What’s all the fuss with the Spanish Ñ?

Saying that the Spanish letter Ñ is like an N with a squiggly on top is like saying the R is a P with a kickstand. Try reading a text in English where all the Rs have been changed to Ps and you’ll know what it feels like when you speak Spanish and have to read from peeps who insist on just writing Ns instead of Ñs.

The Ñ is a letter in itself, that represents an independent phoneme (sound), it’s not a modified N.

Here’s another great example: “Feliz Año Nuevo” literally means, “Happy New Year” (where “Feliz” = happy, “Año” = Year and “Nuevo”=New). If you change that to “Feliz Ano Nuevo” you land in “Happy New Anus” and I really think it’s highly improbable that you ever find yourself in a situation where congratulating a person on acquiring a new asshole would be deemed appropriate.

The EU may think it’s not that big a deal but it is (*). The attempts of certain entities to eliminate such a distinctive character from the Spanish alphabet are, hence, quite frustrating to many of us. It’s no different to Spanish speakers than if we were to propose eliminating the entire Chinese alphabet for the sake of “trading convenience” or “global normalization”. Would anybody ever propose that and have any realistic expectation of success? Of course not.

So back in the day I came up with a fun design to protest against it and proceeded to put it up for sale in an online shop (making NO profit whatsoever for myself, just for fun) so that others could carry the message around in case anybody ever wanted to.

That’s it. Again, I make absolutely ZERO profit out of it.

NOTE: for those of you in the American continent, who take offense with swear words (as opposed to most Europeans who range from those who disregard giving words too much power to those who openly consider cussing a healthy practice of linguistic emphatic finesse),  caution should be exercised as this shirt contains a very common Spanish swearword not considered obscene in Spain in its present context, but pretty strong-sounding in some other Spanish-speaking countries.

That said, you should really consider getting your own Ñ t-shirt. It’s good for your cholesterol.

Buy an ñ t-shirt (zero markup)

(*) The European Union has attempted a few times to eliminate this emblematic letter of the Spanish alphabet in the name of “normalization”.


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7 thoughts on “What’s all the fuss with the Spanish Ñ?

  1. Tony, you make really good points. Most of my sources stem from an ongoing debate on language normalization, still very much alive today (see this recent reddit thread: http://bit.ly/1BG4SuA surrounding the possible lingua franca for the EU — and as a lesson of humility to myself, I note that the most vocal defender of my point of view is actually German :) ). The keyboard normalization debate has also been a long-debated issue which I have echoed in my statements here. But I have to admit that I was not as aware of the media manipulation from the Spanish government (which does not surprise me considering recent history) and should have done my homework better. On further research I have seen, in fact, that the EU is embarked on figuring out the delicate balance between language normalization while still respecting the vast diversity of the European community (see http://bit.ly/1I5Xcpd; http://bit.ly/1MhhK4E and http://bit.ly/1Hd6BLs). Tanks again for your dissidence and insightful commentary.

  2. How I remember it is that Spain had in place a ban on importing keyboards with a layout different from the Spanish one. The EC called them out as an infringement of free movement of goods within the EU principal (why would a Frenchmen not be able to bring in a French layout keyboard into Spain?). The socialist government of the time found the perfect smokescreen for the bribes scandals of the time and other nepotism cases (those evil foreigners are attacking our culture story is always great). It was repeated ad nauseam and it has become some kind of legend. In relation to a supposed normalisation towards English characters, I’ve never heard such a crazy thing. And it is hard to believe that Germans will give up their ß, French, Portuguese and Spanish their Ç, Bulgarians their cyrillic, Greeks their hellenic, Czechs all those consonants with hats, Poles ą, ę ł or Scandinavians their ‘Æ’, ‘Ø’ and Å. My opinion is that it is a non-issue (except for the Spanish) as if their is something characteristic of EU is having all these special little differences. EU’s motto “United in diversity” may have a reason for it.

  3. No, I am not sure about the EU actually trying to pass a bill but we have had the issue, in fact, all over the news and in this case I’ve trusted it. I do know that Germany and other European hegemonists have talked about this repeatedly and in Spain this has, understandably, raised much concern. I have lived through it and even argued with many German friends about the issue of normalization so I am aware of their point of view in the matter and it is as I describe (other Europeans, particularly Mediterraneans and Scandinavians, are more sympathetic to my opinion). The EU may not have de facto tried to pass a bill, I am certainly not going to go digging for documentation on that, if you want to disprove what I say based on lack of paperwork go right ahead. What I am relaying here is based on my personal experience in Spain and abroad. The story has credibility to me because of my personal sources and my knowledge on how culturally condescending the EU mainstream is towards Mediterranean culture.

    Thank you for your comment and for your questioning.

  4. “The European Union has attempted a few times…” are you really sure about that? Could you name a proposed piece of legislation suggesting that? I always thought it was a things that Spanish politicians would repeat to distract the attention from other issues.

  5. Great post, very informative and eloquent.

    I was just in Chile and noted they referred to el castellano and español. I couldn’t figure out if one was more correct in any given context, so I just tossed out whichever felt right. Seemed to work :)

  6. Gracias, Geno, que historia mas interesante/. ¿Están, pues, intentando cambiar el nombre de tu pueblo?

  7. Me pillas buscando y recopilando documentación sobre mi aldea en un desesperado intento de salvarlo de la cantera. Se llama Bueño, en google hay 566.000.000 entradas para bueno. Con ñ 102.000.
    No sé si te vale mi comentario. Besos.

  8. El mito #1 es correcto. No es lo mismo leer una oferta de trabajo que ponga “Se busca secretaria con ingles” que si pone “Se busca secretaria con inglés”. Y es por ello que para aclarar dónde se encuentra el acento se usa la tilde.

    Tampoco es lo mismo leer “Se busca secretaria” que “Se busca secretaría” esta última si tuviera inglés me parecería normal, pero si tuviera ingles… no computo…

    Por poner otro ejemplo: http://romera.blogspot.com/2009/03/descerebrados-pasajeros.html

    Como ya digo la diferencia es… bueno, diferente :D

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