A pair of relatively new gender-neutral terms describe members of the Latin community. But should you go with Latine or Latinx?
In English, members of the Latin community used to be labeled as Latin. But in Spanish, a language that uses many gender-specific words, even for inanimate objects, the equivalent was Latino or Latina. The version ending with the O is the masculine word while the feminine ends with the A. Latinx emerged as a gender-neutral equivalent, but I learned recently there are concerns about it. A newer version, Latine, often styled as Latiné, is emerging.
So should you use Latine or Latinx?
Newsrooms around the country rely on The Associated Press Stylebook to set standards for writing. Over the past few years, its editors have added terms to sections on inclusive language. The latest version of the stylebook has a section on Latino, Latina and Latinx. It points out that Latino is “often the preferred noun or adjective for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America.
It notes that some prefer the gender-neutral term Latinx. But it instructs writers that it should be “confined to quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it.” A short explanation of the term’s preference should also accompany its use and provides this example:
Hernandez prefers the gender-neutral term Latinx.
While it says the term Hispanic is also generally acceptable, it recommends a more specific identification when possible. Rather than simply referring to someone with one of the Latin forms or the word Hispanic, it suggests using a country-specific descriptor like Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian or Mexican American.
Presumably, if their place of origin is important, the specific place might just be important as well rather than a general description. Someone from the United States, likewise, should be described as being from the United States rather than being from “North America.”
Latine grows over Latinx concerns
Latinx, as the story goes, was coined for those who don’t consider themselves “Latino” or “Latina.” It also avoids the problem of using “Latino,” the masculine pronoun, when referring to a group of men and women.
But I saw an infographic recently on LinkedIn that claimed that only 23% of Latin Americans are familiar with Latinx. Only 3%, however, actually use it.
One argument for the alternate Latiné is that it’s easier to pronounce. While in the U.S., we pronounce Latinx as “LAT-in-ex,” in Spanish, the letter X is pronounced “EH-kees.”
Another argument against Latinx is that the X is sometimes equivalent to “John Doe” or “a non-entity,” and there’s is a feeling among Spanish speakers that Latinx references “a nobody.” I’ve never heard that criticism before, but then I wouldn’t know if people in that demographic actually do feel that way since I’m not in that demographic myself.
Latiné follows an existing pattern for gender-neutral nouns in Spanish. The infographic gives the example of estudianté, which is Spanish for “student.” But with the ending É, it doesn’t imply a male or female student.
But then the infographic makes a claim I find questionable.
Latiné, it says, is considered “a more inclusive, gender-neutral term” for Latin Americans, regardless of their age, status, education level or country of origin. I’m not sure how they arrive at that. What age, status, education level or country of origin does Latinx imply that Latiné doesn’t…and vice versa?
That criticism almost feels as if they felt they needed one more point and that was the best they could come up with.
Still, even if I eliminate that last complaint, the rest of the concerns do make a good point overall.
So should we use Latine?
It really comes down to your style guide. AP Style doesn’t appear to have addressed Latine or Latiné in a formal post, yet. Having dealt with AP Style for decades, I feel fairly confident that I know what they would say about it, though.
I imagine their guidance on the new term would be the same as the guidance on Latinx: Use it only in direct quotes, or in names of people or organizations that request it…then add a line explaining their preference for the term.
Since both terms are relatively new, it’s worth the extra line to explain what either means. It’s especially important to add that the use of the term follows the request of those it describes.