“Albuquerque”, what’s in a name…

For someone who’s never been to Albuquerque, I feel as if I’ve always known quite a bit about it.  Boise State plays the University of New Mexico football team tonight in Albuquerque.  I know exactly where I first heard of the city.  It was in Bugs Bunny cartoons.  More than once, Bugs emerged from digging tunnels into unfamiliar surroundings and said, “I should took a left turn at Albuquerque (pronounced Alba-koykee).”  He also frequently mentioned Cucamonga and Pismo Beach.

People who live in Albuquerque know there are two ways to spell it.  There’s “Albuquerque”, which is the official name of the city, and “Alburquerque”, which is the actual spelling of the name of the guy Albuquerque is named after, the Duke of Alburquerque.  The Boise Hawks one season had a pitcher named Al Alburquerque.  He’s not the one it’s named after, but he could be a descendant.  Alburquerque is a town in Spain, but the word “Alburquerque” is Portuguese.  But as far as the variable spellings thing goes, people from Cleveland know about the phenomenon, too, as the city of Cleveland was named after a guy who spelled it “Cleaveland”.  General Moses Cleaveland, to be precise.

Spelling was different hundreds of years ago.  There were no well-known dictionary, so people spelled words and names any way they wanted to.  There was also no compulsary education.  Usually, words were simply sounded out.  My last name, “Walton”, can be traced back to England and connected with “Wauton”, “Waldon”, “Walden”, “DeWald” and “DeWalt”.  The name comes from the old English word “wald”, meaning “forest”.  And “wald” changed over the years to become “wood” and “woods”.  When English dictionaries were first written, buys like Noah Webster simply attempted to find an agreed-upon way to spell things.  There’s an old myth that the word “golf” means “gentlemen only, ladies forbidden”, but it’s not true.  In Scotland and the Netherlands, where the game originated, you can find references to it spelled “golph”, “goff” and “gawf”.

I’ve worked with a number of people who have also worked in Albuquerque, including past KBOI personalities Ken Weaver, Andrew Paul and David Allen.  Each of them said that when they first moved to Boise, it reminded them of Albuquerque, apart from considerably less Spanish influence.

The name “Albuquerque”, like many other words of European origin, comes from Latin.  It derives from “albus quercus”, which means “white oak”.  The town of Alburquerque in Spain is the center of Spain’s cork industry because of its location within forests of trees known as “cork oaks”.  Cork oak wood is used to make corks, and when its bark is stripped away, the wood is white.

Albuquerque has a few nicknames.  My favorite is “Burque”, because it doesn’t make a great deal of sense.  It would be like calling Boise “Boz”.  My second favorite is “Q”, since the word “Albuquerque” is one of the few words you’ll find with two instances of the letter “Q”.  My least favorite, which originates from its namesake, is “The Duke City”.  I’m sure that at one time, that was a very regal and royal-sounding nickname, but probably not so much anymore.  It reminds me of a euphemistic story about Albuquerque’s second-ranked UPS driver, known as “Big Brown’s Number Two in the Duke City”.  Not to spoil the ending for you, but he ends up retiring to Los Banos, California.  And not to spoil the whole story, but I just made it up on the spot.