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One Nation Under English? Pizza Marketing Gimmick Causes Discord

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Pizza PatronLanguage furnishes the best proof that a law accepted by a community is a thing that is tolerated, and not a rule to which all freely consent. – Ferdinand De Saussure, Swiss Linguist.

A free pizza campaign crafted by a Dallas-based retail and delivery chain has turned into a divisive linguistic uproar. Pizza Patron came up with what seemed to be a brilliant idea: free pizza to all customers. The catch? The order has to be made in Spanish between the hours of 5 pm to 8 pm on June 5th -one month after Cinco de Mayo.

The “Pizza Por Favor” campaign was supposed to be an affable and enticing proposition, even for non-Spanish speakers. For those who don’t habla, Pizza Patron offered an easy workaround: show up at one of their retail locations and the staff will kindly assist customers with the phrase they must speak in order to take advantage of the special offer. Free pizza and a brief Spanish lesson may sound like a great deal and a show of good faith, but in some ways the campaign backfired -and it has not yet begun.

The campaign turned into controversy as soon as it was announced. The first incendiary barbs against it were left on Pizza Patron’s Facebook Timeline by passionate English-only proponents in the United States. The company has been called racist and insensitive to American traditions, and the pizza chain’s website was also targeted by hackers. According to a CBS affiliate in Dallas, the president of the company did not expect such a reaction, and was forced to issue a statement of clarification:

All of our campaigns and promotions are extended to all people, regardless of ethnicity, language, or political persuasion, to join us in enjoying a slice of the Latino lifestyle.

In 2007, Pizza Patron caused a similar outrage when it announced that its stores will accept Mexican pesos along with U.S. dollars.

Legal Status of English in the United States and other Countries

The “Pizza Por Favor” campaign follows a certain theme. Pizza Patron is a Hispanic-owned business, and in some ways it reflects the entrepreneurial success of the Latino community in the U.S. The Southwestern-style pizza being promoted is in line with Tex-Mex cuisine. The flyer for the campaign is even spelled “Picza Por Favor”, which is the phonetic pronunciation for the word “pizza” spoken by many Spanish speakers in Costa Rica and other parts of the world.

Despite having no official language, many people in the United States feel that English should be part of the law of the land. To be clear, some states of the union have constitutional provisions that make English the official language. Florida is one such state, despite the fact that a great portion of its population consists of Spanish-speaking households.

English is the dominant language in North America. English is widely spoken -as a second language- in many northern Mexico communities. In Canada, English and French enjoy official status as stated in her Constitution. Many people in the United States believe that the Constitution should be amended to give English official status because it was the language of the Founding Fathers. Those who oppose such amendment believe that the lack of an official language is a clear example of the constitutional commitment to freedom and diversity.

Article 76 of the Constitution of Costa Rica clearly states that Spanish is the official language, although English is spoken by approximately 10 percent of the population (expatriates and locals), mostly in the Central Valley and the Caribbean region. English is also a driving factor of the labor economy in Costa Rica.

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