Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Sotomayor Pronunciation Compromise

I can't believe we're really talking about this. No one really cares; I'm sure by Thursday even cable news will have moved on to something else. But since Neil and I are charter members of the "people who constantly have to teach others how to spell and pronounce their last name" Facebook group, let's have at it.

First off, let's note the tremendous irony of using "Niedermayer", which is probably German but certainly not English, as the reference for the "English" pronunciation of "Sotomayor".

Second, other than Sotomayor herself, no one's rolling the final 'r' or putting a partial glottal stop after the 't'. Plenty of Latino surnames have already suffered a similar fate. The majority of three-syllable words in English place the accent on the first syllabble, but no one calls the Yankees' third basemen "Alex ROD-ree-gez". But no one rolls the 'r's or pronounces the 'g' a bit closer to a 'k' sound. As is often the case, we've adopted the Spanish-language emphasis but Americanized the pronunciation. Her name's pronunciation as already been partially Anglicized.

Third, let's find something else to talk about. Please.

11 comments:

Ursula said...

I've said it before, I'll say it again: The majority of English words place the emphasis on the penult (in a 2 syllable word) or the antipenult (in a 3+ syllable word). This does vary with words with many suffixes, but generally holds true for simple latinate words. Examples:
PRIor
GENDer
QUALify
apPROXimate
subORDinate
eleMENtary
enVIRonment
antidisestablishmenTARian
'SotomayOR' is weird to us for the same reason it might be weird to a speaker of Spanish- because the stress falls on the last syllable.

Anonymous said...

Just call her Maria, it's easier to remember.

Nicholas Beaudrot said...

read more closely:

"The majority of three-syllable words in English place the accent on the first syllable"

Three-syllable, not three-plus-syllable. We agree!

Meanwhile putting the stress on the final syllable is normal for spanish words that end in a consonant other than 'n' or 's'.

Stephen said...

We can always talk about the food she likes. If she's too fond of rice, beans and pork, it might affect how she decides cases!

I know they'll paint her as a baby-killing-lesbian-sekrit-mooslim sooner or later. That they aren't doing so out of the gate, instead making blatant racist and sexist attacks - and doing so in such weird ways - tells us how weak their opposition is going to be. It also says some very unflattering things about the GOP. They really are moving backward.

Nicholas Beaudrot said...

Oh, boy.

Here come the socialist shrieks.

Maybe this would be a good time to give up politics.

Mary said...

Among my mother's many brothers and sisters (some now deceased), some spell(ed) and pronounce(d) her maiden name one way, and the others spell(ed) and pronounce(d) it another way. If I am informed correctly , it is a shortened version of a longer Polish name as it is. Weird.

Neil Sinhababu said...

I never thought his name was pronounced KRIKorian, but whatever.

Anonymous said...

'SotomayOR' is weird to us for the same reason it might be weird to a speaker of Spanish- because the stress falls on the last syllable.No, that's not at all weird to a Spanish speaker. Spanish words that end in consonants are normally stressed on the last syllable—the two big exceptions being (a) plural forms of nouns and adjectives, and (b) conjugated verbs.

English words that have final stress would be verbs like 'transFORM', 'inFORM', 'conFORM', etc.

Theophylact said...

And yet Americans tend to pronounce simple English names like Durrell, Cabell, and Maurice with the stress on the last syllable, while the Brits stress the first.

Ethan said...

Right, because everyone in the GOP got mad when former AG Roberto Gonzales didn't pronounce his name ROB-erto GONZ-ales...

What a waste of time, they will find any excuse to bash her.

Anonymous said...

The third-to-last syllable is antepenult, not the antipenult. And "ante" rhymes with "day", not "die". This applies to other words as well, such "antechamber" and "antepasta".