Canadian location names easy to mispronounce
There is no dearth of misspelled and misattributed place names in Canada so it is unseemly to feel smug about foreign ones.
We really needn’t concern ourselves much about the proper spelling of obscure countries in Europe like Kugel Mugel.
The British Columbia name mistake and mishap that I like best — in fact, I get a kick out of it — is the Strait of Juan de Fuca that divides B.C. from Washington State. There was no Juan de Fuca. There was, however, a Greek knockaround mariner named Apostolos Valerianos who was in a waterfront tavern in Genoa one evening when he noted the appearance of Michael Lok, a well known English financial backer of voyages and a former seaman himself. The old sailor introducing himself as Juan de Fuca, bragged of his many voyages throughout the world and told Lok he had twice been to the north Pacific and seen what was surely the entrance to the Northwest Passage, which at the time was the holy grail of exploration. A waterway that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
He had taken on the fake moniker because the Spanish were known for backing expeditions where as such was not the case with the Greeks.
Lok was so impressed he put up the money for a new expedition with Juan de Fuca as its leader. Scholars doubt that Valerianos had ever commanded any vessel other than a dinghy.
Regardless, the old Greek led the ships along the Pacific Coast and there just where he’d claimed was a huge expanse of water that all aboard agreed could handle ocean going vessels. It was the mouth of the Columbia River. Valerianos reported to Lok that he had been successful and had officially found the Northwest Passage. It was not, of course.
Curiously, it is not the Columbia River separating the states of Oregon and Washington that is named for this tale-spinner but the waterway separating Canada and the United States.
Another explorer not as fortunate as Juan de Fuca was Jose Cordero. There is a channel named for him a few nautical miles north of the Strait of Juan de Fuca: the Cordero Channel. He was an expedition artist on voyage led by Captains Galiano and Malaspina.
A couple of centuries later the city fathers of Vancouver were not as attentive and named a street for him in the city’s west end: Cardero.
In the Interior of British Columbia is Quesnel. No one from anywhere else says it correctly. It is not Keeznell or quez – nel but Quenn-nell.
A town I like in Saskatchewan is Bienfait. No, it really is pronounced Bean-fate.
In the next province east is The Pas, Manitoba. It is not Le Pah as many have it. The correct way to say it is The Pah.
Closer to home is the little city of Nippissing. There should be a sign at the city limits warning that the name is not to be spoken as Ni PISSING but Nip pih sing.
Not too far from our town which was not, as so many have claimed, named for Edith Piaf’s neibourhood in Paris, France, is Ompah where that guitar still hangs over the sidewalk in front of the general store. Its etymology does not derive from those German bands that play corny music with tubas taking on the bass.
Evidently Ompah is an Algonquin word meaning portage. The portage referred to is the one between Palmerston and the Mississippi (no, not that Mississippi).
Closer still is Kaladar which most everyone has pronounced wrongly, including me. Those who don’t call it KAL a dar say Kah Later. Officially it’s Kale adur.
It gets ever more interesting as one travels east through Gower and on to Antigonish.
In the meantime, see you in Etobycoke.