On Sonia Sotomayor and Street Spanish

The mainstream media is making big noise of Sonia Sotomayor's likely being the first Latina Supreme Court justice, and that all Latinos should be proud. But Puerto Rican ain't Mexican! The Supreme Court won't have a shade of brown until a Mexican is among Roberts and Scalia. What does the Mexican think of Sotomayor's nomination and likely appointment?

Sotomayor not brown? Yeah, and George Lopez is as güero as Conan O'Brien. The Mexican beams with pride at the thought of Sotomayor on the Supreme Court, not just because she'd be the first Latina/o to sit on the nation's highest judicial branch (don't believe the hype about Benjamin Cardozo being el primero; he never identified as Latino or even Hispanic, and I doubt Hizzoner's Sephardic ancestors would've liked Cardozo grouped with the people who best carried out the Inquisition), but because she forces gabachos to remember the nation's other problem brownies: Puerto Ricans. Gracias a Diós that I've heard only a few instances of Chicano chauvinism like your case, Legalingo, and you few need to crack open a Coors with Know-Nothings and talk shop. Sure, it would've been chido if a Mexican replaced David Souter, but boricuas and other Latinos deserve a spot in the Reconquista, too, and President Barack Obama rightly, sadly, figured a moderate Puerto Rican are easier to stomach for gabachos at this point in the American experience than a moderate Mexican. Besides, it's about time Puerto Rico gave this country something more significant than Ricky Martin, reggaetón, and bananas.

Having lived in San Antonio for a number of decades, I've learned a smattering of street Spanish. That experience has caused me to cringe when I hear the word cojones used in American movies or television as a reference to testicles when the writer is trying to have the character talk dirty. In San Antonio, a person would use huevos in that context. Which is the correct Spanglish, or is a matter of cojones being used in California and huevos being used in Texas?

I've heard only gabachos use cojones, while Mexicans use huevos (other Latinos, of course, have their own terms for the male fun sack, but we'll leave the discussion for Maledicta). Both words are linguistically correct, politically incorrect and both derive from Latin (cojones comes from the singular cojón, testicle, from the Latin coleo — sack — while huevo actually means egg and derives from ovum). So, the real question in your inquiry is: How did gabachos came to use cojones more commonly instead of huevos as slang for balls? The answer is Ernest Hemingway, a man who introduced more misinterpreted-as-Mexican overused Spanish terms (mano a mano, macho and maricón, to name the most notorious examples) than any other writer after me. His otherwise-masterful Death in the Afternoon, an account of bullfighting and its practitioners, included a glossary defining cojones and remarked, "A valorous bullfighter is said to be plentifully equipped with these." Gabacho writers began introducing cojones into their works to emulate the faux-authenticity of Papa, and their audiences made the word a part of American Spanish, just like gringo and Drinko por Cinco. Mexicans, meanwhile, try to teach gabachos about huevos but remain puzzled why gabachos consistently prefer fey Castilian over our crude idioms. Eh, what's a wab to do except steal back more of Aztlán?

¡ASK A MEXICAN BOOK CONTEST! In 25 words or less, tell me your favorite local Mexican restaurant and what makes it so bueno. I'll soon be traveling around los Estados Unidos on my trusty burro to research my coming book on the history of Mexican food in the United States, and need places to haunt and cactuses to sleep under. One entry per person, one winner per paper, five winners total for areas that don't carry my column, and contest ends when I say so!

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Gustavo Arellano
Contact: Gustavo Arellano