Mon 29 Dec 2014
As storms raged Dec. 11, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Ano Nuevo State Park near Santa Cruz, where elephant seals are the main attraction in fall and winter, also closed Thursday.” New Anus State Park? Yet that’s what the Sacramento Bee also called it.
“Año Nuevo,” the actual spelling of the park’s name, is obviously Spanish. The tilde over the “n” changes it into a separate letter in the Spanish alphabet, an “ñ” (pronounced enye). The distinction is important. Año means year in Spanish while ano means anus.
With the Spanish-speaking population of California steadily growing, you’d think the state’s newspapers would all add Spanish accent marks to their printing fonts. Most computers already include them. All the same, some bilingual readers of The Times and The Bee must have found reports of an “Ano Nuevo” closure rather amusing.
At least that’s how several Point Reyes Light readers reacted when a Spanish-language column we ran back in 1985 intended to say a certain girl had six years, which is how age is expressed in Spanish. The tilde, however, was left off “años,” and my resulting embarrassment no doubt explains why this issue is still on my mind almost 30 years later.
Christmas Day at Mitchell cabin. From upper left to upper right: this reporter, four horses, three deer. (Photo by Kathy Runnion)
But then a lot in the news surprises me these days. Take this report which ran in the London Daily Mail and other newspapers: “Rory Curtis, 25, suffered a serious brain injury after a car crash in 2012. He woke from a six-day coma and started speaking in fluent French.
“[The] former footballer was also convinced he was actor Matthew McConaughey. He broke his pelvis, but made a full recovery with an experimental drug. Mr. Curtis is still able to speak perfect French two years after the crash.” The man told the press he hadn’t studied French since grammar school and before the accident had only a “basic grasp” of it.
Another unexpected turn from the realm of newspapers and language: Last summer at an International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors conference, I met Charlie Gay, retired editor and publisher of the Shelton-Mason County (Washington) Journal. He’s a sharp newspaperman, and when a group of journalists were asked by email a week ago, “What are your resolutions for the New Year?” Charlie — using the language of photo resolution — replied: “My only resolution is 2048 pixels by 1536 pixels.”
The close of Christmas Day in Mitchell cabin with presents opened, dinner over, our guest departed, and the fire burning low. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)
In conclusion, remember your fundamental, so to speak, Spanish when you send Happy New Year! messages to your Latino friends and relatives. Include the tilde in ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! You certainly don’t want to wish everybody a “Happy New Anus!” There’s no telling what the reactions would be.