Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chupacabra vs. chupacabras: to S or not to S?

In 2017, my picture book The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra will come out. The book has already crept into my bio and therefore people who introduce me before my talks sometimes mention it.

Because the chupacabra is a creature (some say myth) first and now most commonly reported in Central and South America, the farther south in the Americas you go, the more familiar people are with the term. (It’s funny to see a New Jerseyan struggle with the pronunciation.)

From Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature (1999) by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark:

The single most notable cryptozoological phenomenon of the past decade is undoubtedly the Chupacabras (“Goatsucker”) of Hispanic America. The legend of this livestock-slaughtering monster was born in small villages in Puerto Rico in 1995 and quickly spread to Mexico and Hispanic communities in the United States, on its way to becoming a worldwide sensation like no unexplained creature since the Bigfoot of the late 1950s and 1960s. …the Chupacabras is the first monster…that the Internet can call its own.

Like many figures that become legends, the chupacabra has gone through changes over the years while remaining, at its core, the same. One is the spelling. As you can see above, it was referred to as the chupacabras, Spanish for “goatsucker.”

Along the way, particularly among English-speakers, the “s” has gone MIA.

As Coleman explained on the creature’s 10-year anniversary in 2005, he is not kosher with that:

I am unhappy with this evolution of a good and decent word, and it current misuse. My own use of “Chupacabras” was warped into “Chupacabra!” I would never say “Chupacabra.” …“Chupacabras” evolving into the incorrectly spelled “Chupacabra” seems to be pure laziness on the part of the media. I noticed after the “Adventures Beyond” people incorrectly entitled their movie Chupacabra, then things began to change for the worse.

I interviewed my Hispanic cryptozoologist friend Scott Corrales, and here’s what he says about this whole issue:

The “chupacabra” usage really gets my goat—pun much intended! To say “chupacabra” is to imply that the entity is “the sucker of a single goat.” Chupacabras is “the sucker of goats,” which was meant by the original nomenclature. Perhaps English speakers feel that a false plural is being formed and they resort to “s” removal. Fortunately the singular/plural issue is resolved—in Spanish—by a definite article placed in front of the noun (el, la, los, las, lo): [a] single chupacabras: “El Chupacabras,” a troupe of the things: “Los Chupacabras.” If female: “La Chupacabras.” A cluster of females: “Las Chupacabras.”

[Also,] I recently discovered that the word “chupacabras” was used in 1960, in an episode of the TV western Bonanza. The word “chupacabras” was said by a Mexican…about a creature that sucked the milk from goats, hence it being one of the “goatsuckers” and…related to [the birds] whippoorwills.

Zoologically, night jars and whippoorwills are members of the Caprimulgiformes (goatsuckers) and thus are called “Chupacabras” in Spanish. It seems a natural extension of this usage that a cryptozoological creature, a new cryptid sucking the blood from goats, would also be called a Chupacabras.

…I think this business about Chupacabras “exploding” onto the Hispanic-Anglo scene in 1995, from the bipedal blood-sucker incidents of that year in Puerto Rico, needs to be revisited and further researched. Scott Corrales is well aware of Chupacabras reports back into the 1970s...

But one thing that does NOT need to be revisited is the use of the word “Chupacabras,” for it is correct with the “s.”

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