Thursday, January 26, 2006

Saint of unknown origin

Tomorrow I leave Las Vegas for a weekend stay in San Diego. I was hoping to offer the playoff-deprived Chargers some inspirational words before the NFL offseason, but my attempts were thwarted. So I'm seeing Michael York in a one-man show. And the ocean.

About a month ago I was explaining to my parents how many Western U.S. city names are Spanish variations of Catholic saints. St. Francis becomes San Francisco, St. Rose becomes Santa Rosa, St. Anthony becomes San Antonio, St. Joseph becomes San Jose, and so on. But I was stuck on San Diego.

The requisite Google search was at first inconclusive. Diego has no obvious counterpart. David was suggested, but more evidence connects it to Jacob or James. Then I came across this biography:


San Diego was born and raised in the village of San Nicolás del Puerto in the province of Seville. His parents were devotees of Santiago, St. James the Greater, the son of Zebedee, and they named their son after this saint, giving him the popular variant, Diego.

A footnote is attached. It says (emphasis mine, all mine):

See Etta Florence Adair, " 'San Diego' Means 'St. Didacus,' Not 'St. James,' Research Reveals," San Diego Union, November 15, 1942. Cf. "Nomen accepit Jacobi, Hispania sacrum propter sancti Jacobi Apostoli sui Tutelaris reverentiam; quod vulgo Diego, Latine Didacum invertunt." Luca Waddingo, ed., Annales Minorum seu Ordinem A. S. Francisco Institutorum (Florence: Ad Claras Aquas, 1932), XI, p. 158. In other words, San-Tiago first gave Diago and Diego and from the Spanish, in reverse etymology, Didacus was created for the Latin records.

Well, that was obscure. Next time I'll be sure to fly somewhere like Baltimore, which we all know was named for Geena Davis' spy character in The Long Kiss Goodnight.

2 comments:

maisnon said...

I love The Long Kiss Goodnight. It has great "throwaway" dialogue:

Samuel L. Jackson: What? You want me to stick the gun in my pants so I can blow my damn dick off?

Geena Davis: Oh, so now you're a sharpshooter?

Craig Kaye said...

Everyone knows "Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale's vagina."