Friday, July 07, 2006

A mixed bag

I’ve had a lot of thoughts about what to write here, but none of them have really congealed into anything that I felt like expanding into a whole post. So, I decided to just put down a few things that may or may not be of interest to the outside world. (Judging by the number of comments to this blog so far, I suspect there are only a select few of us who find this blog even remotely interesting!)

Anyway, here’s the mixed bag du jour:

Malformed Spanish place names:

I always find it interesting that many Spanish place names around the Bay Area and California in general are ill-formed, often ungrammatical, indicating perhaps that there was no consultation with a native Spanish speaker before they were named. Perhaps one of the most famous of these is the restaurant/fruit stand called Casa de Fruta near Hollister. Now, in Spanish, a definite article (in this case la) is required after the preposition de, of, in order to indicate that “fruit” can be bought here. As named, the real translation is “house built of fruit,” which probably isn’t what they had in mind and doesn’t make much sense. I always enjoyed another sign I often passed in Monterey over the door of a veterinary hospital: Casa de Amigos. Now, I’m sure they had no ill intent in naming this veterinary clinic, but, again, this should be Casa de Los Amigos indicating that it’s a house where friends congregate. As named, it really means “house made out of friends (body parts?),” not quite the impression they wanted to convey, I’m sure!

Ohlone Abalone

According to Merriam Webster, the word “abalone” originally comes into English from Spanish abulón, which was originally borrowed from the Rumsen Ohlone awlon. So, here’s a Rumsen sentence using the word:

Ačista exxe root awlonakay.
Monterey-LOC much be abalone-PL
There is much abalone in Monterey.

I’m not sure what the actual Rumsen name for Monterey, Ačis, means. (I wish I did!)

If you’re unsure what abalone is, here’s the Merriam Webster Online definition:

any of a genus (Haliotis) of edible rock-clinging gastropod mollusks that have a flattened shell slightly spiral in form, lined with mother-of-pearl, and with a row of apertures along its outer edge

A hui hou!


Nick said...

As long as we're talking about mangled Spanish place names, how about ones that are just plain mispronounced by the locals (but outsiders might actually pronounce in a more-correct-for-spanish way!)

Los Gatos /las gæɾəs/

Los Olivos /las əlivəs/

Goleta /gəliɾə/

Aptos /æptas/ (but I went to Aptos Middle School, in SF, and we said /æptos/!

Dave said...

Good point, Nick! Like the pronunciation of Paso Robles as Rob-els instead of Rob-les. And how about in Hawai'i where the pronunciation of native names really gets botched. I have yet to understand how anyone could possibly get WAH-hee-wa out of Wahiawa (va-hee-a-VAH), which is how a native Hawaiian speaker from Ni'ihau said it should really be pronounced--which of course sounds much more like the Hawaiian spelling!

Anonymous said...

How about "Des moines"? or "La Fayette", which is usually pronounced more like "la fillette" :)

I guess that has to be expected, like any borrowings. You should hear how city names like Rawdon are pronounced in Quebec (/ʁɒ'dœn/)

That reminds me the first time I took a math course given in English. I had a question that involved π, which I pronounced /pi/. The teacher couldn't understand what I was saying and asked me to repeat several times. He finally got it: "Oh! you mean /pʰaɪ/!"

-Sorry, I replied, I don't know how to speak Greek in English!

Anonymous said...

I was just at the Santa Clara Mission and it occurred to me that maybe there is a connection between the word Ohlone and abalone. My understanding is that Ohlone is a word they used to describe themselves. From:

'Spanish explorers called the first Bay Area residents Costanoans, or coastal people. Today they are called Ohlone, which means 'abalone people' or 'western people.' "

This site does not reference any sources. Any thoughts?