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Mount Orégano
Sue Burke
Pure Spanglish: Canoe 
15th-Mar-2008 06:31 pm
Let me see..

A brief lesson in real-life Spanish (as spoken in Spain, I should specify). When words travel from one language to another, they don't always arrive safely.

Many of Spain's Olympic athletes in swimming train at Madrid's Real Canoe Club de Natación -- the Royal Canoë Swimming Club. Note that canoe is pronounced ca-NO-ay. The word's not what you thought, or is it?

Though the club now enjoys financial success, it started off 76 years ago as a group of friends who swam in the mountain lakes and rivers near Madrid, and soon they realized that they needed a lifeguard boat. One of them heard about a good deal on a second-hand boat from Canada, a maneuverable little craft called a piragua in Spanish.

The boat arrived with a curious word stenciled on its side, CANOE, whatever that meant, but they decided that if they named their club after it, then the club name would already be on their boat. Of course, they used the Spanish phonics pronunciation.

Real Canoe also runs a bingo hall to help pay for its projects. Every time I see the sign for "Bingo Canoe" I giggle. And I think about the way that words sometimes wash up on strange shores, shipwrecked from their original meaning.

By the way, the club's main office is on Flying Fish Street. I don't know if that's a coincidence.


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