The trend is so new that I consumed fifteen minutes in finding a single photo to illustrate it. Just this spring, Major League Baseball has decided to start throwing accents liberally over Spanish names, both on the backs of uniforms and on televised graphics.
At first I thought that the move was “hypertrophic”–that MLB’s politically correct elite wanted so much to show sensitivity to diverse cultures that accents were ordered to appear where they had no grammatical business. Then I discovered that my Spanish isn’t quite as reliable on this score as I’d thought. The general rule is that the penultimate syllable of a word tends to be stressed, and that an accent appears whenever that tendency is violated. Beltrán goes against the tendency: Vargas does not. Ramos and Navarro are good to go as they stand: Céspedes and Rincón require an accentual alert. Yet a little research informed me that proper names seem to involve an unusual number of anomalous cases. Why does Márquez have an accent–or González, or Martínez? I don’t know… but, okay, I guess the MLB did its homework for a change.
Then again, upon still further thought, my old misgivings returned to me. Yeah, so all of those names ought to have accents in their original tongue… but who is going to maul the handle of someone named Gonzalez or Martinez? Where do we see a similar concern over the butchery of Italian names with the -ng or -gl consonantal clusters? The pronunciation is “Tony Co-nil-YER-o”, you dopes, not “Co-nig-lee-ER-o”! (And when the lovely Jen Carfagno of the Weather Channel pronounces her surname “Car-FAG-no”, I want to hide in a hole and cover my ears. So, Jen… do you order la-SAG-na at a restaurant?)
What about Gaelic names? Shouldn’t a guy named Toole demand Tuathal on the back of his jersey? Can a guy named Rowe insist upon Ruadh? There’s a lot more than a mere accent missing from these!
“Accent-mania” reveals the political elite (and, believe me, that elite is very much ensconced at ESPN and among owners of professional sports teams) wanting to put its support of cultural diversity on display for all the world to see; and, as usual–as always–that support reeks of condescension. Only select minorities are eligible for the big-brotherly arm around the shoulder, as if the Enlightened Ones were saying, “There, there, now, you lovable but ignorant Latinos. We know that you’re having a lot of trouble with English, and we don’t think you should even have to learn it. See? We’re going to require that the accents be kept over your names–your nombres. Or, wait… is that the word for ‘number’? Whatever. We just want you to know that we have your back. Ha-ha-ha! Your back–get it? Un hoko bueno, no? Musgrave, go look up the word for ‘joke’.”
The children of Hispanic immigrants that appear in my classes have often been given Christian names like “Ashley” and “Melanie”, even though there are a million really beautiful Spanish names. Their parents want them to assimilate. Our political-economic elite don’t care if the masses they invite to the U.S. ever assimilate or not; in fact, they would prefer the negative, since disoriented and needy masses always opt for a greater presence of Big Brother in their lives. Now, patrón is a good example of a word whose final syllable is stressed. You should get to know that one. It names a kind of person who’s starting to play a really prominent role in all our lives.