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New word of the month
by Kerry Maxwell

Spanglish noun [U]
a variety of Spanish featuring a large number of borrowings from English, spoken mainly by Latin Americans

'Forget Esperanto and start mugging up on Spanglish, a mixture of Spanish and English spawned by the US Hispanic community which is, according to its American lexicographer, the language of the future.'
(The Guardian, 19th January 2000)

Many speakers in Latin America and parts of the United States would find it perfectly natural to describe someone's new shirt as culisimo ('very cool'), talk about their intention to downloadear ('download') something from the Internet, tell someone that their sister is pregneada ('pregnant') or ask someone to backupear ('back up') their car onto the driveway. An increasing number of Latin Americans are using Spanglish, a blend of Spanish and English, in an attempt to embrace English and their identity as Americans without totally surrendering the language of their roots.

The development of Spanglish in fact encompasses a variety of linguistic processes, central to which are the concepts of code switching and code mixing. Code switching occurs when a bilingual (in this case Spanish/English) speaker uses both languages in one sentence, such as:
I'm afraid I can't come to the meeting porque tengo que trabajar en Chicago (because I have to work in Chicago) pero espero que (but I hope that) I'll be able to come to the next one.

Code switching in Spanglish sometimes occurs for reasons of speed and economy. For instance, it's quicker to pronounce Voy a get up ('I'm going to get up') rather than the pure Spanish counterpart Voy a levantarme.

Code mixing (more commonly referred to by expressions such as borrowing or loan words) involves the transfer of linguistic elements from one language into another. A characteristic feature of Spanglish is the occurrence of English words which are either used straightforwardly or incorporated into established phrasal or derivational patterns in Spanish. Some examples in regular use from technical Spanglish include:

Spanglish English
hacer un back-up to make a back-up
e-mailear to e-mail
formatear to format
botón del mouse mouse button
quitear to quit

Spanglish words co-exist with their standard Spanish counterparts, so a Spanglish speaker can for instance choose to use replyear or hacer un reply ('to reply') in preference to pure Spanish contestar.

Spanglish also accepts English borrowings which it then alters orthographically so that the mapping between spelling and pronunciation is more accessible to the Hispanic tongue, e.g.:

Spanglish English
lonche lunch
boila (central heating) boiler
chopin shopping
carpeta carpet

A dictionary of Spanglish entitled Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language, was released in 2003. The book's author, Mexican born Ilan Stavans, professor in Latino Culture at Amherst College Massachusetts, predicts that Hispanics, accounting for an estimated third of the US population, will in future years end up speaking Spanglish in preference to Spanish, English or other dialects.

Though Spanglish has existed as a portmanteau word for several decades, popular awareness of the term increased considerably in 2004 when a film of the same name was released. Spanglish is a comedy drama featuring the story of a Mexican woman and her young daughter who emigrate to America in search of a better life, and end up working for a rich Californian family. The film was promoted with the tag line: 'A comedy with a language all its own'.

Exposure through popular film titles is an effective catalyst for a word's more widespread recognition and use. Words which may have lived in relative obscurity for some time can suddenly be catapulted into the limelight and adopted into more regular usage by virtue of their connection with a particular movie. Another good example is the recent term supersize ('to make something increase significantly in size'). This word gained substantial currency after the release in 2004 of the documentary film Super Size Me, which threw the spotlight on the health risks associated with a regular diet of fast food.

The rather tongue-in-cheek expression HollyWords (a blend of Hollywood, the capital of the US film industry, and words) is a recent description used by the media to refer to those words, new or old, whose profile in popular usage has been raised significantly as a direct result of their use in mainstream cinema. A variety of HollyWords were named in 2004 by the Global Language Monitor, an organisation which analyses the latest trends in word usage and examines the resulting impact on English language and culture. Among the top most influential HollyWords in 2004 were:

pinot – which in fact refers to a kind of grape, as in the wine variety pinot noir. Pinot was used repeatedly in the Oscar-nominated film Sideways, a comedy drama about wine-tasting. The pinot grape is allegedly a complex variety, among the most difficult to turn into a fine wine. Previously restricted mainly to the mental lexicon of serious wine connoisseurs, the term pinot shot into popular use after the film was released. Wine stores reported unprecedented sales of the variety, described by the media with turns of phrase such as: the pinot effect.

genius – referring to exceptional intellectual or creative ability, or an individual who possesses this. Written and spoken occurrence was significantly higher than usual after the release in 2004 of the film Ray, which dealt with the life story of singer Ray Charles, one of whose best-selling albums is entitled Genius Loves Company.

OCD – an acronym for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is an anxiety disorder characterised by an individual's obsessive desire to perform a particular task, such as turning lights on and off several times before leaving a room, repeatedly ensuring that a parked car is locked, or washing hands at very regular intervals during the day. The 2004 film The Aviator starred actor Leonardo DiCaprio as reclusive genius Howard Hughes, who was believed to be a sufferer of OCD. Popular awareness of the term and the disorder itself is thought to have increased significantly since the film's release, as has the use of the word handwashing.

animation – referring to the process or result of making animated films (films consisting of a series of computer-generated or drawn images which are shown quickly one after the other to give the illusion of movement). The number of written and spoken occurrences of the word animation increased significantly in 2004 when four of the top 11 grossing films of the year were the animated features Shrek 2, The Incredibles, The Polar Express and Shark Tale.

Fahrenheit – the temperature scale named after the German physicist Gabriel Fahrenheit, in which water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees. The Fahrenheit scale was widely used in many English-speaking countries until the 1970s, when it was gradually replaced by the Celsius (formally Centigrade) scale. Though still used in the United States and in occasional use in Britain for informal descriptions of temperature, the term Fahrenheit had largely disappeared from general use in British English as a scientific measurement. In 2004 the film Fahrenheit 9/11 gave one interpretation of what happened to the United States after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, suggesting that the Bush administration used this tragic event to promote its agenda for unjust wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the tag line 'The temperature where freedom burns!' the film effectively reintroduced many Europeans to this non-metric temperature scale.

For more information about new and topical words and phrases, read Kerry's Word of the Week articles on the MED Resource Site.