Wednesday, May 16, 2007


If Madrid has a mascot, it's definitely this guy. This statue, right in the middle of the city, is known as "El oso y el madroño", which is universally translated as "The bear and the strawberry tree".

The plain people of Ireland: Wait a second! Do you think we came down in the last shower? Sure everyone knows that strawberries don't grow on trees - they grow in bushes.
The management: For once, an intelligent objection. Pray let me continue and I will explain.

The other, less confusing, translation would be "The bear and the arbutus tree". From Wikipedia:

Arbutus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae, native to warm temperate regions of the Mediterranean, western Europe, and North America. North American members of the genus are called Madrones, from the Spanish name madroño. The European species are called Strawberry Trees from the superficial resemblance of the fruit to a strawberry; some species are sometimes referred to simply as the arbutus.

The Arbutus unedo tree makes up part of the coat of arms (El oso y el madroño, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) of the city of Madrid. In the center of the city (Puerta del Sol) there is a statue of a bear eating the fruit of the Madroño tree. The image appears on city crests, taxi cabs, man-hole covers, and other city infrastructure.

The Arbutus was important to the Straits Salish people of Vancouver Island, who used arbutus bark and leaves to create medicines for colds, stomach problems, and tuberculosis, and as the basis for contraceptives. The tree also figured into certain myths of the Straits Salish.

The plain people of Ireland: Well isn't that interesting all the same. You learn something new every day. And of course Sinead's cousin Nuala had her wedding up at the Arbutus Lodge, you know 'tis there by the dual carriageway on the way into Cork. Very fancy, it was. The gardens were lovely altogether.

The management: Indeed. How delightful for her.

The plain people of Ireland: Of course there's no bears in Ireland. Unless you see...

The management: Pray continue. You interest me strangely.

The plain people of Ireland: Unless you see the bear with the chartreuse hair.

The management: What happens if you see the bear with the chartreuse hair.

The plain people of Ireland: If you see the bear with the chartreuse hair, there's nothing the doctor can do any more!!!

Fadeout, to the sounds of rustic thigh-slapping, as the PPoI double up convulsed with mirth at their own cleverness.


Anonymous said...

Now I know why Arbutus, MD, is called thus. Perhaps this word sounds more felicitous in Spanish. It's always been up there w/ "Arbuckle" as a name I would not want for my surname (see Fatty Arbuckle). "Lady Arbutus" must surely have been a character played by Margaret Dumont in a Marx Brothers film.

Eat any arbutus fruit lately? Did you hear the one about the bear and the arbutus tree? There once was a bear from Arbutus. . .


O'Donovan said...

Dear Plain People of Ireland:

Never change.

With ever-growing affection,

Betsy O'Donovan