Mock Spanish

Mock Spanish is used to describe a variety of Spanish-inspired phrases common in some otherwise monolingual Anglo-American circles. Often, these Spanish-inspired phrases are used in a humorous way that advert to unfavorable and stereotypical views of Spanish speakers.[1] The term "mock Spanish" has been popularized by anthropologist-linguist Jane H. Hill of the University of Arizona, most recognizably in relation to the catchphrase, "Hasta la vista, baby", from the film, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.[2] Hill argues that the incorporation of pseudo-Spanish terms like "hasty banana" (for hasta mañana), "buenos nachos" (for buenas noches), "el cheapo", "no problemo", "hasta la bye-bye", and other humorous uses, to some people, constitute a type of covert racism.[3] However, many monolingual Anglo-Americans feel that this type of language is harmless and is a natural consequence of multiculturalism.


It is important to look at the history between the English and Spanish languages in the United States to understand the relationship that they have that provides a better context for "mock Spanish." The Immigration Act of 1917 imposed literacy tests on immigrants coming to the US and restricted the accessibility of coming to the US for immigrants. This act was changed in 1924 with the Immigration Act of 1924 that established a quota of immigrants from various nationalities that could come to the US. While this broadened the number of immigrants, there was still an anti-immigrant sentiment with this law. However with this law, Spanish started to be included in public documents and forms like voting guides, ballots, and public announcements, but Spanish as a first language was still against the rules in public schools and was discouraged in the public sphere.[4] The law was again changed in 1952, but was significantly altered with the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This abolished the nationality quotas. This recent relationships between the US and other nationalities demonstrates the homogeneity of race and nationality in the US prior to the 21st century.

In more recent history within the past 20 years, organizations have been created that promote the use of English in the US like US English, ProEnglish, and English First. Rather than just promoting English and an "English-culture" like other countries have, these organizations and the culture surrounding them tend to discourage speaking languages other than English.[4]


With the use of Mock Spanish gaining popularity, anthropologists began researching the questions of who could use Mock Spanish and if it was consider racist discourse.[1] Hill found that mock Spanish was especially prevalent "among middle- and upper-income, college-educated whites".[3] She discovered that many of those who make use of mock Spanish or mock language in their casual speech consider it harmless or even flattering, while native Spanish speakers are likely to find it insulting. She presented an argument that mock Spanish depends on the covert indexing of negative stereotypes of Spanish speakers and that it can only be accurately interpreted if negative stereotypes about Hispanophones can be accessed.[3] Laura Callahan, a published Ph. D. graduate in Hispanic linguistics, further examined the mock Spanish discourse through media and as a possible marker of racism.[5] Callahan's study of Mock Spanish, in relation to Hill's study, agrees that there is a distinction between what the people who use Mock Spanish see the use as, and what the people that are often the target of Mock Spanish think of its use. This distinction is between "Good fun" and "Making fun," one term being used by the users of Mock Spanish (Anglo-Americans), the other used by those who may feel or be considered the "targets" of this discourse (native Spanish speakers).[6]

White spaces and institutionalized racismEdit

The discussion about the interconnection between racism and Mock Spanish is also a discussion that includes existing societal structures that would allow for racism to survive. In José, can you see?, Ana Celia Zentella, a researcher in "anthro-political linguistics", describes mock Spanish as one half of a double standard in which Hispanics are expected to conform to the linguistic norms of English while Anglo-Americans are free to ignore all grammatical aspects of the Spanish language they are borrowing from.[7][8] According to Zentella,

Latin(a)s are visibly constrained by rigid norms of linguistic purity, but white linguistic disorder goes unchallenged; in fact, white linguistic disorder is essential to a congenial persona, and passes as multicultural 'with-it-ness.'[9]

In "Their Language, Our Spanish," author Adam Schwartz, whose education specialty is in Spanish language education in the U.S, discusses the spaces in that allow the double standard that Mock Spanish is a part of.[10][11] He argued that the use of Mock Spanish by middle and upper class whites create a "white public space".[11] These white public spaces allow the continuous production of racism along with societally established privilege and social order. In the article Schwartz states, "...[the] unspoken and institutionalized White normalcy underlying [Mock Spanish] carries over to spaces where language is learned, spoken and (re) claimed." [11] He claims that Mock Spanish, or as he calls it, "Gringo language" is cultural and linguistic appropriation, that is socially accepted despite its racist underpinnings. Both Hill and Schwartz argue, Mock Spanish is packed with discreet racism; however, Schwartz furthers that argument by stating that it can encode for societal power positions and institutionalized disadvantages.[11]

