Wednesday, May 27

Interesting point. I'm going to pronounce your last name "douchebag," because that's easier for me.

As with any Supreme Court nomination, there are any number of reasons one might oppose the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, and they might be legitimate reasons at that -- yet today's right wing, as has become their habit, seems to have settled on only the most outrageously stupid ones. "She's dumb" and "She's a racist" were bad enough, but one National Review Online whiner has managed, implausibly, to dig yet deeper: Sonia Sotomayor should not be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice because she's one of those uppity Latinas who thinks she should be able to determine how her own last name is pronounced.

Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to. . . .

This may seem like carping, but it's not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.


Internalize this, kids, and recall it the next time you hear someone carp about what a horrible racist Sonia Sotomayor is. Some conservative asshole just told her how to pronounce her own fucking name, but she's the racist, so screw her and any idea that she might have experienced oppression or discrimination in her life, because the real oppressed class in this country is white Republicans who simply want to go on about their business controlling everything without having their monopoly on political power interfered with by a bunch of brown people not knowing their place and running around with complicated, spiccy last names.

Then again, at least Mark Krikorian got her name right. Apparently Mike Huckabee watched "West Side Story" over the weekend and assumed that if you've seen one Puerto Rican, you've seen 'em all.

ADDED: Now they're even asking questions about what kind of effect all that OMG crazy Puerto Rican food will have on Sotomayor's judgin'. (Link from Washington Monthly via Mac G's ever-fascinating Twitter feed. Does this count as more stupid than the name-pronunciation thing, or is it still not quite as stupid? I look forward to the debate on that one.

5 comments:

SpartanDan said...

On a barely-related note, I've always wondered why we have different names for various countries and cities than the locals do. Why not just call Germany "Deutschland" like the Germans do, or Japan "Nippon"?

(As to the actual content: It would be one thing if someone had jumped down his throat about mispronouncing it once or twice. It is a pronunciation that doesn't come naturally to an English speaker, although hardly one that would be considered truly difficult - at least all of the phonemes are present in English. But refusing to even attempt to pronounce it correctly - and raising a big stink about it - just makes you look petty. Which seems to have become the Republicans' specialty lately.)

Reed said...

At first, I thought you said "spicy last names". Now I see you did not. Well done all around.

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Ollllddude said...

It's one thing to lose electoral ground to a group sharp leaders, but to lose ground regularly to the Dems is a sure sign of the Apocalypse, and then to do no better than to make the intellectual equivalent of "yo' mama" jokes about a candidate for the Supreme Court - a person who was either 1st or 2nd depending upon the reporter in her class at Princeton - is just how pitifully sad the Republicans are right now. If they had any sense - or any leader - they would pass this nomination and use their energy and whatever political capital they have left for a more important issue; perhaps even one they might win or at least influence.