Skip to content

Review: Hispanicisms in Romance Fiction: An Annotated Glossary, by María-Isabel González-Cruz

As its title suggests, most of María-Isabel González-Cruz’s Hispanicisms in Romance Fiction: An Annotated Glossary takes the form of a detailed dictionary-like inventory of Spanish words found in corpus of romance novels written in English. This glossary is preceded by a short introduction which makes a strong case for the study of hispanicisms in general and in the literature from the Canary Islands in particular, by giving some historical facts on the contribution of Spanish to the enrichment of the English vocabulary as well as theoretical insights on language contact, its impact and meaning.

As a matter of fact, English has long been borrowing words from Spanish, first primarily from European Spanish and nowadays from American Spanish, which is not surprising when taking into account the growing number of Spanish-speaking people living in the United States. Similarly, the Canary Islands share a long history with Great Britain and Ireland mostly because of commerce, tourism and religion.

Building on previous works that study the rich literature on the Canary Islands generated by English-speaking foreigners (including tourist guides, fictional works and diaries), this book intends to provide a systematic account of Spanish words, phrases and sentences used in a sample of 36 category romances set in the Canary Island and published by Mills and Boon between 1955 and 2004. These hispanicisms and canarianisms were manually encoded and divided into two main classes: those which are registered in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Online and those which are not. Although she does not mention them in each entry of the glossary, the author proposes to classify the hispanicisms into 18 semantic categories ranging from interjections, clothes, set phrases to terms of endearment or referring to landscape, while canarianisms are mainly restricted to culture, food, nature and farming. In addition, since some of these non-English words often have an English equivalent, the author argues that their main function is not merely to bring about local colour and a sense of authenticity but mostly to positively acknowledge the locals’ bilingual culture and identity.

Boasting a total of 331 entries, the glossary itself gives various linguistic information on each item:

  • the English spelling of the word, phrase and sentence if it appears in the OED;
  • its Spanish spelling if it differs from the English and for entries not in the OED;
  • its grammatical category and gender;
  • its typology (canarianism or not);
  • whether it is a variation of the preceding entry;
  • its definition (taken from the OED or derived from another source);
  • examples from its usage in the corpus;
  • note on its etymology;
  • its frequency in the OED and/or in the corpus.

While the author rightly notes that some of these dictionary’s entries such as “banana” or “chocolate” will not register as foreign words for most readers, it is however worth pointing out that more than half of the compiled hispanicisms (180) are not included in the OED. In this respect, this annotated glossary is an invaluable resource both for romance readers and language lovers as it provides interesting facts about everyday words while highlighting the crucial role that romance novels play in disseminating languages and cultures throughout the world.