2008 is election year both in the States and in Spain, with the Spanish getting an 8 month head start on their potential change in leader. It’s not surprising, then, that the debates have started and the political ads are becoming a regular fixture on TV.
Today I saw a new commercial for the incumbent Socialist party leader, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The spot shows a laid-back Zapatero (sans tie) laughing at some of the puppet parodies of him that are so popular on Spanish TV. In this case the fodder for the satirists is his conspicuous use of the Castilian “lisp” - also commonly referred to as “la zeta,” it is the pronunciation of C’s and Z’s as a “th” sound that is characteristic of mainland Spain, and the further , softer “lisping” of the D’s in central Spain (like Zapatero’s native Valladolid). Conveniently some of the big buzz words in modern Spanish politics end with “-dad” (more or less the equivalent of those ending in “-ity” in English). Pronounce them the right way and you’ve got a series of words ending in “z.” Seguridad, identidad, humilidad, modernidad – they all provide the perfect opportunity for a patent zeta pronunciation. Pretty ingenious if you ask me. In one minute you get to casually word-drop all the big issues and you even manage to associate them back to the letter “Z.” And what does Zapatero start with?