Bilingual basketball

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In tonight's playoff game with the San Antonio Spurs, the Phoenix Suns will wear jerseys reading "Los Suns", in protest of Arizona's recently-enacted immigration-enforcement law.

The team didn't need to have new uniforms made up for the occasion — they just unpacked the jerseys that they've been using since 2007 for the NBA's Noche Latina.



35 Comments

  1. Stephen Jones said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 11:33 am

    Shouldn't it be "Los Soles'?

    [(myl) You usually don't translate the names of sports teams. So English-language articles about Real Madrid don't call it "Royal Madrid" or whatever. And apparently in the same way, Spanish-speaking basketball fans talk about "los Spurs", not "las Espuelas" or whatever. ]

  2. SM said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 11:39 am

    I thought the same thing when I heard this piece on NPR this morning. Probably a trademark thing or afraid of (additional?) criticism.

  3. Ellen said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 11:52 am

    See the link… it makes reference to why the team names aren't translated.

  4. Mark F said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

    I think whether you translate the sports teams has to do with how often you are exposed to their names in the original language and in a form you can understand. Japanese baseball team names are generally translated.

  5. Marta said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 12:35 pm

    @ Stephen Jones:

    My Mutts have had Los Mets jerseys for a few years now. (They cost a small fortune.) And of course, there's losmets.com…

  6. Nathan said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

    Maybe should have mentioned that it's no coincidence that today is Cinco de Mayo.

  7. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

    Major League Baseball offers versions of its website in Spanish, Japanese, and–just for the last few years–Chinese and Korean. It's interesting to compare what happens to the names of the teams.

    With Spanish, it's mixed bag. Many names are officially unchanged (e.g. "los Mets", "los Yankees", "los Dodgers") but several undergo slight modifications (e.g. "los Bravos", "los Nacionales", and–my hometown team–"los Cardenales"). Only a few are fully translated, notably "los Medias Rojas" and "los Medias Blancas". I can't speak for Red Sox fans, but around here I generally hear Spanish-speakers refer to the South Side team as "los Sox".

    For Chinese, however, translation is the name of the game and transliterations are essentially nonexistent (with the possible exception of the New York 洋基; even the Phillies are 费城人 or "Fee City People"). It's the opposite with Japanese and Korean, where all names are fully transcribed down to the plural terminations. This is the typical pattern for loanwords in these languages, but not for names. (If you look at the list of teams in Chinese, for instance, you'll notice that the names of the cities–with the lone exception of "Old Gold Mountain"–all appear in transcription.)

  8. Rubrick said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

    D. Brighoff: This is fascinating. You should expand on this in a guest post.

  9. Peter Taylor said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

    I'm not sure "los Medias Rojas / Blancas" can count as fully translated when the gender doesn't agree. Most curious.

  10. TB said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

    Mark F, I don't know about other baseball teams but the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants are both English names, just transliterated.

  11. alfanje said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

    @Peter Taylor. I find "los Medias Rojas" fully translated and grammatically correct. We say things such as "los cabezas rapadas" (the skinheads) . I suppose the idea is "los [hombres con] + femenine object"

    I remember I first heard "los medias rojas de Boston" watching "Cheers" in Spain around 1990. Don't know what the Spanish speakers living there say. As a Spanish speaker living in an English-speaking country I say many things that I don't bother to translate. Not that I consider them the Spanish way to tell them, I would translate them somehow if I talked to somebody in Spain instead of talking to somebody with my same background.

  12. pau said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

    TB and Mark F, all twelve Japanese professional baseball teams use English nicknames, transliterated into katakana.

  13. Bob Ladd said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

    There are lots of analogues to the apparent gender mismatch of los Medias Rojas, a well known example being le Reine Elizabeth, a Montreal hotel. (Le because it's a hotel.)

  14. Los Suns « Senza Sord said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    [...] that read "Los Suns" to protest Arizona's recently passed immigration bill. Language Log explains that the names of teams aren't usually translated, hence "Los Suns" [...]

  15. Dean said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

    Ah. Los Medias Rojas. It used to bring me such a smile to run Spanish language baseball articles through babelfish and get back news about 'the Red Averages'.

  16. q said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

    "(If you look at the list of teams in Chinese, for instance, you'll notice that the names of the cities–with the lone exception of "Old Gold Mountain"–all appear in transcription.)"

    No doubt you're aware of this, but for those who are not, "Old Gold Mountain" refers to San Francisco and is one of those very rare examples of a Western place name that's been given a non-transliterated Chinese name.

    (I've always assumed the name was used as a marketing trick to get Chinese laborers to emigrate to California.)

  17. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

    @Bob The same applies to boat, who are usually referred to in the masculine ("bateau" and most ship types are masculine, but not that Colombus' ships are not: "caravelle" is feminine), the reverse of English. A good example is "Le Normandie".

    I believe traditionally ships where referred by the gender (In France official documents demand so according to Grevisse), but that's definitely gone out of fashion for general use.

  18. KCinDC said,

    May 5, 2010 @ 11:59 pm

    Bob Ladd, I think another is Negra Modelo, where I assume negra matches cerveza.

