Casa Grande is a small-ish town in southern Arizona, roughly midway between Phoenix and Tucson. We spent a few weeks there, enjoying pleasant January weather, and getting caught up on work and a few nagging projects.
And we discovered some surprising and unusual things about Casa Grande. Like how to pronounce its name. If you are at all familiar with Spanish you’ll probably recognize the phrase “casa grande” and know that it means “big house.” And you will most likely pronounce it CAH-sah GRAHN-day. That’s how we pronounced it when we saw Casa Grande on a map and decided to go there.
Lots of folks in Casa Grande call the place CAH-sah GRAHN-day.
And lots of different folks say it CASS-uh GRAND.
Apparently, people who pronounce it one way or the other are pretty passionate about their choice. So much so that the New York Times wrote about the issue a few years back. The author mentions two rival Facebook groups. Neither seems to still exist today. I hope nobody got hurt in the struggle.
One of those Facebook groups was run by a local divorce attorney, somebody who should know a lot about disagreements and conflicts. She strongly advocated for the less-Spanish pronounciation, saying “Americans have a knack for taking foreign words and making them their own.”
So far, we’ve managed to stay out of the drama. We’re still staying away from other people as much as we can. And if we needed to talk about Casa Grande, we would usually say something innocuous like “We’re going into town.”
After more than a year on the road, Val and I still consider our home base to be our little patch of bare dirt up in Northern Nevada. You might not know that nevada is also a Spanish word. It means “snowy” or “snow-covered.” That’s why those big mountains between Nevada and California are the Sierra Nevada. Sierra is Spanish for “mountains.”
We, and just about any other Nevadan we’ve ever encountered, pronounce our home state Ne-VAD-uh. When we hear someone say Ne-VAH-duh, we know they are from somewhere else.
Most of us know that the correct pronounciation of the Spanish word is much closer to Ne-VAH-duh. But it still sounds worse to us than fingernails on a chalkboard. I just realized that people a lot younger than me may never have actually heard the sound of fingernails being scraped across a chalkboard. And now I realize that some of them might not even have seen a chalkboard. Yes, I know, we geezers can be tremendously annoying.
There is a one-word way to describe the feelings we get when we hear the tremendously annoying sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. It’s “grima.” And it’s Spanish.
I wonder if a native Spanish speaker feels grima when they hear me say Nevada. Or somebody from Casa Grande call it CASS-uh GRAND.