Gringos, FFS stop saying ‘Latinx’

Have you heard the word, “Latinx?”

It is an English word, born out of no necessity whatsoever.

The word’s inventors imagined the need for a gender-neutral term to describe people of Latin American ancestry, to replace “Latino” or “Latinas.” But those are Spanish words. We already have gender-neutral English words such as “Latin” or “Latin American.”

I got to wondering, when and why did gringos start saying “Latino” to begin with? After all, we don’t say “Hispano” or “Hispana.” We don’t call Brazilians “Brasileiros.” Why did we adopt “Latino?”

I first saw it in the beer business in 2003. Could it have begun in corporate marketing departments vying to seem as peers of the Latin communities? Surely our geographic and cultural proximity played a role in adopting a foreign word.

If you’re going to discuss “Latinx,” it’s important to establish that it is an English word, invented in the United States. Its Wikipedia article is controversial enough to be locked, which means you can’t edit it unless you’re a recognized Wikipedia contributor. More notable, of course, is that there is no Spanish article for the word. Nobody has bothered to create one.

By virtue of being an English word, it is an inherently unnecessary addition given the existing English words don’t denote gender. In only a few cases do English nouns specify male or female, and even those are falling out of favor. Few people use “waiter” or “waitress.” For my entire time in the service business, we were called “servers.” There are even older relics such as “stewardess.”  

“Latinx” is an English word born of no necessity, and Latin people themselves don’t use it. The only people I hear using it are elite journalists, and I understand it may be used in politically correct corporate and institutional settings.

But according to a recent Pew study, only 3% of Hispanic Americans use it. More:

For the population it is meant to describe, only 23% of U.S. adults who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of the term Latinx, and just 3% say they use it to describe themselves, according to a nationally representative, bilingual survey of U.S. Hispanic adults conducted in December 2019 by Pew Research Center…

In addition, the U.S. born are more likely than the foreign born to have heard the term (32% vs. 16%), and Hispanics who are predominantly English speakers or bilingual are more likely than those who mainly speak Spanish to say the same (29% for both vs. 7%)…

Awareness of the term Latinx does not necessarily translate into use. Across many demographic subgroups, the share of Hispanics who say they use Latinx to describe their own identity is significantly lower than the share who say they have heard it …

While some Hispanics say Latinx should be used as a pan-ethnic term, few say they prefer it over others. A majority (61%) say they prefer Hispanic to describe the Hispanic or Latino population in the U.S., and 29% say they prefer Latino. Meanwhile, just 4% say they prefer Latinx to describe the Hispanic or Latino population…

Other responses from the open-ended question offer other descriptions of Latinx and reactions to it. For example, 12% of respondents who had heard of Latinx express disagreement or dislike of the term. Some described the term as an “anglicism” of the Spanish language, while others say the term is “not representative of the larger Latino community.”…

Pew primarily treats “Hispanic” as a race, which it is not, but I recognize it’s hard to break the habit. If it were treated as culture, I think those numbers would be lower still.

Many of the elite journalists I hear using it are of Latin extract themselves. Although many are bona fide gringos, the real villains behind this word consider themselves Latin, which gives the word credibility.

But we know better! Hence the title of this article. Gringos, for fucks sake, stop saying “Latinx!”

A Mexican-American or Puerto Rican may take issue with a cornfed white boy like me calling them a gringo. But as we’ve established here before, Latino is not a race. It is a culture. And we expats are hip to something the non-expat gringos may not be hip to. When you Hispanic Americans go back to the place you forebears were extracted from, you are considered gringos. Hell, you are called “gringos.”

We know that. But that’s not all. We know you know that. Yes, you know they call you “gringos.” You can’t deny it.

Does it matter? Not really. As long as you recognize that you are a gringo using an English word when you say “Latinx.”

If you don’t recognize that, they it’s time to face reality that “Latinx” will never become a Spanish word. It is beyond futile to think you will make Spanish a gender-neutral language. It is pissing into the wind, in your finest suit with your mouth open.

Not only is its Spanish pronunciation awkward, but there are too many gender-specific words in Spanish. All of the nouns, and all the adjectives that describe them.

Por ex amor de dios, ¡dejan de decir esx putx palabrx porque estoy hartx de estxs gringxs tan zonzxs!

It’s like trying to make “he” or “she” gender-neutral. And when you want to say “it,” you have to adjust to the gender of the noun. “Lx” for “lo” and “la” is less pronounceable than the others.

What’s worse than the futility is the goal itself. Are you trying to change another culture’s millennia-old language? Who the hell are you to tell them how to speak? This is like nation-building. This is implementing democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and you are George W. Bush. This is the 1954 Guatemala coup, and you are Sam Zemurray.

