Of all the comically desperate attacks on Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor last week–she belongs to the “Latino KKK” (Tom Tancredo), she’s a “Hispanic lady chick” and a “Marxist” (Glenn Beck), she’s “racist” (Beck, Newt, Tucker, Coulter, Rush, to mention a few)–the only one with real conservative cojones is the charge that real Americans are being forced to “unnaturally” emphasize the last syllable of her name instead of the first. Get us by the short tilde and our hearts and minds will follow.
“Are we supposed to use the Spanish pronunciation, so-toe-my-OR, or the natural English pronunciation, SO-tuh-my-er…,” asked the now Worst Person-ed Mark Krikorian, a National Review blogger and the executive director of the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies. “Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English,” he went on, “and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn’t be giving in to.”
Even before Krikorian so boldly spelled out the offense, you could feel the annoyance among conservatives over the extra work the judge’s name requires. Joe Scarborough (or, for those troubled by the almost French lilt of that last syllable, Scarboruff) announced he was going to have problems pronouncing her name. But really, Joe, it’s not like anyone’s asking you to trill your R’s or something. (He’s gone on to say that he’s not siding with the Limbaughian name-calling, because “this doesn’t elect Republicans.”)
I admit, though, the first time I said “Sotomayor,” I mangled it, too, as I do most unfamiliar names. But I got it the next time and now delight in lifting suddenly to that high mesa of OR.
Krikorian’s line of attack has chutzpah, but it’s hardly nuevo. It’s always there, just under the surface, especially when some high-falutin’ liberal speaks a foreign word fluently, or asks for Dijon mustard. Everytime Obama has pronounced “Pakistan” like a native (as POCK-i-stahn), the suspicions bubble over: It’s an “exotic pronunciation,” another National Review writer griped during the campaign, while a commenter elsewhere wrote, “he pronounces it just as his teachings in the Muslim religion has taught him to pronounce it.”