April 11, 2011

Velazquez or Velázquez?

My last post ended with a treatment of the plural of Velazquez and found the recommended plural is "Velazquez."1 But do we, writing good English, include the necessary acute accent mark over the "a" in the name? There's no definitive answer in the bookshelf of English usage guides. There are endless good-writer examples of "Velazquez" and of "Velázquez." It's not clear that there is a rule, and I would say that use of the accent mark over the "a" is more common in more recent publications. This may be because of a growing awareness among English-speakers of proper Spanish, or that it is easier to write "á" in Microsoft Word than on an old typewriter.

I am reminded of the old rule that, when special characters are not available one's keyboard, one writes "Vela'zquez" whenever one is minded to write "Velázquez."

Just be consistent!

1. A footnote to my remark that I don't take exception to "Velazquezes" in English usage. I am of course not alone: "Velazquezes" is used extremely often to refer to families named Velazquez, and even metonymically for more than one painting.  E.g., "Titians, Rembrandts and Velázquezes,"Intl. Herald Tribune, Oct. 20, 2009, p. 12; "dozens of Goyas and Velazquezes and Zurbarans and El Grecos and Riberas and Dalis and Picassos," N.Y. Times, March 23, 2007, p. E1). And note that the company which publishes both the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times varies in its treatment of that "a."  (Note that there's internal consistency in the Times quote; in Spanish, it's "Zurbaráns.")

On the other hand, a search of J-STOR and Academic Search Premier revealed almost no academic use of "Velazquezes" (I could not determine how often "Velazquez" is used as a plural, but the answer may be never).

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