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Jack Smith

He's increasingly lost among the name-game variations for the denizens of the big Ellay

December 24, 1985|Jack Smith

I am not overwhelmed with support for my suggestion that each of us is an Angeleno , not a Los Angeleno, because Los is a plural article and requires a plural noun.

"You continue to beat a dead horse up the wrong tree," writes Richard S. Clark of San Diego, leading off with a spectacular mixed metaphor.

"The predominant quality of Los is that it is Spanish. . . . Although 'of course' a plural article, Los in Spanish does not insist on preceding a plural noun. . . . If English grammar prevails then Los Angelan or Las Vegan suffice. Once the Angeleno or alternative Angelense construction is adopted then one must needs follow El Camino Real, even though the pronunciation be butchered.

" Los Angeleno is perfectly correct, as would be Los Angelense , singular or plural. As part of a proper name the article cannot be omitted.

"Custom dictates San Diegan(s) , La Jollan(s) , San Franciscan(s) , Santa Barbaran(s) . Why should L.A. differ?"

I'm not sure that I follow Clark's argument entirely. As for his last question, Los Angeles is different from San Diego, La Jolla, San Francisco and Santa Barbara in that Los is a plural article, which San , La and Santa are not.

"I accept Los Angeleno ," writes William Phillips of Van Nuys, "else how could I have traveled Los Feliz Boulevard all these years?"

"I think the real or semi-real point is in Los Angeles as a name," writes Richard Kilstofte of Long Beach. "As you pointed out last week sometime, when we were all discussing hors d'oeuvres over breakfast, French isn't English. I'd like to suggest that Spanish isn't English either.

"Los Angeles today is a proper name adopted for use in English and as such Los isn't an article or any other grammatical form, it's simply the first word in a two-word name for our city, or county, in my case.

"All that plural stuff works fine in Spanish but in English Los means line of scrimmage. A friend of mine pointed out some time ago that in Spanish The Biltmore is El the Biltmore. Maybe he got that from your column, now that I think about it."

He might have. I have often enough defended the La Brea tar pits against purists who complain that it means the the tar tar pits , my argument being that La Brea is a place name, and in English doesn't literally mean "the tar."

According to the same rule, as I have pointed out, that wonderful baseball team of yore was simply the Los Angeles Angels , not the the Angels Angels.

By that same logic, Los Angeles does not mean the Angels . It is simply a place name, and the Los does not function as a plural article.

Does that mean I am hoisted by my own petard?

"A faux pas of this magnitude," writes J. Fred Walker of San Diego, "compels me to join the rabble no doubt pounding at your door. Your mail box is surely stuffed with scorn and reproach!

"Neatly said, Los Angelesers are no more the angels than New Yorkers are new to New York."

Walker finds Angeleno too Latin to fit his own image of himself, and he prefers Ellay , the name of one of two cities (the other being Nyawk ), that survive an atomic war in a science fiction book about the future.

"It would seem a good idea to do to Angeleno what San Franciscans did with Frisco . San Franciscans coolly agreed that Frisco was gauche. It soon became known that San Franciscans would not put up with Frisco any more than a dropped h would be tolerated in Covent Garden.

"In future I will answer the query, 'Where are you from?' with a firm, 'I am an Ellayan.' Ellayan has just the off-beat flavor appropriate to its source, in my opinion."

As I noted the other day, John D. Weaver, author of "Los Angeles: The Enormous Village," has argued that historically and properly the word is Angelino , not Angeleno. Alas, I gave the subtitle of his book as "The Enchanted Village." Maybe that was because the city and the book are so enchanting.

Louise Koch points out, by the way, that "the term Angeleno was originally applied to the local Indians by the Spaniards."

That would seem to give some historical weight to my argument, though I didn't have it in mind when I came out for Angeleno .

Meanwhile Norman J. Schuster of Woodland Hills makes a point that I am unable to confirm.

"Has it ever occurred to you," he writes, "that Los Angeles is the only city ever referred to by its initials? You never hear New York called N.Y. or San Francisco S.F. Is our name so long that it forces the L.A. to be used? Or is it that the letter combination is so pleasing and easy to say?"

I don't know whether Schuster is right in saying that L.A. is the only city known by its initials, but at the moment I can't think of another. I have heard Washington called D.C., but of course those are not exactly the city's initials.

If we are indeed unique, it is just another of the many wonderful things about Ellay.

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