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So the two paths, from Latin to French to English on the one hand, and from Latin to Spanish on the other, explain the wide difference in the evolved names “Diego” and “James.”

Of course, plenty of people argue, as you do, that “Diego” is the Spanish form of the Latin “Didacus” (which means “instructed”; think “didactic”). But the best explanation I can find is that although the church did indeed associate “Didacus” with the name “Diego,” it did so retroactively, to give “Diego” a bit more gravitas. (“Ya’akov” was a wordplay on the Hebrew word for “heel” that came to mean “may he protect,” according to Gerald Erichsen, a Spanish-language specialist, because in the Book of Genesis, Ya’akov was holding the heel of his twin brother Esau when the two were born. You can imagine medieval church dignitaries preferring the idea of an “instructed” one for Saint Diego over a name that basically meant “heel.” Saint Heel doesn’t have quite the same vibes.)

So I still say we live in the town of Saint James, and I bet Sebastián Vizcaíno, when he put up a tent here, held a Mass, and then changed the name of the bay from San Miguel to San Diego, on November 12, 1602, would have thought “Gemmes,” “Jacques,” or “James” before he thought “Didacus.”

Trustworthy And True

As the proud new president of the board of Save Our Heritage Organisation, it is exciting to see SOHO featured on the cover of the latest Reader as the subject of Bill Manson’s article “Who’s Looking Out for These Ladies?” (September 30). Despite the somewhat skeptical tone at the beginning, I was glad to see all of the author’s concerns and potential criticisms of SOHO adequately put to rest by the end with his conclusion that SOHO is in fact as strong, diligent, and effective an advocate for historic preservation as ever before — contrary to what a small but loudly outspoken number of ill-informed detractors might say.

Also, thanks to Mr. Manson for having closed the book on the persistent Casa de Bandini vs. Cosmopolitan Hotel controversy once and for all by allowing SOHO’s executive director Bruce Coons to explain for the record why it was appropriate to restore the building to its earlier 1870s period. However, had Mr. Manson only mentioned that Bruce is a recognized expert in the Mexican Period, an owner of the 1837 Alvarado adobe, and a collector of museum-quality artifacts and archival materials from this period, it would have been much quicker and easier to dispel any myths about him being a culturally biased “Anglophile.”

Overall, Mr. Manson did an excellent job of illustrating the invaluable and often singular role that SOHO plays in protecting the unique, diverse, and irreplaceable historic buildings and sites throughout the San Diego region. Hopefully his article will inspire more people not only to support SOHO but to get personally involved in saving the historic architecture and cultural places that matter to them.

Jaye MacAskill

Sign Of Life

I have wondered how to approach expressing my concern for the life of the sign painted on the rear of the endangered California Theatre. After reading the article in the Reader entitled “Who’s Looking Out for These Ladies?” (Cover Story, September 30), I realized it is time to express my concern for saving this advertisement for Agua Caliente 5 & 10.

The sign holds strong memories for me of a time that’s long gone but that shouldn’t be forgotten.

My father, Pat (the Hat) Troiani, managed the greyhound racing during John Alessio’s reign and eventually managed the 5 & 10 off-track betting in Mexicali, Mexico. This sign exemplifies the evolution of thoroughbred wagering.

Now called satellite wagering, Agua Caliente and the men who were innovative in creating enduring betting strategies need to be included in the value weighed when deciding the future of this historical element.

Jana Troiani Lyerly

All The Answers

Many questions in “Who’s Looking Out for These Ladies?” (Cover Story, September 30) were not adequately or fairly addressed.

“Has SOHO gone soft?” “Has SOHO been too genteel in its protests?” “Where’s the human chain surrounding the place, shouting, ‘Hell no! We won’t go!’ ”

Engaging in PR stunts of that nature doesn’t save buildings. A more insightful question would have been, “What is SOHO’s strategy for saving historical resources?” The answer goes to when SOHO first came under the stewardship of Bruce and Alana Coons. One of their top priorities was to build SOHO’s financial strength so that the legal option could be utilized whenever necessary, so that SOHO no longer had to choose which resources it could afford to save.

