Thursday, September 17, 2015

How To Pronounce "Los Angeles"

Ilan Stavans's recent op-ed article in the New York Times (Sep 17)  discusses the American TV reporter Vanessa Ruiz's (an anchor for 12 News, Phoenix Arizona) insistence on pronouncing words and names that have a Spanish derivation in the Spanish manner.  So, for example, her name RUIZ would be pronounced not as an anglicized ROO-iz, but in the Latino style  Rrroo-ISS (with a rolled "r").

When Latino names and terms are pronounced by reporters or anchors with Latino backgrounds, they often assume that such names are preferably voiced in the Latino style.  I hope they checked with the persons involved, because he/she may prefer the anglicized version rather than the Latino.   I have never heard Senator Ted Cruz or Senator Marco Rubio pronounce their names using Hispanic rolled "r's".   Their names are always anglicized when spoken to an American audience, which I feel rather confident in saying is the usage they prefer.

I once made the mistake of Italianizing a patient's surname, believing it would be the preferable form of address.  I was dead wrong -- immediately corrected by the patient, who went on to pronounce his name using his preferred anglicized style.

My name,  STEEG,  is of German origin and in Germany is pronounced SHTEHG.  I certainly do not prefer this to the anglicized form (rhymes with "league") and would resent an assumption that the German form is proper when used in the setting of an American conversation or discourse.

Stavans concludes his op-ed piece with the following: "Ms. Ruiz's use of Spanish pronunciations reflects the new social reality in which Shakespeare's tongue must adapt."


The names of people and places should be pronounced according to the wishes of those bearing those names or living in those places. The American city is Los AN-gel-ess, not Los AN-hel-ess, and the American state is Mon-TAN-ah, not Mon-Tahn-ya!  Spanish derivation - yes.  Spanish pronunciation - no.

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