Commercial Analysis

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Political Correctness’ Corrosive Effect Upon Everything It Touches

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While this version is the original, unedited version of the commercial, and it did air for a time, the one currently being shown on television has the Orbitz employee pronouncing the couple’s last name differently. Is his pronouncing it incorrectly supposed to be making fun of something about Hispanic-American culture, is it making fun of something about non-Hispanic, European-American culture, or is it something entirely different?

On the one hand, his butchering it’s pronunciation points to the fact that there is an ambiguity, in both the English and the Spanish languages, in dealing with names that end with S and Z respectively. In English, a proper noun normatively refers to one person, place, or thing. If a speaker wishes to refer to a plurality of identically-named proper nouns, or to identify possession by a proper noun(s) of something else, the rule is to ad an S. Wilson becomes Wilsons or Wilson’s, Brown becomes Browns and Brown’s, and so on. In Spanish, the normative reference and the rule are exactly the same: Garcia becomes Garcias or Garcia’s, Santiago becomes Santiagos or Santiago’s, and so on.

Nevertheless, in both languages, there are proper nouns which themselves end in S or Z. The rule here creates an exception in spelling and an ambiguity in pronunciation. In English, instead of attaching an additional S, nothing is added when dealing with a plurality of identically-named proper nouns, and only an apostrophe is added when identifying possession. Williams becomes Williams or Williams’, Jones becomes Jones or Jones’, and so on. The rule for the pronunciation is that if the word is more than one syllable, the additional syllable isn’t pronounced. Thus Williams still sounds like “Williams”, whereas Jones sounds like “Joneses.” Similarly, in Spanish, where there is a name that ends with Z, all of the same rules apply. Gonzalez becomes Gonzalez and Gonzalez’, and is pronounced “Gonzalez”, while Cruz becomes Cruz and Cruz’, and is pronounced “Cruzes.”

So why imply – by having the speaker ad not only the appropriate additional “es”, but a second, inappropriate “es” – that either Hispanic names are unnecessarily difficult to pronounce because they follow illogical rules, or that non-Hispanic European-Americans are self-absorbed and lazy when it comes to learning the perfectly reasonable nuances of different cultures? Because Orbitz wasn’t trying to imply either. The actual intent was just to ad a bit of quick-witted, subliminal comedic value to the commercial. To “pack as much in as possible”, so to speak, by poking fun at something unimportant (just as they are doing when they poke fun at the inability of valet workers to operate hovercrafts).

There isn’t anything wrong with that – the same joke could have been made had the couple had an Anglicized surname (“Williamseses”) – so why was it edited out? As has been shown here, with just a bit of thought given to the matter, it becomes clear that the butt of the joke was not Hispanic culture, or even non-Hispanic European-American culture, but a silly linguistic ambiguity that both culture’s predominant languages share. Political correctness – the pathological need to suppress any and all even perceived expressions of racial or ethnic thinking – suppresses the ability to engage in that thought. Evidently Orbitz either anticipated, or was made aware of, unnecessary controversy from this well-intentioned, innocent attempt at humor. They were not even willing to risk keeping it up, and should any controversy erupt, hide behind the weak-kneed, apologetic explanation that what they were actually trying to do was poke fun at the widely-alleged egocentrism of non-Hispanic European-Americans. At first glance that is a very convincing explanation, but that would be seen as reactionary and insincere by politically correct witch hunters. Of course, for it to be seen as insincere implies that the seers are at least somewhat aware that there is another, non-racial target of the joke, and that Orbitz in their hypothetical “explanation”, and not them in their immediate reaction, are the ones incapable of thinking outside of racial terms. But because of collectivism’s (in this case tribalism’s) extremely strong grasp on American culture, it becomes virtually impossible for such a person to put aside knee-jerk emotional outrage and to bring that vague awareness into full awareness. Orbitz is aware of this, and instead of taking it on, evidently they decided it all wasn’t worth it to retain their sincere enjoyment of playing with the curiosities of language, and decided to edit their commercial.

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Written by commercialanalysis

February 22, 2010 at 11:58 pm

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