For fucks sake, STOP!

11 comments

  1. Colin, I don’t know whether to comment here or on your Facebook page. I don’t like the term either, but I don’t buy that is it a term of the Gringo community. I’m pretty sure I have seen one or two shows on Spanish TV titled “Latinx”. It seems to have it’s adherents in the Hispano community.

    What bugs me are the hipsters who use the word “Cali” to refer to California. There is no state named “Cali”. Real Californians don’t even like that term, from what I’ve read. Cali is a city in Colombia. It is a dirty, crowded, ugly city in Colombia where I have spent more time than any other city in Colombia, and if it weren’t for the women there I would never go back.

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      1. Colin, actually I’ve never heard “Going Back To Cali”. I prefer to listen to music. HA. There, I just aged myself.

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      2. I had this TAPE when I was 12 years old. It was one of the first to carry the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” warning, because in one song he said “bullshit,” which I made sure to turn down if my mother were around. 

        That was LL Cool J’s last album before going mainstream, when he was still considered hardcore hip-hop. You may recognize the title of his next album, named for its lead single, “Mama Said Knock You Out,” his best album and still hardcore in my opinion. However he grew so popular on MTV that he was no longer “hardcore.” Plus, that album has no “Parental Advisory” warning and, by that stage of the game, there were rappers talking about killing cops, “drive-by shootings” and selling crack. You certainly remember that era. That was actually the most extreme time for anti-social and devious content in the rap genre (in line with national crime rates). Nobody talks about this, but the genre has calmed down by orders of magnitude. Nothing out there today is even close to the 90s. 

        Don’t know if you cared for such a look at hip-hop history, but you have to hand it to LL Cool J. His stellar career may be unmatched by any peer in the genre .

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  2. I agree.

    Although I have met the occasional Latino born and raised in Latin America who uses the term “Latinx.” However, it’s extremely rare and have only seen Latinos in Latin America who are in their 20s and engaged in some type of leftist activism use the term. For example, I used to do a lot of work researching a social movement in Mexico called the Zapatistas. Among the urban Latino crowd in places like Mexico City that support them, you will hear the occasional young person use that term.

    But, like you showed in your statistics, it’s similar down here also — at least in Mexico City. Maybe 1% of the population uses that term and that is being generous. And, like I said, it’s only really among the far left leaning urban activist types who are in their 20s.

    If I had to guess, I’d say maybe that term is slightly more popular in places like Buenos Aires, Argentina or Santiago, Chile or Montevideo, Uruguay. And specifically those cities. Definitely not so much in Posadas, Argentina. And even in those specific cities, I’d imagine you’ve have a rougher time hearing “Latinx” in the less popular neighborhoods like Villa Soldati.

    And even in the nicer neighborhoods of those cities, maybe it’s 1.5% of the population who uses it instead of 1%. And that still feels generous.

    Otherwise, the only places of Latin America where I feel “Latinx” would be slightly, slightly more used by the locals would be maybe more popular Mexican cities close to the border like Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez.

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    1. I believe I have seen it in social media among Peruvians who are not juts left-leaning activists, but specifically gender-specific, left-immersed activists. I would be curious to see Southern Cone data. Because while more progressive, those countries also seem to be proudest of Hispanic heritage and resistant to gringo encroachment.

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  3. Neither I nor my Peruvian born wife ever heard of the term until this article. Why are they ‘Latinos’ anyway? They don’t speak Latin.

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    1. “Latino” is used to include Brazilians and Haitians, who are culturally similar to Hispanics but whose cultures do not derive from Spain. They chose “Latin” because Spanish, Portuguese and French all derive from Vulgar Latin … but that raises another question. Wouldn’t that make all romance language-speakers “Latino?” Obviously “Latin American” would only be Western Hemisphere, but “Latino” should include the French, Italians and Greeks, plus the French- and Portuguese-speaking nations of Africa, no?

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  4. I’m watching a Spanish TV show called Enamorandonos. It’s a Spanish dating show and a lot of the young Latinas and Latinos probably speak English as their first language. And I don’t knock them for not being perfect in Spanish because my Spanish is not perfect either. But it really bugs me when they pause to think and when we would probably say “uhhhhh”, they will say “soooooo”. “So” is not a Spanish word. I really wish these LatinXs would not mix it in with their Spanish. That’s the old guy griping in me.

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    1. I do that! Sometimes even “so uhh…” It’s the English filler word, equivalent of “o sea” and “pues.” Hard to break the habit.

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