‘Latinx’ Isn’t Popular With Latinos
On behalf of all Hispanic Americans, I say no más to this politically correct linguistic monstrosity.
By Charlotte Allen
Dec. 19, 2021 4:00 pm ET
PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO
My mother was born Maria del Rio in Lima, Peru, which makes me at least as Latina as Rachel Zegler, the half-Colombian, half-Polish star of Steven Spielberg’s woke remake of “West Side Story.” And I want to say this on behalf of nearly every Hispanic American: Can you please stop calling us “Latinx”?
I can’t even figure out how “Latinx” is supposed to be pronounced. Does it rhyme with “sphinx” (how it looks on the printed page) or “Kleenex”? Sen. Elizabeth Warren says “Latin-ex,” as if referring to a Cuban man she once dumped. A word with a consonant followed by an x makes no sense in Spanish.
Actual Latinos shun the word “Latinx.” According to a November 2021 poll by Bendixen & Amandi International, only 2% of Americans of Latin descent refer to themselves that way. Some 68% prefer “Hispanic” to “Latino” and “Latina.” And 40% are offended by “Latinx,” which means it’s a mistake for a politician to use the word, at least around Latino constituents.
But woke journalists love “Latinx.” It’s everywhere, even in Cook’s Country magazine, which recently promised to feature more “Latinx” recipes. As you’ve undoubtedly guessed, the word originated in academia. During the mid-2000s, professors were casting about for a gender-neutral substitute for the clunky “Latina/o” and preposterous “Latin@” that they were already using. Someone suggested “Latinx,” and it caught on in journals with names like Feministas Unidas and Cultural Dynamics. Soon articles were appearing in the mainstream press with titles like this one from the Washington Post: “A Latinx New Yorker feels at home in a Latinx Community Searching for its identity in London.”
It may be politically incorrect, but hispanophones generally like gender. In 2019 I interviewed Richard Rodriguez, an award-winning Mexican-American essayist. “I am not an X!” he said. “[A] woman would say: Well, the sun in Spanish is ‘el [sol],’ and the moon in Spanish is ‘la—la luna.’ And I’d say that’s nice. Because you can look at the moon at night and you won’t be blinded, but the sun is both nourishing but also blinding. It’s a wonderful whimsy of the Spanish language that the world has gender to it . . . that we could give nature that kind of personality.”
Latin, the linguistic ancestor of Spanish, Portuguese, French and other Romance languages, has a separate neuter gender. But as graffiti on the walls of Pompeii indicate, ancient Romans found having three different genders confusing, so the neuter mostly disappeared. Left behind was the masculine-feminine binary structure that characterizes today’s Romance languages. It’s not surprising that many Hispanics view the word “Latinx” as a colonialist effort by ignorant gringos to impose their own ideological fixations on the rest of the world.
Hispanics also don’t think of themselves as members of a single, undifferentiated “Latinx” mass of “people of color.” Their lands of origin are quite distinct, with different art, music, dance and local customs reflecting their different indigenous and immigrant populations. And what could be less appetizing than generic “Latinx” food? Good cooking is distinctively Mexican, Guatemalan, Cuban, Argentine or Peruvian.
Besides, if you absolutely insist on gender-neutrality, what’s wrong with “Latin”?
Ms. Allen is author of “The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus.”