The opposing perspectiveEdit

In the discourse around Mock Spanish and its connection to racism, Rusty Barrett's research on the use of Mock Spanish in a Mexican restaurant is heavily cited. While Barrett acknowledges and discusses the racial and unfavorable stigmatization that Mock Spanish may have on native Spanish speakers, the study also focuses on how language ideologies influence the interactions of Anglo-American managers and Spanish-speaking workers in a Mexican restaurant. In this examination, Barrett mentions the idea that Anglo-Americans' lack of attention and indifference to the Spanish language, in that particular scenario and in certain ways, might not be a bad thing. The study states that while mock Spanish can be seen as restrictive on a monolingual Spanish speaker's agency and at times racist, it may actually just shift a Spanish speaker's ability to establish their agency in other ways, at least in the setting of this Mexican restaurant.[12] It explains that because the Anglo-Americans ignore the grammatical components of Spanish and use it in a joking and unfavorable manner, it allows the spanish-speaking workers to openly and loudly speak their opinions and even themselves mock the Anglo-managers. Examples in the article show that despite the restrictive-ness that is seen as a part of the Mock-spanish culture, the Spanish speakers were able to use their agency, through things like access to better food during work because of the kinds of jobs they held and how little attention Anglo-managers paid to them. Additionally, because of the more custodial and low-interaction job positions they held, monolingual Spanish workers at this restaurant were able to assert agency through hidden garbage bags.[12] Both of these examples display the shift in the monolingual Spanish workers agency, despite the Mock Spanish culture in which they are surround by through their Anglo-managers.

Mock Spanish vs. other forms of "Anglo-Spanish"Edit

Hill contrasts mock Spanish with two other registers of "Anglo Spanish" that she refers to as "Nouvelle Spanish" (largely used to provide a Spanish flavor for marketing purposes, e.g. "the land of mañana" used to describe the Southwest or "Hair Casa" as the name of a beauty salon) and "Cowboy Spanish" (loanwords for region-specific objects and concepts, such as coyote, mesa, and tamale).[3]

Examples of Mock Spanish[13]Edit

  • "Cinco de Drinko"
  • "Exito only"
  • "Se necesita delivery guy"

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Callahan, Laura (July 1, 2014). "The importance of being earnest". Spanish in Context. 11 (2): 202–220. doi:10.1075/sic.11.2.03cal.
  2. ^ Hill, Jane H. (1993). "Hasta La Vista, Baby: Anglo Spanish in the American Southwest". Critique of Anthropology, 13(2):145-176.
  3. ^ a b c d Hill, Jane H. (1995-10-09). "Mock Spanish: A Site For The Indexical Reproduction Of Racism In American English". Language & Culture, Symposium 2. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  4. ^ a b Hill, Jane (2009). "The Everyday Language of White Racism". Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  5. ^ "Laura Callahan - College of Arts and Sciences - Santa Clara University". Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  6. ^ Callahan, Laura (November 2010). "Speaking with (dis)respect: a study of reactions to Mock Spanish". Language and Intercultural Communication. 10 (4): 299–317. doi:10.1080/14708477.2010.494731. ISSN 1470-8477.
  7. ^ "Ana Celia Zentella". Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  8. ^ Zentella, Ana (2003). José, can you see? Latin@ responses to racist discourse. p. 53.CS1 maint: location (link)
  9. ^ Zentella, Ana Celia (2003). "'José can you see': Latin@ responses to racist discourse" (PDF). In Doris Sommer (ed.). Bilingual Games. New York: Palgrave Press. ISBN 978-1-4039-6012-2.
  10. ^ "Faculty Research Profiles, test". Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  11. ^ a b c d Schwartz, Adam (July 1, 2008). "Their language, our Spanish Introducing public discourses of 'Gringonism' as racializing linguistic and cultural reappropriation". Spanish in Context. 5 (2): 224–245. doi:10.1075/sic.5.2.05sch.
  12. ^ a b Barrett, Rusty (April 2006). "Language ideology and racial inequality: Competing functions of Spanish in an Anglo-owned Mexican restaurant". Language in Society. 35 (2): 163–204. doi:10.1017/s0047404506060088. JSTOR 4169491.
  13. ^ "Mock Spanish – Sociolinguistic Artifacts". Retrieved 2019-03-04.

Further readingEdit