Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
From the Language Police Blotter: Vosotros
Although most people on the east coast (and many people here) haven’t realized it yet, Eric Garcetti was elected Mayor of Los Angeles on Tuesday.Â I’m pleased. I voted for him, and despite the fiscal and governance difficulties thatÂ he faces, I think he will do a good job as much any Los Angeles mayor can.
Much of the media has been taken up with Garcetti’s status as the City’s first Jewish mayor.Â In fact, he is quite the hybrid, much like the city itself: his Mom is Jewish, his Dad (former LA County DA Gil Garcetti) is of Italian descent, but the family lived in Mexico for a couple of generations, making him also something of a Latino.Â Perfect for a Los Angeles politician.
But he is going to have to do better than this if he wants to get real credibility among the Latino population (which he carried in the election).Â Addressing an east side audience, Garcetti declared:
Soy uno de vosotros.
That literally means, “I am one of you,” andÂ the notion isÂ standard politician fare.Â Notice something?Â For “you”, Garcetti used vosotros, a form that is perfectly grammatically correct, but is basically only used in Spain.Â It supposedly means something like “you guys” in my understanding: it is the plural form of tu.Â But I have never heard it used in Latin America or among Latinos in the United States.
A colleague of mine learned how to speak Spanish in Spain, and then went to Argentina on an exchange.Â He used vosotros, and, he says, “my hosts thought it was absolutely adorable, like speaking with an English accent.”Â And that’s with Argentinians, who have their own series of strange words, and make every effort to dissociate themselves from the rest of Latin America.Â (See Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter for more).Â The closest comparison I could make would be something like, “Hey — I’m down with thee.”
In fact, this is such an obvious mistake I’m wondering whether it was reported correctly.Â But I’ve now heard it from different places.Â Anyone else have a different take — has anyone heard it used among Latinos in the United States?Â We would love to hear from thee.
Author: Jonathan Zasloff
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees.
Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses.
Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.
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