With fiscal leverage in hand, SOHO considers negotiation to be its most effective tool. They have gained a reputation of being reasonable, demonstrating skill in creating alternatives and solutions to demolition, and turning adversaries into preservation partners.

SOHO’s finesse at negotiation and problem-solving helped save the Hotel Del, the Old Police Headquarters, Temple Beth Israel, the War Memorial Building, the Historic Warehouse District, and much more.

“Too ready to cut deals with developers.” This is usually said by those entrenched in an all-or-nothing position, which all too often leads to losing a resource. Bruce Coons repeatedly stresses, “It’s all about saving the resource. It’s just about the resource.”

San Diego Hotel. “Neither SOHO nor the city could fight the feds, or so they said. One way or another, they let it slip away.” Slip away? You didn’t mention that the demolition of the San Diego Hotel faced an unprecedented unity among preservation groups and local agencies to stop the General Services Administration of the U.S. government from leveling this landmark.

Joining forces with SOHO was the City of San Diego, Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC), the City of San Diego Historical Resources Board, the San Diego Housing Commission, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This powerful group of organizations worked hard to fight the United States federal government and the General Services Administration.

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David Dodd Oct. 13, 2010 @ 2:53 p.m.

Re: "Not James"

Whether it's "James" or "Didacus", the more research one does, it becomes apparent that this question of namesake is likely a minor issue. The first issue you'll encounter when using multiple texts for reference, is that Vizcaíno's date of entering (and by some accounts, naming) San Diego vary. I've read November 10th, November 12th, December 17th, it goes on and on. Regardless, there are issues in any case with any date.

November 12th is the most common date referenced, presumably because the feast day for Saint Didacus is on November 12th. Unfortunately for historians, when Didacus was canonized in 1588, his feast day was celebrated on November 13th by all Catholics (other than Franciscans) because the feast day of Pope Saint Martin I was occupying the actual day of the death of Didacus. That date wasn't officially changed until 1969, when the Catholic Church moved St. Martin's feast day to sometime in April. I believe that the priests attached to Vizcaíno's expedition were Carmelites, and as such, would have celebrated the feast of Saint Didacus on November 13th.

A more plausible explanation might reside behind the name of Vizcaíno's flagship, the San Diego. I can find no reliable data for when the San Diego was built, which could lend a further clue as to the name origin, but the timing seems to be in favor of the ship being named after a freshly canonized Catholic. However, since there was no Spanish translation of the bible used by any order of Catholics in 1602, Saint James would have more likely been Saint Iacomus in any reference, leaving - in this case - Saint Didacus as the probable root of San Diego. Presuming that Spanish priests, on their own, decided to offer their own translations out of Latin is quite a stretch.

The only reasonable justification for using Didacus as a possible translation for James would be so as to not confuse him with any of the other Saint James, but I suspect not because the Spaniards commonly referred to him as "de Alcalá" which would automatically differentiate. Santiago is, indeed, Spanish for James in translated Bibles, but Spanish etymology isn't so simple as it is in other languages. In English, one word often means several things, where in Spanish you can find several words (all with different origins) that mean the same thing.

The problem is in trying to figure out what those words meant in 1602.


monaghan Nov. 13, 2010 @ 9:43 a.m.


Well, the correspondent who hates Duncan's movie reviews will be happy this week, since Shepherd apparently has written his last column. Say it isn't so! In my heart, I know it is! I am bereft! OMG!

I am very sorry to see Duncan Shepherd leave the Reader after 38 years. He wrote the most convoluted and self-referential reviews I have ever read, and his black spot rating system was idiosyncratic, but I read him every week. That he concludes with words of gratitude for the remarkable editorial freedom he has always enjoyed under publisher Jim Holman was proper and graceful. That he ends with a quote from Tennyson and the vain wish he were still seeing (better) movies in a big old movie palace in Minneapolis in the late '60's just breaks my heart.

Ave atque vale, Duncan Shepherd.


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