Duck for cover spit­ting in Span­ish

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

Pro­nun­ci­a­tion is a tricky old thing and we can eas­ily be de­ceived. It is The Mal­dives, to rhyme with eaves, for ex­am­ple, and not The Mal­dives, as in hives, which could seem more log­i­cal with coral and clown­fish in your sights. Hirosh-ima is one er­ror that gets per­pet­u­ated, per­haps thanks to the Amer­i­cans, who make it their busi­ness to in­ter­fere with lin­guis­tics. Stayed in a rye-o-karn, by any chance?

Ja­panese is a clear and pho­netic lan­guage and it is Hi-ro-shi-ma and ry-o-kan. Sim­ple, re­ally. As for em­pha­sis and elon­ga­tion, been to Mel-bawn lately or glimpsed the cathe­dral of Noter-dame in Paris? Nonethe­less, it amuses me how I can go to great lengths to learn the cor­rect way to say var­i­ous names in places I am vis­it­ing and then ei­ther for­get en­tirely when I am back on home turf or be­come em­bar­rassed and revert to the ob­vi­ous. Plonk me in Span­ish-speak­ing coun­tries and my tongue and palate per­form small gym­nas­tic mir­a­cles chang­ing the “s” to “the” and spit­ting madly. But some­how when you are back at base camp in Syd­ney’s Surry Hills and you or­der “tap­ath” at the lo­cal bodega you sound not like a riv­et­ing global ad­ven­turer who knows Bar-the-lona back­wards but a plain old ponce.

I lived in Hawaii for a while and there was lit­tle I couldn’t do with the likes of King Kame­hameha or Kalakaua Av­enue. How about Hanakanaea Bay or Wa­iana­panapa State Park? Aloha, on my way. Once home, I was in­stantly flum­moxed and re­verted to con­fused stam­mer­ing when telling friends about my is­land trav­els. Er­rors can be per­pet­u­ated in names, too, such as our propen­sity to say Hi­malayas, not Hi­malaya, when the lat­ter is ac­tu­ally right and, by the way, it is Him-ar-lay-a. Then in the next breath we may well cor­rect some­one’s use of Kim­ber­leys to the Kim­ber­ley, and feel su­pe­rior in do­ing so.

Be­fore vis­it­ing Mumbai some years ago I de­cided I would hone up on all the new names, even the streets. I prac­tised say­ing Ch­ha­tra­p­ati Shivaji Marg and Jam­nadas Mehta Road over and over, only to find the road­ways were still widely known as Apollo Pier and Harkness. One per­son I asked for di­rec­tions told me the new names were just for the map-mak­ers and pen-push­ers.

Fun­nily, even us­ing the name Mumbai made me feel like a goose as all around it was (and is) still widely known as Bom­bay. Ditto for the leap to Chen­nai from Madras and shades of Ho Chi Minh City and old but not gone Saigon. Some­times, such stick­ing to the orig­i­nal names is about food, such as Bom­bay duck, Madras curry and Pek­ing duck. Not that Bom­bay duck is ac­tu­ally a feath­ered pad­dler, but a fish

Sa­fari hands talk of Zim, Zam and Bots (Zim­babwe, Zam­bia and Botswana) and while that is very clubby and nice when you’re on a game-view­ing drive, it marks you as a right prat any­where else. Brisve­gas? That is OK if you live there, ap­par­ently, but out­siders should be­ware of get­ting too cosy with the pe­jo­ra­tive term. And in a stroke of fishy mar­ket­ing busi­ness, the Gold Coast be­came the GC when some of us weren’t look­ing. It pays to stay alert at all times, I reckon, and be pre­pared to be out for a duck.

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