Sunday, April 17, 2011

Appropriating, Authenticating, & Mocking

By: Krystal Flores 

The million dollar questions of this class are probably somewhere along the lines of:
1) Who is appropriating? 2) Who is authenticating? and 3) Who is “mocking” a specific language?
Many people think that race and ethnicity are the core of many topics and issues, but language is in fact, the center of anything and everything because it is presumed to be our most basic form of communication. It is expected that everyone knows at least one language and therefore can speak to those who understand it as well. However, what happens when appropriation and authenticity come into play? Does it necessarily mean that one is “mocking” another language?
Jane H. Hill points out in her article, “The Everyday Language of White Racism,” that Mock Spanish “ . . . works to reproduce negative stereotypes of people of color” (119). One of the ways “mock Spanish” is produced is by simply adding “ . . . the Spanish definite article el and the masculine singular suffix -o . . .” to mainly any English word (129). Tacking on these two small pieces of the Spanish language onto English words, and therefore, claiming these newly formed words as Spanish, removes all complexities from the Spanish language. This ideology of morphological addition, deconstructs, and even belittles, the Spanish language as a form of communication. When people use “mock Spanish” in this way, it puts forth the idea that since Spanish is so simple, then there is almost no point in having it; especially, if everyone can easily deconstruct it. If this is the case, then we all might as well speak English. 
Jane Hill uses the Terminator 2: Judgement Day example, which Professor Rosa showed to us in class, to back up her theories. 
“Hasta la vista, baby” defines Jane Hill’s point of people “loaning” words from Spanish, and “no problemo” referred to people using using “el” and “o” and calling their language use Spanish. 
In addition, Hill points out that those who speak “American English” will hyper-anglicize certain words and phrases “to avoid anyone thinking that they might be speaking Spanish” (129). Hyper-Anglicization is the linguistic stereotype in which words are purposely and exceedingly mispronounced by means of completely rejecting a certain identity from oneself. Hyper-Anglicization ties into the idea of “sounds like a race, looks like a language,” in that a white man using hyper-anglicized pronunciation is doing so because he does not want to “sound like a Mexican.”

The man in this video seems to hold the ideology that English is the better language over Spanish. The Mexican man that is recording this video can clearly speak English well, but the man still feels the need to pronounce each syllable of Mex-i-co and ask the Mexican man to say, “I love A-mer-i-ca,” as if he was actually teaching this Mexican man English. The hyper-anglicized pronunciation and the speed at which Mexico is actually being pronounced at, is used to blatantly mock Spanish as a language and as a culture. The hyper-anglicized pronunciation mocks Spanish as a language, but pronouncing it slowly, syllable by syllable mocks the culture because he is assuming that the Spanish language is “dumb” therefore, so are the people. 
Despite all the ways in which the Spanish language can be mocked, Hill also makes it clear that there also positive indexes to its use. “English-heritage speakers and even members of Spanish-heritage communities often volunteer that Mock Spanish expressions are funny and cute” (144). 

The second Rasheed Thurmond can prove to his audience that he can perform an authentic impression of a Puerto Rican accent, there is no question as to whether or not he is “mocking Spanish.” Since he is not hyper-anglicizing the pronunciation or simply adding the infamous “el” or “o” to the words, his audience is impressed by his speech. Rasheed also takes it one step further by imitating the radio station La Mega, where he says a number in Spanish and the audience again laughs because his appropriation of Puerto Rican, in this context, is considered authentic. 
In contrast: 

The difference between this video and “Papi Aint No Snitch” is that this white man is clearly attempting to do an impression of a Mexican, by speaking Mexican-accented English. When the video first starts, the audience gets a small sample of the way the man actually speaks, but then he quickly changes his tone and his demeanor once he sees he is being recorded by a Mexican man. Rasheed Thurmond’s impression came across to his audience as authentic because he used positive examples and images to represent the particular group he was targeting, where as this white man is just being flat out racist. While continuing his horrid impression of a Mexican, he asks, “Have you beat up any old people lately man? Huh? Harassed any y lo Americans?” 
For starters, this man’s appropriation is of the stereotyped version of a Mexican, which is illegal and a criminal. Therefore, his impression becomes problematic from the very beginning because he is stereotyping in a negative context. Stereotyping in a negative context is related to Jane Hill and her thoughts on “I’m not a racist but . . .” because both involve some sort of racist lexicality (120). The man also uses “y lo Americans” which makes no sense in this context. He is attempting to use Spanglish as another form of appropriation, but apparently his level of intelligibility is not on the level of actual Spanglish speakers because his sentence “Harassed any and the Americans” makes no sense. This video shows how some monolingual people try to break down Spanish into a simplistic and idiotic language, when it is actually the complete opposite. Spanish is as complex, if not more, than English is. For example, it has two different forms, the preterite and the imperfect, to represent past tenses, which is complex all in itself. 

In closing:
(The scene is from 1:33 to 5:58)
If we take this video and break it down piece by piece, we can see a bit of Jane Hill’s points highlighted. The first thing the audience can note is the way Rachel Hoffberg, played by Amy Sedaris, says, “We could use some more towels por favor, rapido.” In this statement, the character Rachel hyper-anglicized both “por favor and rapido.” She pronounces the “a” and the “v” in “favor” as hard letters, as they would be said in English, as opposed to pronouncing them softly, as they would be said in Spanish. In addition, she pronounces “rápido” with more emphasis on the “o” rather than on the “a,” where the emphasis actually belongs. By exaggerating the “o,” the character is playing with Hill’s theory of using “el” and “o” and calling a word Spanish. Next, Caroline Lane, played by Natasha Richardson, calls Marisa Ventura, played by Jennifer Lopez, Maria, rather than her actual name. This plays on the idea that anyone stemming from a “Spanish” background, must name their children, Maria or Jose, accordingly. Lastly, the character of Rachel tells Caroline, “She’s a maid [and] she barely speaks English,” which insults the cultural intelligibility of Spanish. It is as if to say she does not speak English and therefore, being a maid is the only job she can get. Cultural ideologies surround language, and unfortunately, it seems like the ideas that one language is superior over another, will never cease to exist. 

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