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I am writing from Ybor City - Tampa, Florida's National Historic Landmark District. We have a main street which was awarded one of the 10 BEST Streets in America. It is 7th. Avenue. One man, Frank Trebin Lastra wrote one book - "Ybor City - The Making of a Landmark Town" in which he refers to our famous 7th. Avenue as "La Sétima" and has asked City Council and the Mayor to erect sign up and down the street with that spelling. When we tpye in "La Sétima" on your site - it says "no es palabra". We the citizens and Tampa Natives want the signs replaced with the correct spelling of "La Séptima".

There is a group of old-timers and one Spanish City Council person that states that both words are spelled correctly and are acceptable by RAE. I would like an official ruling as we go back to City Council on 6/28/12. Please clarify for me if both of the spellings are acceptable and correct or advise which is the current preferred spelling. Thank you so much for your time and trouble.

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Welcome to Spanish.SE! Please, read our FAQ to understand how this site works. Signatures in questions and answers are not allowed, but you can add your personal information to your profile :) –  JoulSauron Jun 7 '12 at 20:49
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related answer (the 3rd point of the answer speaks about séptimo/sétimo): spanish.stackexchange.com/a/2018/105 –  Javi Jun 7 '12 at 21:22
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5 Answers 5

Both are correct, as a native Spanish speaker I can tell that I rarely see "sétima" written, but I think for such a picturesque place, this name makes it even more charming.

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Correct, but a little antiquated.

The same goes for September: Septiembre - Setiembre.

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From personal experience, having been born in Tampa to a Cuban born mother, "La Setima" would be compared to how most people pronounce "Jewelry" as Jewlery. Although I find most people pronounce it Jewlery, I would never think it proper to spell it that way in a city's street sigs. I grew up mispronouncing many spanish words since English is my first language. This doesn't mean that spelling something phonetically makes it correct.

However, since I find that many people born in Tampa to parents born in Italy, Cuba or Spain speak a certain slang that is only found in Tampa, I think they should leave the sign as it is and who cares what the tourist think! It's our home, not theirs.

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Welcome to the site and thanks for asking here. A quick search shows this issue has made it into the press! I'll preface my answer by saying I'm not a native Spanish speaker, and I'm only speaking from what I've learned rather than from personal experience.

First, addressing the question of the opinion of the Real Academia Española (RAE), the official institution that regulates the Spanish language. The entry for sétimo (or sétima, the feminine version of sétimo) is:

  1. adj. séptimo. U. t. c. s.

In other words, sétima is a valid entry in the RAE dictionary as an adjective (also used as a noun) that means séptimo (or seventh). The entry for séptimo contains the actual definition:

  1. adj. Que sigue inmediatamente en orden al o a lo sexto.

So both séptima and sétima are valid in the eyes of the RAE, but séptima is the preferred spelling. The RAE publishes the Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas (DPD), which contains more details:

séptimo -ma. ‘Que va después del sexto’. Existe también la variante sétimo, reflejo en la escritura de la relajación de la p en la articulación de esta voz (→ p, 5); pero en el uso culto se prefiere decididamente la forma etimológica séptimo. Todas las palabras de su misma familia (séptuplo, septisílabo, septuagenario, septuagésimo y septingentésimo) conservan siempre la -p-, tanto en la pronunciación como en la escritura.

The link in that definition references the following paragraph:

  1. La pronunciación de la p se relaja considerablemente en el grupo pt situado en interior de palabra, pero solo es corriente su pérdida en séptimo y septiembre, que se pronuncian a menudo en el habla espontánea, al menos en España, [sétimo] y [setiémbre]; por ello se admiten también las grafías sétimo y setiembre, aunque en el uso culto se siguen prefiriendo decididamente las grafías con -pt-. En todos los demás casos (abrupto, aceptar, concepto, corrupto, Egipto, óptimo, etc.), la reducción de -pt- a -t- debe evitarse tanto en la grafía como en la pronunciación. Son excepción los participios de los verbos pertenecientes a la familia de escribir, que por influencia de escrito (forma usual hoy frente a la anticuada escripto), se escriben preferiblemente sin -p-: adscrito, descrito, inscrito, suscrito, transcrito, etc.; no obstante, en algunas zonas de América, especialmente en la Argentina y el Uruguay, son de uso normal las formas con -pt-.

To summarize in English, sétimo is a variant of séptimo that results from the relaxation of the p sound. The p is relaxed considerably in spoken language in the middle of words containing the consonant cluster pt, but only in séptimo and septiembre is it common enough that the versions without the p are permitted by the RAE in writing. However, in educated or cultured writing, the version with -pt- is preferred.

In the eyes of the RAE, either version is permitted. The decision will have to be made whether to choose the preferred spelling or decide that the cultural history of the city and the dialect of Spanish spoken there make the alternate spelling a better choice.

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I could not believe it when I saw it but, apparently it is correct as this Spanish City Council person stated. Here is the RAE entry.

I was born and raised in a Spanish speaking country and had never heard this way of saying "7th" but then again, Spanish is such a rich and old language that it would be foolish, to say the least, on my part to pretend to say I know my language fully and perfectly.

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<Overly chatty and potentially offensive comments removed> Please keep any comments relevant to the answer, and avoid potentially disparaging comments about social classes, educational status, etc. –  Flimzy Jun 8 '12 at 20:43
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