Latinos, Hispanics, Brazilians, 'Latinx': A Note on Diction

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One thing I didn’t mention in my article on Hispanic support for Trump over on the homepage is the impact that Brazilians could have in this election. There are 300,000 of them in South Florida alone, and they tend (so far as I can tell first-hand) to be frenetically entrepreneurial. Trump’s appeal to small business owners and to those who really want to “make it in America” may prove particularly effective with them.

The main reason I didn’t mention Brazilians in my article is that most of the available polling is about “Hispanic” or “Latino” attitudes, and it’s hard to tell whether Brazilians (who speak Portuguese rather than Spanish) are being included in such polls. In American English, “Hispanic” and the unfortunate “Latino” (more on which below) are used interchangeably, most often to refer to people of Spanish heritage; though the term “Hispanic” is sometimes (confusingly) used to refer to Brazilians.

This is not how those terms are in used in Spanish or Portuguese. The Spanish word hispano, like the Portuguese word hispânico, refers exclusively to people of Spanish heritage. On the other hand, the word latino (in both Spanish and Portuguese) has a far broader meaning, and encompasses all speakers of any language derived from Latin, which includes Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and technically also French and Romanian.

As a matter of etymological integrity, the English word “Hispanic” should not be used to refer to people from Brazil. Conversely, the words “Latin” and “Latin American” definitely include people from Brazil, by far the largest country in Latin America. It technically should also include French-speaking areas of the Americas, such as Quebec and the French-speaking Caribbean, though it is rarely used that way in any language, even if many French-speaking people identify as culturally “Latin.” Of note, a person is “Latin American” whether they live here or there; that term is not a dual culture hyphenation like “Cuban-American.”

So, to review, the English word “Hispanic” should refer to people of Spanish descent exclusively, while “Latin” (when used to describe a person or culture) should refer to people of both Spanish and Portuguese descent, and is properly used to refer to both Brazilian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.

Unfortunately, things have only gotten more confused in the last several decades because of progressives bent on demonstrating their control over language. So “Latin” and “Hispanic” got replaced during the multicultural 1990s by importing the Spanish word latino out of some supposed sensitivity to Latins (or Hispanics — not sure which), though most Latins couldn’t care less whether an English or a Spanish word is used to describe them. (You have to go to an American university to learn to be touchy about stuff like that).

The whole “Latino” thing was a bad move all around. In the first place, it lost the meaning of latino in Spanish and Portuguese, which is a reference to speakers of any language derived from Latin, and is not synonymous with “Hispanic.” Even worse however, progressives have discovered to their horror that Spanish is not gender-neutral. Given that the latest fashion trend in progressive cultural tyrannizing is a jihad against gender categories, “Latino” and “Latina” won’t do at all. That is particularly so because the universal rule in Romance languages is that when a group of people or thing includes both genders, masculine pronouns and adjectives are to be used, which is how “Latino” is being used now in United States — an affront against all that is holy in the feminist movement. ¡Qué horror!

So to neutralize the apparently “problematic” gender categories of Spanish words (which they shouldn’t have been using in English to begin with), progressives have now decided that the proper way to refer to Hispanics of all genders or no genders is “Latinx,” easily the most garbled and preposterous example of woke baby-babble yet, and sounds worse than nails on a chalkboard. And it’s utterly incoherent from a philosophical point of view: In the interests of “inclusivity,” progressives imported and then ostentatiously canceled the words that Spanish and Portuguese speakers use to identify themselves in their own languages!

And what’s the point? English is already gender-neutral. “Hispanic” and “Latin” are perfectly good English words. If you can use them properly, please do so. Don’t follow progressives around as they degrade English and insult Spanish (and Portuguese) when their only point is to show that they are in charge of how we should handle cultural diversity, despite their cultural illiteracy.

Mario Loyola — Mr. Loyola, a former White House speechwriter and environmental adviser, is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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