Walter Mencken 6:15 p.m., Feb. 28
- Community Blog
Feliz Año Nuevo
The Spanish alphabet has more letters than the English alphabet. Just how many more letters is subject to much debate. Not all authorities agree on which letters make up the alphabet. Some don't include w (sometimes referred to as doble ve) and k, which exist almost exclusively in words of foreign origin, such as kilowatt. And some lists count rr (erre), which isn't pronounced the same as r.
The extra letters that everyone agrees upon are ñ (called the eñe) and ll (called elle). That little squiggly line over the ñ is called a tilde. Ñ is pronounced like the ny sound in "canyon." This is an important distinction. For instance, the Spanish word for "year" is año. The Spanish word for "anus" is ano -- without the tilde. Big difference!
There are many Americans living down in Mexico. Not that many of them have ever taken the time to learn the language, much less the culture. They tend to be a cloistered group, who are content to spend the autumn of their lives in gringo ghettos associating only with other gringos, usually the one on the next bar stool. Little things like a tilde are under their radar.
While these expatriates don't have much Spanish, that does not stop them from trying to impress other gringos who have been down in Mexico even less time than them with their "expertise" in all things Mexican. To accomplish this, they will sprinkle their English with the few Spanish words they know.
It is always a good chuckle, to listen in and see how many of those Mexico experts wish each other, "Feliz Ano Nuevo," which is to say, "Have a Happy New Anus."