Immigration Debate

David Deutsch emails:

Did you see this piece in National Review Online that makes mention of Cathy Seipp?
This Krikorian guy has enraged me.  Is this really an issue?  Isn’t it normally a matter of basic manners that you pronounce people’s names the way they want it?  Does this have to be made an issue of the culture wars?  And his reasoning is simply ignorant.  There is no "proper" American way to pronounce these names.  "ie" is not pronounced like "french fries" in all English words.  In words of French origin (like "Piedmont" or "siege") it’s pronounced the way the Germans pronounce it.  As for Cathy’s last name, I presume she was less interested in making a cultural statement than in simply pronouncing it, again, the German way.  Not the American way, the German way.  Speaking of which, I suppose by Krikorian’s standards, I’m not properly assimilated, because "Deutsch" isn’t pronounced like "Feud" or "eunuch" (don’t say a thing, I had to find comparison words).  Can you imagine, the way I disrespect American by refusing to pronounce my name the American way?
But how can there be an "American" way of pronouncing names of foreign origin, and virtually all names are of foreign origin? (and look at that–the "ei" in foreign is pronounced differently than "Seipp."  Or in "reign" or "feign" or "deign"–Cathy must have hated America.).  Now, Krikorian might argue that "Sotomayor" is different because there is no comparable sound in English.  But what about a Jew with a name like "Chaim?"  That’s a twofer.  That guy must really hate our culture.

Ultimately, it really is just manners.  I’ve never insisted that somebody’s name be pronounced the way I think it should be pronounced, and never conceded a mispronunciation of my name.  But if this is the kind of argument that the NR is reduced to, I think Sotomayor should have no trouble being approved.

I realized on my way to work today that the final punchline to the Sotomayor business is, of course, that as a Puerto Rican, there’s nothing to which she can assimilate–she was born a US citizen in the US, her parents were born US citizens in US Territory, and her grandparents may not have been born US citizens in US territory, but according to US law, they were made US citizens in US territory.  To what extent is a Puerto Rican "obligated"–if anyone is–to assimilate to America, seeing as how they’ve been American citizens for nearly a hundred years, and US subjects for even longer?  


About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in David Deutsch, Immigration and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.