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https://www.duolingo.com/mitchness

California Cities - translated

mitchness
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When I learn the translation of a California city from Spanish I get a sense of "Well, isn't that interesting." More so than if it was just the word itself.

Sometimes, it's obvious and I'm surprised I hadn't noticed it before - Sacramento -> Sacrament

Sometimes, it allows me to never forget it. Mariposa -> Butterfly.

Sometimes, it makes me wonder what the history of the city is. Soledad -> Solitude.

Here's a list:

  • Modesto - Modest
  • Sacramento - Sacrament
  • Soledad - Solitude
  • Merced - Mercy
  • Manteca - Lard
  • Ventura - Fortune
  • Brea - Tar
  • Cerritos - Little hill
  • Chico - Boy
  • Chino - curly (hair) - Not Chinese
  • Corona - Crown
  • Novato - Rookie
  • Tiburon - Shark
  • Mariposa - butterfly
  • Vacaville - Cow city
  • Placerville - Not Pleasure City, unfortunately. Placer means - gravel deposits containing gold.
  • Salinas - Salt marsh
  • Paso Robles - Oak pass
  • Fresno - Ash tree
  • Carpinteria - Carpentry - Spanish saw natives building a canoe.
  • Madera - Wood / Lumber
  • Corte Madera - Cut wood - Supplied redwood to growing SF.
  • Mission Viejo - Old mission
  • Bodega Bay - Cellar Bay
  • Chula Vista - Beautiful View
  • Costa Mesa - Mesa Coast
  • Palo Alto - Tall stick - Named after a 1,000 year-old tree that is still there.
  • Morro Bay - Snout Bay - Morro is a common term for a rock formation.
  • Big Sur - Big South
  • Arroyo Grande - Large Gultch
  • Los Angeles - The Angels
  • Los Banos - The baths - From a spring that fed wetlands.
  • Los Gatos - The Cats - Originally, a lot of mountain lions and bobcats in the area.
  • Los Palos - The sticks
  • Los Olivos - The olives - Nearby ranch had a lot of olive trees.
  • Los Osos - The bears
  • El Portal - The gateway - At the entrance to Yosemite Valley.
  • El Segundo - The second - It was the second Standard Oil refinery on the West Coast.
  • San Luis Obispo - Saint Louis the Bishop
  • San Juan Bautista - Saint John the Baptist
  • San Clemente - Saint Clement / Gracious / Merciful
  • Santa Cruz - Holy Cross

And a list of Counties:

  • Alameda - Tree-lined Avenue - Name decided by vote.
  • Calaveras - Skulls - Spanish found a lot of native skulls along the river.
  • Contra Costa - Opposite coast (It's across SF)
  • Del Norte - northern
  • Nevada - Snow covered
  • Plumas - Feathers
  • Sierra - Mountain range
3 years ago

17 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/superdaisy

We definitely played the "wait what?" game on our last drive to California.

Psst, I suspect "Los Banos" might actually mean "the baths," as in bathing or swimming: http://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=bano Looks like Wikipedia agrees, though you're welcome to find their tourism or local history site.

And Los Angeles is "the angels" rather than "angles". I suspect these all had more lyrical origins than the super-literal translations... For example, mesa does literally mean table, but it's also a geological formation. Saying that "La Mesa" translates to "the table" is like saying Puget Sound translates to "The noise that Puget makes," or the Bay of Bengal is the brown horse of Bengal.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/J.R.Nogal
J.R.Nogal
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Soledad is after Nuestra Señora de la Soledad , Our Lady of Solitude (or Our Lady of Sorrows) , a name given by the Catholic Church to St. Mary. In Soledad, California there was the Mission de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SchlectSchwank

Great collection!

Viva California!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/cathgrl
cathgrl
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The city of Ventura is the Anglo version of the official city name San Buenaventura - Saint Bonaventure. The mission is in Ventura. http://articles.latimes.com/1990-02-22/news/ve-1368_1_san-buenaventura

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Talca
Talca
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The noun la ventura does mean luck, but I am sure you are correct about the name deriving from the saint.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Elgatobandido
Elgatobandido
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I thought Merced meant mercy.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/beadspitter

Well...it makes sense, considering that what we now call California used to be Mexico.

Thank you for posting these, though. You're right, some of them are really intriguing.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Creacher5
Creacher5Plus
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Does anyone know what Zzyzx means?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/libbkatt
libbkatt
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Curtis Howe Springer made it up because he wanted to have the last word. As in the last word in the English language.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KevanSF
KevanSF
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  • 1274

Well, what about California itself? Doesn't it mean Hot Oven?

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/libbkatt
libbkatt
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California is from a legend of an Arabic queen (calipha is the fem form of caliph) who ruled a country where women warriors fought with weapons of gold. It was a legend in Spain at the time, like El Dorado.

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Talca
Talca
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Genial...

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/libbkatt
libbkatt
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Las Sergas de Esplandián by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, if you want to track down a copy. But since its over five hundred years old I imagine it would be very different from modern Spanish. And it's the fifth book in the Amadis de Gaula series.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/yimantuwingyai
yimantuwingyai
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I never knew morro meant snout. I thought it was someone's name. That would be a really unfortunate name, though!

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/sebastosiano

Some words are wrong...

Merced is reward and Alameda are a group of alamo trees

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/libbkatt
libbkatt
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Los Angeles is short for Puebla de la Reina de Los Angeles - City of the Queen of the Angels

3 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Talca
Talca
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Someone needs to do this for the cities in Florida!

2 years ago