OK, growing up in California, where there are towns, rivers, mountains, etc. with Spanish names, you learn to at least speak an Americanized version of Spanish, just to be able to get around, i.e. “Do you know the way to San Hoe-Zay?
So, this afternoon, I was about to drive from my office in Midtown Atlanta to my writing class in Decatur – a distance of a mere 6.2 miles away. But the radio traffic report mentioned an accident on the route I usually take. Stopped at a red light, I rolled down the window and asked the driver next to me if he knew an alternate route.
“Excuse me. Is there another way to get to Briarcliff Road from here without taking Ponce De Leon? I pronounced that last street “Ponce-De-Lee-Own,” although I ran the syllables together somewhat, California style.
The other driver gave me a puzzled look, and he seemed to understand. “Oh,” he said in a Georgian drawl, “you mean Ponce Dee Lee-On.” He proceeded to give me some pretty good directions.
I remember when I first moved to Georgia, my friend Emily warned me that natives don’t really get the Spanish pronunciations very well, but I had never actually heard Ponce Dee Lee-On before. But I think they may be self-conscious about it because, now that I think of it, the avenue in question is universally referred to as simply “Ponce.”