Austin’s long-held knack for mangling street pronunciations is so rich it could be its own game show category.
As in: “This well-known University of Texas-area street’s name suggests a circular motion.”
“What is GWAD-a-loop, Alex?”
But it is the misspelling, not the mispronunciation, of a street in South Austin that “always stuck in my craw,” said Bob Perkins, a retired Travis County district judge and amateur historian who is on a campaign to correct the spelling of the street named for a Tejano hero of the Texas Revolution. The right spelling is Menchaca, not Manchaca, according to Perkins and Texas historians.
Perkins recently created a “Justice for Menchaca” page on Facebook and is working to collect 1,000 signatures on petitions before asking the City Council to approve replacing Manchaca Road street signs with ones bearing the correct spelling. Perkins said last week that about 300 people had signed hard copies of the petition; he hoped to get the rest of the endorsements online. City Council Member Mike Martinez supports his campaign, Perkins said. Martinez did not return a call last week seeking comment.
Manchaca Road is named for José Antonio Menchaca of San Antonio, who according to the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas served during the revolution under the command of Juan Seguín and fought in the Battle of San Jacinto. Later, Menchaca led a cavalry of Tejanos, or Texans of Mexican descent, who patrolled an area north and west of San Antonio to guard against Indian attacks, often using elevated land near springs southwest of Austin as a camping base of operations. According to the Handbook of Texas, Manchaca Springs is named after Menchaca, and the southern Travis County community of Manchaca is named for the springs.
Menchaca, pronounced Men-CHAH-kah, died in 1879. Somehow, however — no one is exactly sure why — even when Menchaca was alive, early Anglo settlers dropped the “e” from his surname and inserted an “a.”
Here’s the Facebook page. Three things in addition to that:
2. Houston has plenty of streets with bizarre pronunciations as well. “Kuykendall” is pronounced “Kirkendall”. “San Felipe” is pronounced “San Phillippy”. I just live here, don’t ask me why.
3. Though I don’t play much these days, I was for many years a tournament bridge player. We have many colorful characters in the bridge scene in Texas. Two of them formed a strong partnership that lasted for a long time, George Dawkins and George Pisk. Dawkins was a physician with a quiet and dignified manner – on the surface, anyway; they were both cutups – who had somehow acquired the nickname Doctor Doom. I don’t know what Pisk did for a living, but he was a gregarious type with a deep storehouse of mostly bawdy anecdotes to tell. He was also from Manchaca, so I thought of the two of them collectively as Doctor Doom and The Man Of Manchaca. It fit them somehow. They were both accomplished players and tough opponents, but it was always fun sitting down at the table opposite them. Sadly, Dawkins was killed in an auto accident in Italy a decade or so ago, along with his wife and another person. Pisk passed away a few months back, according to an obituary I saw in the local bridge newsletter. The world is a less interesting place without the two of them. This doesn’t really have anything to do with the story, but I can’t think of Manchaca, or Menchaca, without thinking of the Georges Pisk and Dawkins. So now you know.