The guardians of the Spanish language are embarking on one of the most quixotic crusades to hit the Iberian Peninsula in years.
The fuddy-duddy linguists of The Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) are declaring a war on Spanglish. They met in Madrid last week to fret over "The abuse of English in advertising, and how to reduce it."
But once again, the windmills are winning.
"There is no solution in the short term," sighed RAE member and veteran Spanish journalist Alex Grijelmo. "The abuse of anglicisms is linked to an inferiority complex that is very hispanic, and it contributes to its reinforcement."
The academy is not going down without a fight, however. As part of its war on Spanglish, the academy recently commissioned its own set of satirical TV spots intended to ridicule the public for buying into mixed-language advertising campaigns.
One of the academy's fake ads is for a fictitious perfume called "swine," which mocks Spanish women for thinking products sound fancy just because they have English-language names and mottos: "Swine, new fragrance, new woman."
"The perfume, whose name in English says your smell like a pig, but because it's in English you smell like swine," the condescending voiceover says in the ad. "Swine: it sounds great, but smells awful."
If that doesn't convince everyone in Spain to join the academy's crusade for linguistic purity, I don't know what will.
The RAE's battlecry is fueled by a new report by the Academy of Publicity that shows that English-language words in Spanish advertising campaigns have increased tenfold in the past decade. In 2003, there were 30 brands in Spain that peppered their ads with Spanglish. By last year, that number had jumped to 322 brands, according to the report.
WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE, TIO!!??
Unfortunately, the academy doesn't have comparable figures to measure the prevalence of Spanglish in Latin American countries, where mixing English and Spanish is even more fluent. And in Miami, ni se diga, papi.
In Spain alone, the academy counted some 300 English-language words that are regularly employed in advertising campaigns—everything from "jeans" and "shopping," to "leasing" and "hashtags."
But honestly, who cares? Instead of fussing about the rise of Spanglish, we should embrace it. It's increasingly becoming a tongue of choice in many multi-cultural communities. And I, for one, think that's a great thing. It's proof that English and Spanish are both dynamic languages, an integral part of the global conversation. Language, like any species, is either evolving or dying. It's better to be in the former category.
The RAE, which makes language its business, should know that better than anyone.
But don't take my word for it. Ask an Akkadian-speaking Babylonian for her thoughts on the importance of maintaining the purity of old tongues. Just don't mock her for smelling like a pig if she doesn't understand what you're talking about.