Contributions to the Language
NEW MEXICO has contributed generously to the idiomatic
speech of the United States. The vernacular of the State took
form and color from English, Spanish, French, and the Amer-
ican Indian tongues. It has not only broadened the everyday speech of
New Mexico but has enriched the American language with many words
of universal appeal. These various language influences were effective
during the colonization by Spanish Conquistadores and the influxes of
French and Anglo-American trappers, traders, trail blazers, and pioneers
who absorbed the Spanish idiom and added their own to the region.
Later, the cattle empire made its special contributions.
Since New Mexico was a province of Spain and Mexico for more
than 200 years, Spanish words such as cañón, lariat, stampede, and
barbecue naturally found their way, with but slight changes, into the
English vernacular. Many of the Spanish or Anglicized words of
Spanish origin which are listed as belonging to the New Mexico idiom
may be in general use elsewhere. But the first contact between Anglo-
Americans and Spanish-speaking population occurred in New Mexico
and also at a date earlier than in the surrounding States. Some words
now in common usage in the Southwest date back to the era when New
Mexico was the home of various Indian tribes. Among these words,
still preserved in something like their original form, are chimajá, punche
or puncho, tegua or tewas and tombé.
Many other Indian words found in the regional idiom have come
into English through a form of Mexican-Spanish that derives mainly
from the original Aztec or Náhuatl. Examples of these are chicle, chili,
chocolate, coyote, jacal (hacal), mescal, metate, mesquite, sotol, tamale,
tapadero, tequila, tomate and zacatón.
French fur trappers, as early as 1733, and continuing through Santa
Fe Trail days, left their mark in such words as "cache," "fawche,"
"sashay," "travee," furnishing another artery of Ungual exchange be-
tween east and west.
The Anglo-American trappers, traders, and pioneers liberally sea-
soned New Mexico's speech, dating this period with "all set," "big
talk," and "blaze away." Many of the words in this linguistic heritage
are now intrenched in our national vernacular. They recall the trail
and its life and frequently stem from Anglicized variants of the Spanish.