — the first is through time — history and the second is across time, comparatively)


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