All-American City: Pahrump, Nevada!

Pahrump, Nevada is an exceedingly patriotic place: last week its town board made English its official language and, by a 3-to-2 vote, tossed aside Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to free expression to make it illegal to fly a foreign flag in town limits. To beef up their patriotic cred, I expect Pahrump--located 50 miles west of Las Vegas and 60 miles east of Death Valley--will be following suit by making a few updates to their website--and municipality's name--to reflect their motherland-loving attitude.

First off, "Pahrump" itself is a native American word. The town, originally a Shoshone settlement, takes its moniker from that tribe's word for "water rock"--Pah-Rimpi--which refers to the area's abundant artisan wells. While not foreign, it suggests a culture other than the mainstream, European-descended colonists of this land. Might want to revise that.

Second, let's go to Pahrump's official "image gallery." The photo of a cowboy wielding a lariat (above) has got to go: "lasso" derives from the Spanish word for "snare"; "lariat" is from the Spanish for "rope." (The bucking bronco riders and rodeo cowboys are also in engaging in activities named by Spaniards and still used by the Latin Americans residents who share their language.)

The Pahrump Police Department had better stop using taxpayer funds to purchase and train foreign-named German Shepherds, a breed perfected by a Berlin-based veterinarian, Capt. Max von Stephanitz.

This image of a guy barbecuing? Nix it. Barbecue comes from the Spanish word barbacoa, and is thought to go back to the West Indian Arawak people and their "method of erecting a frame of wooden sticks over a fire in order to dry meat."

And this fellow had better stop wearing the Shriner's fez, a hat named after a Moroccan town; it was once part of the Turkish army's uniform before Mustafah Kemal banned it. Worn by some Muslim men, the fez "was chosen [as the Shriner symbol] as part of the Shrine's Arabic (Near East) theme." Pahrump's Shriner's might want to switch to paper hats constructed from... USA Today.

Pahrump's toga-wearing Greeks should, by town board decree, be directed to wear made-in-America dungarees, and the darling Pahrumpian below should remove her ten-gallon hat--if that's indeed what it is--because the term's got "foreign" written all over it:

Ten-gallon hat" is the result of a linguistic mix-up. "Galón" is the Spanish word for "braid." Some vaqueros wore as many as ten braided hatbands on their sombreros, and those were called "ten galón hats." English speakers heard gallon. Real cowboy hats came to Texas from the Spanish via Mexico (unless you want to go all the way back to Genghis Khan and the Mongolian horsemen, who apparently wore something similar).

If you'd like to make these sensible suggestions to the Pahrump town board, you can find their contact info here. (Board Chairman Richard Billman and member Laurayne Murray voted in opposition to the English-only decree.)

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