Good afternoon

Greetings from San Jose airport. Flight delayed half an hour.

I just had a brilliant time in Santa Cruz, which I’d visited or crossed a few times before but never properly explored. This time I managed to stumble on some of the good things to see. What a town! First I stumbled on the municipal wharf, and walked out on it a little distance and admired the gaudy Seaside Attraction stuff off to one side, and also admired the gaudy Victorian house at the top of a hill off to the other side. I went to check out the Victorian house first – it’s an inn – and that took me to the road that goes along the cliff above the shore for some miles.

I parked immediately and started walking, and in a couple of minutes was rewarded with one of the best Victorian houses I’ve ever seen. It has a name, which is Epworth-by-the-sea. There are other good houses and the view from the cliff. I walked on a bit and found a statue to The Unknown Surfer, which made me nearly fall down laughing. That’s not really its name, but it is a statue to the surfer, and it is of a very stalwart, Steve Canyon type guy standing in front of a surfboard, wearing trunks. It is extremely funny and simply added to the delight of my morning. Then came the lighthouse – an extra lighthouse! thrown in for nothing! – and Lighthouse Field State Park, and the surfing museum inside the lighthouse and a plaque outside (it was long before opening time) that explained about three Hawai’ian princes who brought surfing to the US when they were at school here in the late 19th century. I didn’t know that, and it’s interesting.

Then lots more Cliff Drive until it ended at Natural Bridges State Park – which is rocks with holes carved in them by the surf. Then I went back in the same direction and visited the gaudy amusement park/boardwalk thing, which is fabulously kitschy and colorful and gorgeous. I loved it to bits. Plus there were more gaudy Victorian houses just up the hill from there. Who knew?! Not I. I think of Santa Cruz as modern and hip. I know nothing, nothing.

I started wondering why Santa Cruz is pronounced Santa Cruz, when all the other California Santas I can think of are not pronounced that way. Because Cruz is a monosyllable? That’s my guess, but I don’t know. Funny how Santa Cruz sounds quite nice while Holy Cross sounds horrible.


  1. iainr says

    Is Santa Cruz pronounced differently? As someone who’s never been to California (nor speaks Spanish) I pronounce them all exactly like Santa Claus.

    What am I missing?

  2. Andrew B. says

    I’m pretty sure they’re all pronounced the same. In Spanish, words ending in a vowel are stressed on the penultimate syllable, unless there’s an added written accent. There could be exceptions, but that’s my understanding.

  3. Karen Locke says

    I live in Santa Clara, and we pronounce the “Santa” the same way as Santa Cruz. Maybe it’s a California thing. BTW, did you ever get down to Capitola beach to see the fossil hash in the cliffs and the whalebone fossils on the beach?

  4. M, Supreme Anarch of the Queer Illuminati says

    I miss Santa Cruz. If my career goes the way it’s looking like it finally might, I may well try to find a job that lets me telecommute 3-4 days a week so I can justify living in SCruz County.

    Of course, it’s changed a bit since I was a banana slug. Does Saturn Cafe still have deliberately gender-stereotype-dismissive murals on the doors of its (gender-neutral, thank you very much) restrooms? Are dinghies at the pier still in danger of being infested with sea lions? Is there still awesome falafel downtown?

  5. says

    My favorite place.
    I spent many days at the end of that wharf.
    There’s one spot out towards the end where you used to be able to walk down some steps to a little spot and talk face to face to the sea lions on the pilings.
    Close enough to smell their breath. (Chain link fence)

    It was torn up a while back but I think the steps are open again.
    Since I can’t drive I never get down there anymore.

  6. Francisco Bacopa says

    I never noticed a distinction between “Santa Cruz” and “Santa Claus”, at least in terms of accent. It’s on the first syllable in both cases. Maybe this is the norm in places where Spanish is a fairly common language.

  7. says

    I’ve lived within 100 or so miles of Santa Cruz for sixty years. Whether it’s Santa Cruz, Clara, Rosa, Barbara, Maria, Monica, Ana, Teresa, Anita, Catalina, Clarita, Lucia Nella, Ynez, Fe, Sangre, or even Claus, it’s all the same Santa.

    But however it’s pronounced, that’s a beautiful walk.

  8. says

    Of course, the “a” will sound different depending on whether you are hearing it from a spanish speaker or english speaker, but either should be consistent across all the Santa’s.

  9. Kristen McBride says

    Hi, I get you on the the pronunciation of Santa Cruz. There is a difference, but it is one of emphasis. That is: santa CLARA, santa MONICA, santa YNEZ – these are all pronounced with the emphasis off of the santa and ON the saint’s name.. With SANTA cruz, the emphasis is on the SANTA, as it is in SANTA claus, the mythological character. The emphasis is as in “marathon,” with Santa Cruz.

  10. says

    Exactly; that’s what I meant. The emphasis is on the Santa and then it’s lighter on the Cruz, and it’s not like that with Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, etc – there the emphasis is even. I just suddenly noticed it yesterday and wondered about it. Think of it as a shibboleth type thing – if you didn’t pronounce Santa Cruz that way you would give yourself away as an outsider. I think in Spanish the emphasis would be on the Cruz, but to an Anglophone local that would sound “wrong.”

  11. rowanvt says

    Hunh. I’m in San Jose and most of the people I interact with don’t put stress on either of the words. Of course, most of the people I’m around (work, home, etc) also have begun slurring the words together unless we’re purposefully enunciating. San Jose is more like Sannose. Santa Cruz is Sannacruz. We’ve begun dropping or softening the t.

  12. Brian M says

    Santa Cruz would be my post-lottery town. It’s got the ocean, an electric climate, a “real” downtown, funky bohemianism, miles and miles of well-maintained roads for bicycling, and a fantastic, less-heralded wine culture!


    Of course, it also has the San Andreas Fault. But then….you guys have Tsunamis, so…:)

  13. Gordon Willis says

    With SANTA cruz, the emphasis is on the SANTA, as it is in SANTA claus

    On my side of the pond it’s santa CLAUS, as it is with yellow PAGES and robin HOOD and hide-and-SEEK. I’ve never understood the American stress-patterns of these common names, though I suspect that there is some influence from the way we pronounce noun-compounds (GREENhouse, HOGShead, CATSpaw, which mean something else if you stress the second element) or compound adjectives (OVERland, HIGHland [as well as the HIGHlands], EVERYday). On the other hand, beside places called saint CROSS and holy CROSS, we have HOLYrood (pronounced HOLLYrood) as well as holy ROOD (here in my own home town). ‘Tis a mystery.

  14. Dave W. says

    Hide-and-seek – that’s an interesting one. I don’t think it’s either one with us – it’s both. Hide-n-seek; equal stress on the first and third word, the second barely said at all.

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