No More Americanization

The impulse is to say Soto-may-er. But that wouldn’t be correct. The proper pronunciation is Soto-may-YOUR and with a opening of the mouth to get the proper fullness and roll of the tongue.


Remember when people Americanized their names? Partly, it made their names easier to say. Mostly, people just wanted to be American. Fully American.

When the in-laws came from Italy, Italian was most certainly not spoken. They were Americans and they spoke English. In the second generation, that would be grandma who is 92, there is not even the remotest hint of Italy in her voice though she is only the second generation here in America.

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Not so now with some folks. Oh no. Acculturation is akin to living in the closet and hiding your ancestral glory. Much better to keep the Puerto Rican accent even though you’ve grown up on American soil.

My uncle is of Mexican descent. He speaks Spanish and knows five dialects. When he speaks English it is not Spanglish. It’s English. It is not English with the twang of Spanish hovering over him. I dare say, if I asked him if his Mexican heritage makes his judgment more stellar, he would say no. I’m quite sure he wouldn’t say that being a man makes him smarter. And yet, he finds a way to integrate his Mexican heritage and embrace his history.

Generations of Americans have done this. They know the language of the old country. They keep certain traditions. But they were eager to be American. They were eager to Americanize their name, even. It was symbolic. It was a blessed gift to have this country and people were proud to be a part of it. A shortened name meant becoming new and American.

So, while President Barack Obama can say Pak-ee-stahn correctly and every newscaster is embracing his inner Latina pronouncing Soto-may-YOUR with relish, I just see more of an effort to elevate other cultures in relation to the American culture.

It isn’t about proper pronunciation it’s about putting America in her place. And her place is no better than any other place, including 3rd world racist, sexist, intolerant, nuclear-armed holes like Pakistan. Well, I say America is better. America is better than Mexico. It’s safer. There are more jobs. There is less corruption (for the time being). America is better than pretty much any place in the world I can think of, actually.

People who live here, myself included, are damn lucky to be here by birthright. And those who choose to become citizens are making the best decision of their lives. Their whole future will change.

So, a kid from Puerto Rico can come to America, get educated in the best schools and be put forth as a potential Supreme Court Justice for the best country in the world. That’s America. It’s great. And America is bigger than our collective pasts. She is better than the places we came from. We do well to melt into her beauty and live to rise to her ideals.

Americanization is a good thing. Assimilating and changing to fit America’s mold is what makes this country different from the fractured and racist Europe. So those who are so intent on elevating other cultures might want to consider the outcome of their actions. America doesn’t need to turn into a place where races are Balkanized and marginalized by neighborhoods, language, religion and culture. That would be a destructive place.

America needs to continue to be a melting pot. I’m Melissa Clouthier. It is not Cloo-tee-ay. It is Cloth-ee-er. I’m American and proud of it.

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