"Macho": The singularity of a mock Spanish item
Keywords:Macho, Mock Spanish, Spanish Philology, Mexico, Corpus Linguistics
This paper scrutinizes the path of the semantic extension of the originally neutral Spanish term macho ‘male animal’ to the pejorative ‘animal-like man’. Semantic pejoration belongs to one of the techniques that Hill (1995b) identifies when describing Mock Spanish, a type of racist discourse used by monolingual English speakers when using single Spanish words. Prototypically, the author of the semantic change from a positive or neutral to a negative connotation of a Spanish term is the monolingual speaker of American English. This seems not to be the case with respect to macho. In the same theoretical vein as Mock Spanish, many voices attribute the semantic pejoration of macho to the US-English discourse. The objective of this paper is to identify the origin of this pejoration. Methodologically, this is conducted by means of a lexical search of the oldest pejorated macho items in Spanish, and the semantic content of the first macho borrowings in English. For this purpose, I consulted different sources, like diachronic corpora, etymological dictionaries and specialized references on the macho concept for Spanish as well as English. My analysis leads me to conclude that the semantic shift of macho, at least in its written form, developed in both sides of the Mexican-American border at the beginning of the XX century.
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