Cana­dian lo­ca­tion names easy to mis­pro­nounce

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - OPINION - JIM CHRISTY

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.

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