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Velázquez with a 'lisp,' and the center of English

After an art-themed concert, some musings about how language changes

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A concert of Spanish music of the Renaissance a few weeks ago has gotten me thinking about whether the "center" of English has changed.

Hmm, I can see how that one needs some connecting of the dots, dear reader. Please bear with me for a moment. I went to hear the aforementioned concert, given by one of our many fine performing ensembles in Boston in connection with a big exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts of paintings by Velázquez and El Greco. (I want to borrow jargon from the news business here and say that the concert was "pegged to" the exhibition.)

As the musicians introduced the pieces they played and talked about the art, I was struck by the pronunciations of "Velázquez" and other Spanish names. Oh, yes, more of a "lisp" sound (forgive me, but sort of "Velathketh") than in the sibilant New World Spanish that is more familiar on this side of the Atlantic. Folklore has it that one of the Habsburg kings actually spoke with a lisp, and that others at the court, and later, across Spain, picked up this pronunciation.

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