Hola, Paco. Donde esta la biblioteca?

Español. Such a lovely language. I’ve heard it spoken properly by a host of profesors y profesoras, although I’ve never managed to speak it properly myself. Never mind that I did three years of listening labs in high school, four semesters of conversation in college and have lived in southern California since high school. I can turn a phrase or dos, but my most frequently practiced phrase is “Repita mas despacio, por favor” (“Repeat please, more slowly”) and I only exist in the present tense.
My ongoing Español indulgence is to translate bits of the world around me. Now and then I will parade the fact that I know Las Pulgas means “the fleas” and mosquito means “little fly.” I would brag a bit that I have translated Escondido as “hidden place” and El Cajon as “the drawer.” Encinitas are little oak trees and we all know El Pollo Loco.
Just when I start thinking I am actually on top of things, linguistically speaking, something comes along to stump me. It’s usually some odd street name of which I am always suspect. My theory is that the developers had a long lunch to name all their new streets and had too many cervezas. It was either that or some big investor held out for the name of his winning racehorse or his wife’s AKC dog.
The prize-winner, however, is Agua Hedionda lagoon. The name rolls nicely off the tongue, with such a lyrical sound. I just found out it means “stinky water.” Boy, does that change its image in a heartbeat. Ironically, San Elijo lagoon, probably named for some sainted padre, is the one going stagnant. Nature tends to make mock of the human penchant for identification of landmarks.
Anytime I get too tense about it all, I just order up my favorite Spanish word of them all — “Margarita.” Salud!


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