  19. Alon Lischinsky said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 3:26 am

    @Peter Taylor, @Bob Ladd: the usual practice in Spanish is to have the determiner agree with the gender of the (usually elided) common noun. "El Reina Elizabeth" can only be analysed as an elliptical form of "el (hotel) Reina Elizabeth", since proper nouns never attach the definite article in Standard Spanish.

    My standard example for this was "(un|el) piel roja", but fortunately that particular racial slur is less usual these days.

  20. Ken Brown said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 6:32 am

    A lot of European football teams use more or less untranslated English words in their names, inherited from when Brits took organised team games round the world. "Sport" and "Sporting" and "Club" (a modern English coinage) and "Athletic" in the English rather than the local spelling (a Greek word originally of course) and "Football" itself

    The extreme case is AC Milan who use the English spelling of their home city's name.

  21. Stephen Jones said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 7:51 am

    And we have FC Barcelona, where the FC stands for Football Club not Club de Futbol.

    The reason is that Barcelona was formed by British expats, which is why the other team is called El Español.

  22. Philip said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

    Names of baseball teams are commonly translated into Spanish: The Chicago Cubs are los cachorros de Chicago; the LA, 'scuse me, Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles, are los angeles; and there are piratas and tigres, too.

    I dunno about the Arizona Diamondbacks because I don't follow them. Culebras? Cascabeles?

  23. Norman said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    Finally the Rock has come back to Arizona! I hope to God that the Phoenix Suns did that on purpose. It's about time an organization as influential as a NBA basketball team stepped up against their government's tyranny. Just look at what's going on in that state: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2010/04/30/preliminary-thoughts-on-the-arizona-immigration-law/

  24. MikeyC said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

    But here in Spain, we hear of "Los Rollings", U-Dos, Los Beatles, and more.

  25. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    "You usually don't translate the names of sports teams. So English-language articles about Real Madrid don't call it "Royal Madrid" or whatever"

    Usually not, but you do sometimes. See, for example, "Bayern/1860 Munich". Another quirk in that instance is that in Germany the former team is usually known as "FC Bayern" without mentioning the town at all. See also "Cologne", although you do often see that left as "FC Köln" in the British press, and "Olympic Marseille".

  26. mollymooly said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

    In Bernese soccer, the English team name and German stadium name combine in the immortal headline Young Boys Wankdorf erection relief

    @q: "I've always assumed the name was used as a marketing trick to get Chinese laborers to emigrate to California."
    Similarly the Irish name for Newfoundland: Talamh an Éisc, "Land of the Fish"; though the fish held out longer than the gold.

  27. Mary Kuhner said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

    Another puzzlement is that my local team is Sounders FC, but the organizers are careful never to spell out the abbreviation, because the game is called soccer here (football is something entirely different).

    Trying to play up the European-ness of the sport?

  28. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    May 6, 2010 @ 8:53 pm

    MikeyC, you reminded me of how, back in the day, my sister's boyfriend's family hosted an exchange student from Spain. He was very into ['lɔs̺ ra'mones̺] and [lɔs̺ flɛʃ'tones̺].

  29. pep said,

    May 7, 2010 @ 2:40 am

    "A lot of European football teams use more or less untranslated English words in their names, inherited from when Brits took organised team games round the world. "Sport" and "Sporting" and "Club" (a modern English coinage) and "Athletic""
    My favourite one: "Racing"de Santander.
    Football teams´names have become fossiliced. I know many anti-monarchic basque leftists who support "REAL Sociedad" and catalan independentist who will shout at the top of their lungs "Espanyol!, Espanyol!"

  30. Stephen Jones said,

    May 7, 2010 @ 9:23 am

    catalan independentist who will shout at the top of their lungs "Espanyol!, Espanyol!"

    The latter would very much surprise me. Espanyol was always considered the team of the xarnegos.

  31. Michael W said,

    May 8, 2010 @ 1:12 am

    So is Anaheim's team known as "Los Angeles de Los Angeles"?
    I think Spanish translations of team names is the norm in MLB – I've seen Los Marineros, Los Gigantes, and Los Atléticos.

    "Gold Mountain" used to refer to places where gold was found on the western coast of N. America – California originally, but also British Columbia.

  32. Ellen K. said,

    May 8, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

    The official website has them in Spanish as Los Angels. Los Angels de Los Angeles de Anaheim. (Or, alternatively, Los Angels de Los Angeles-Anaheim.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/es/index.jsp?c_id=ana

    I seems to me a lot of the MLB team names are pretty transparent translated into Spanish.

  33. Big Sneezy said,

    May 11, 2010 @ 12:53 am

    Anyone familiar with the Club Atlético River Plate, the club soccer team in Argentina? Via Wikipedia, a founder of the team was inspired by foreign sailors who played pickup soccer near crates marked "River Plate", an English translation of the local Spanish-language name for the "Río de la Plata".

  34. Big Sneezy said,

    May 11, 2010 @ 12:56 am

    And, by the way, it's an odd translation. Or perhaps just an outdated one. "Plata" would usually be translated as "Silver" rather than "Plate". I imagine a misspelling of "Plata" might be to blame rather than an unusual or (now) archaic translation.

  35. Big Sneezy said,

    May 11, 2010 @ 1:12 am

    Ahh…I got it. It's a translation into a British English proper noun: "The River Plate"

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