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Spanglish : the making of a new American language /
Ilan Stavans.
1st ed.
New York : Rayo, c2003.
274 p.
0060087757 (acid-free paper)
More Details
New York : Rayo, c2003.
0060087757 (acid-free paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references.
A Look Inside
First Chapter
The Making of a New American Language


La jerga loca

¿Cómo empezó everything? How did I stumble upon it? Walking the streets of El Barrio in New York City, at least initially. Wanderingaround, as the Mexican expression puts it, con la oreja al vuelo, with earswide open. Later on, of course, my appreciation for Spanglish evolveddramatically as I raveled around los Unaited Esteits. Bu at the beginning was New York. It always is, isn't it?

I had arrived in Manhattan in the mid-eighties. My first one-room apartment, which I shared with three roommates, was on Broadway and122nd Street. The area was bustling with color: immigrants from theAmericas, especially from he Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, and Colombia, intermingling with students from Columbia University, Barnard and Teacher's College, and with future ministers andrabbis from Union Theological Seminary and The Jewish TheologicalSeminary. The ethnic juxtaposition was exhilarating indeed. But sight wasn't everything. Sound was equally important. Color and noise went together, as I quickly learned.

I was enthralled by the clashing voices I encountered on a regular walk in the Upper West Side: English, Spanish, Yiddish, Hebrew ... Those voices often changed as one oscillated to different areas of hecity: Arabic, French, Polish, Russian, Swahili and scores of other tongueswere added to the mix. What kind of symphony was I immersed in?Was his he sound of the entire universe or only of my neighborhood?

There was a newspaper stand on he corner of 110th and Broadway, next to a bagel bakery and a Korean grocery store. I regularly made myshopping in those blocks, so I regularly stopped to browse. Newspapersand magazines in English predominated in it, and Chinese and Israeliperiodicals were also for sale. But the owner displayed he Spanish-language items with emphasis: El Diario/La Prensa, Noticias del Mundo, Diario de las Américas, Cosmopolitan, Imagen ... As a Mexican native, Ioften bough one of them in the morning, "just to keep up with what's up," as I would tell my friends. But to keep up with these publicationswas also to invite your tongue for a bumpy ride. The grammar andsyntax used in them was never fully "normal," e.g., it replicated, oftenunconsciously, English-language patterns. I was obvious that its authorsand editors were americanos with a loose connection to la lengua deBorges. "Están contaminaos ...," a teacher of mine in he Departmentof Spanish at Columbia would tell me. "Pobrecitos ... They've lost allsense of verbal propriety."

Or had they?

My favorite section to read in El Diario/La Prensa, already then thefastest-growing daily in New York, where I eventually was hired to be acolumnist, was the hilarious classified section. "Conviértase en inversordel Citibank," claimed an ad. Another one would state: "Para casos dedivorcio y child support, llame a su advocate personal al (888)745-1515." And:"¡¡¡Alerta!!!Carpinteros y window professionals. Debentener 10 años de experiencia y raer tools." Or, "Estación de TV localestá buscando un editor de líneal crea ivo. Debe tener conocimiento del'Grass Valley Group VPE Series 151'. En The Bronx. Venga en persona:(718)601-0962." One morning I came across one that announced pompously: "Hoy más que nunca, tiempo is money." And Istumbled upon another that read: "Apartments are selling like pan caliente and apartments de verdad."

Today I use the term hilarious in a reverent fashion. Over the yearsmy admiration for Spanglish has grown exponentially, even though I'mperfectly conscious of its social and economic consequences. Only 14percent of Latino students in the country graduate from college. Themajority complain that the cultural obstacles along the way are innumerable: the closely knit family dynamic, the need to help support theirfamily, the refusal to move out from home in order to go to school ... And language, naturally: for many of them proficiency in the Englishlanguage is too high a barrier to overcome. English is the door to theAmerican Dream. Not until one masters el inglés are he fruits of thatdream attainable.

Spanglish is often described as the trap, la rampa Hispanics fall intoon he road to assimilation -- el obstâculo en el camino. Alas, the growing lower class uses it, thus procrastinating the possibility of un futuromejor, a better future. Still, I've learned to admire Spanglish over time. Yes, it is the tongue of the uneducated. Yes, it's a hodgepodge ... Butits creativity astonished me. In many ways, I see in it the beautiesand achievements of jazz, a musical style that sprung up among African-Americans as a result of improvisation and lack of education. Eventually, though, it became a major force in America, a state of mind breachingout of the ghetto into he middle class and beyond. Will Spanglish follow a similar route?

Back then, as my early immigrant days unfolded, it was easier todenigrate it. Asked by a reporter in 1985 for his opinion on el espanglés, one of the other ways used to refer to he linguistic juxtaposition of south and north -- some other categories are casteyanqui, inglañol, argosajón, español bastardo, papiamento gringo, and caló pachuco -- OctavioPaz, the Mexican author of The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950) and a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is said to have responded with a paradox: "ni es bueno ni es malo, sino abominable" -- it is neither goodnor bad but abominable. This wasn't an exceptional view: Paz was oneof scores of intellectuals with a distaste for the bastard jargon, which, in his eyes, didn't have gravitas. Una lengua bastarda: illegitimate, evenwrongful ...

The Making of a New American Language
. Copyright © by Ilan Stavans. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language by Ilan Stavans
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Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2003-10-01:
Stavans (Latin American culture, Amherst Coll.), the author of many well-respected books of fiction, translation, cartoons, anthologies, literary editions, and criticism, has spent a decade studying the verbal encounters between the Anglo and Hispanic cultures. In this provocative work, he establishes the variety, vitality, and complexity of the resulting language-Spanglish. In an introductory essay, he describes the sources and uses of the language, its social and economic consequences, and the controversies surrounding it. The bulk of the book is taken up with the first serious lexicon of this new language. It is the result of years of fieldwork and library research (only terms that have been documented or tape-recorded from three sources are included). The lexicon contains over 2000 entries, each of which includes pronunciation, alternative spellings, part of speech, language of origin, and, in some cases, the national group or state where the term began. In a few cases, the date of first appearance is also given. Rounding out the volume is the author's Spanglish translation of the first chapter of Don Quixote. This intriguing first real attempt to describe Spanglish will be a useful purchase for academic and large public libraries.-Paul D'Alessandro, Portland P.L., ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
PW Annex Reviews, August 2003
Library Journal, October 2003
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Table of Contents
Introduction: La jerga locap. 1
A User's Manualp. 55
Lexicon: Spanglish to Englishp. 63
Don Quixote de la Mancha First Parte, Chapter Uno Transladado al Spanglish por Ilan Stavansp. 251
Bibliographyp. 259
Acknowledgmentsp. 271
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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