Foreign Words, Naturalized Words, and Diacritics

The editors of the New Handbook have cast a large net for naturalized words by choosing as an authority the latest (and perhaps last) "unabridged" dictionary, Webster's Third New International (1961). Though that decision means that some unusual words, such as alferez and ejido, are treated as naturalized, it also greatly reduces the use of italics. The naturalization process seems to have accelerated in recent years, as speakers of foreign languages move in increasing numbers to English-speaking nations and as the globe shrinks through electronic communication.

In accord with standard practice, foreign words that are parts of proper names are not italicized unless they are being discussed as words. The editors have generally capitalized foreign adjectives derived from proper nouns (Tejano, for instance), regardless of foreign editorial practice. In general, the editors have employed English in article titles, though exceptions occur when they are warranted. La Mujer Moderna, for instance, being a newspaper title, could hardly have been translated.

When a word occurs in a Spanish-language context, it is written with its native diacritics. The word Béxar in San Fernando de Béxar is an example. When such a word has become a standard Texas place name written without diacritics, however, and when it occurs in the absence of a Spanish-language context, it is written without accent: Bexar County. Some words lose their diacritics through morphological alteration. Querétero, for instance, is occasionally made into an English adjective, Quereteran, which, because it is not a Spanish form, has no accent. Others lose their accents during the same process in the Spanish language: México and Mexicano, for instance. Contrary to general Spanish or French editorial practice, in the interest of informing readers how to pronounce such foreign names as Âlvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the editors have printed accents on capital letters.