Salon today notes that at least one conservative finds it galling even to pronounce Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s last name correctly:
On National Review’s Web site, Mark Krikorian posted a screed about Sotomayor’s insistence that people pronounce her name correctly. “Deferring to people’s own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits,” he wrote. ” Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English … and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn’t be giving in to.”
In other words, Krikorian wishes to associate contemporary American conservatism with resistance to pronunciation correctness! And this, ironically, is coming from a writer at a magazine founded by William F. Buckley, famous for his proper enunciation and facility with language.
It is a measure of how far contemporary conservatism has declined that one of the great latinate languages of Western Civilization—the language in which Don Quixote was written in—should be treated by it as an alien tongue and rendered suspicious and in need of adjustment and “anglicizing.” Here’s how Krikorian puts it:
So, are we supposed to use the Spanish pronunciation, so-toe-my-OR, or the natural English pronunciation, SO-tuh-my-er, like Niedermeyer?
But think of how awkward and absurd it would be to turn at least one of the long “o” sounds in “Sotomayor” into a short “o” sound, and pronounce the “mayor” in her name with a flattened “may-er” or “my-er.” The result would be something that chimed with “sodomizer” (which may be the targeted effect, to associate her in the public mind with an anti-gay slur).
Also, when Krikorian says, “Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English”, he is exploiting an artifact of spelling, not verbal pronunciation. If her name were spelled “Sotomayour”, for example, it is no more difficult or “unnatural” to pronounce than, say, the name of the New Yorker journalist, Seymour Hirsch. In short, English has words (such as your, yourself, our, ourselves, tourbus, voyeur, immature and contour) that can lay syllabic emphasis upon the ear in ways akin to Sotomayor’s properly pronounced name. Thus to suggest, as Krikorian does, that English is somehow being infected and “unnaturally” shaped by an “alien” latinization is to completely ignore the fact that English has always been infected and shaped by “alien” latinizations.