Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Gracias, Jose Padilla

Until there was a terrorist named Jose Padilla, there seemed to be an language barrier with my last name.

Growing up I had a lot of folks think I was Italian until they encountered our family. Not really sure what made them change their minds.

The pronunciation outside of family ties was always /puh DILL uh/. There was always a polite apology for messing up the pronunciation since it was such an uncommon name. I thought this was a decent excuse until I made the connection with strangers in NYC when we visited relatives who pronounced our name without any issues whatsoever. And some of these people were even born Spanishly-challanged.

In High school I concocted a clever retort and asked if anyone ever ordered a /tore TILL uh/ at Taco Bell. Invariably my peers giggled as if that was the most stupid thing they ever heard. I thought the stupidest thing I ever heard was an excuse to botch my name and yet have an A+ aptitude to order the foodstuff.

Padilla and tortilla are not so far apart in pronunciation, you see.

Fast forward 12 years: June 14, 2002. The news is ablaze with a terrorist and the commentators are flopping in pronunciation like a ritalin-filled 5th grader during the afternoon cartoons. Within the same conversation the name is pronounced with a more Iberian flair and a more accessible Midwestern affect. It hurt most to hear Ray Suarez of the News Hour (Lehrer Report) go back and forth. That man should KNOW better.

For me it's upsetting. I don't want to claim Mr. Padilla, but it IS a matter of principal. If you can order the dish at Taco Bell, you can respect a person's name.

Thank you, Mr. Dirty-Bomb guy. Thank you for starting the dialog.

Today I heard it right, at least more consistently.

1 comment:

Roger Williams said...

Come on, now. Nobody's surprised when people with Italian last names have a hard time pronouncing words like zabaglione, acciaccatura and the like. Hell, I've met Italians here who can't pronounce our governor's last name (Carcieri) correctly!

Sometimes, people with an "ethnic surname" are something like 1/16th that ethnicity - maybe a great grandfather way back on the father's side, and are about as ethnic as Pat Boone.