08. October 2005 · Comments Off on Misnomers Which Make Me Grind My Teeth: Inst. 1 · Categories: General

After doing this comment on Sgt. Mom’s post, I went looking for a bit of text on the matter, so I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel – and found quite a dearth. But I found this at On the Fritz. And since I got a 404 error when trying to access the blog, I thought I’d reproduce the entire post from the Google cache here, on the fear of losing it forever:

That’s “Santana Wind” Gringo!

When my family moved to So. California in the 1960s, we were soon introduced to the Santanas — no not Carlos Santana and his band. The Santanas are the hot winds that blow into So. California from the mountains and cause incredible heatwaves and firestorms.

The word “santana” is Spanish for “devil” — which is appropriate because these winds are like something out of Hell! You can just imagine the early Spanish settlers encountering these winds for the first time. The heat and fire combined with their inability to fight them must have made them think that they were suffering Satan’s rath.

Sometime during the 1970s, TV reporters (mostly folks imported from other parts of the country) started calling them “Santa Ana Winds” — I remember that I was very disturbed by this error. What in the heck did Saint Ann have to do with these winds? (Saint Ann is the mother of the Virgin Mary — Jesus’ grandmother.)

Then, some nitwit just made up a story to justify the mistake — saying that the winds were called “Santa Ana Winds” or “Santa Ana’s” because they originate in the Santa Ana Canyon in Orange County. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! #$!&!

The Santana Winds blow through all of the gaps and low canyons along the San Gabriel Mountains. If based on geographic origin, the winds would be called the San Gabriel Winds — but that’s not the case.

I have also heard a story that the term “Santa Ana Wind” was coined in the early 1900s by an AP reporter who simply heard the word and, because he was familiar with the city of Santa Ana, made a mistake and spelled it wrong in a story. While non-native So. Californians have probably made this spelling error frequently over the past few decades, it doesn’t mean they were correct.

When my family first moved to California, we lived in Placentia. At the time, we were perhaps the only non-latino kids in our neighborhood. We heard the word “Santana” straight from the folks who knew what they had been called for over 200 years. I remember the neighborhood kids using their fingers to illustrate horns on their heads as they tried to break the language barrier. I doubt that they would have made such a display to get us to understand that the wind was named after Saint Ann.

Also, I recall reading about the Santanas in a John Steinbeck novel many years ago — when I was in junior high. I don’t remember which novel, but I’ll look it up one day. I think that Steinbeck would be a considered somewhat of an authority on California history — don’t you?

Now, the press uses “Santa Ana Winds” exclusively. I think this is unfortunate because “Santana” is so much more accurate in describing the character of these winds. Using “Santana” is more respectful of California history. There can be no doubt that the Spanish settlers would have objected strongly to these winds being named after one of their most beloved saints — the mother of the Virgin Mary.

Posted by Fritz at October 24, 2003 02:46 PM

Fritz is incorrect on one account: The Santana Winds don’t “originate” in the San Gabriel Mountains. They begin with a high pressure region over the Great Basin. The air moves (rather quickly, usually) across the Mojave Desert, where it is heated, and gains energy, finally to be channeled by the canyons through the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains (they are separated by the Cajon Pass, where the I-15 and I-215 freeways run).

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