Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

The forgotten history of Angelenos' lost ñ

I linked earlier to a post on the KCET website by author D.J. Waldie on the disappearance of the Spanish consonant ñ, pronounced "enye," from the word that we in Los Angeles use to describe ourselves, and from our regional identity altogether.

But the post is so nice, I want to share more of it here, starting with what Waldie writes about the now commonly used term "Angeleno:"

There's another word, original and more correct. The word for us is Angeleño (with a tildé over the n). The sound of ñ is roughly approximated by the "ny" in canyon. In telling the Spanish alphabet, the letter ñ is pronounced "enye."

Even after the Americanization of Los Angeles (and until the early 1860s), nearly all residents of the city - Anglo and Latino both - spoke Spanish. Presumably (if it ever came up in conversation), they called themselves Angeleños, because that's the usual form of the noun.

The ñ disappeared as more eastern and midwestern migrants began to appear here in the latter half of the 19th century, and it found itself a cast-off among the letters used by typesetters.

"Ñs disappeared; a sound disappeared from our common speech," Waldie writes. "We lost a little of our music along with our memory."

It's a wonderful glimpse, through a simple letter, of a piece of L.A.'s forgotten cultural past.