The news for shoes

… and toucans, but not, surprisingly, pandas, despite the brand name.

Originally encountered in ads from the Footwear etc. stores (a California chain with a store on University Ave. in Palo Alto): Wanda Panda,

We Are Wanda Panda

Shoes, ankle boots and sandals for women. Made in Spain. [The company’s headquarters are in Alicante, on the Costa Blanca]

Hours of attention: Monday to Thursday, 9:00 – 13:00, 16:00 – 18:00, Friday 9:00 – 13:00 [notably Spanish hours]

Phonemically /wandǝ pændǝ/ in English, apparently involving the bamboo-eating bear Ailuropoda melanoleuca (I have two friends with the panda as a very serious totem animal, so I’m alert to pandas) — but phonemically /wanda panda/ in Spanish, with no allusion to (el) panda ‘panda’ at all; instead the reference is to (la) panda ‘gang, crowd, group of friends’ (in European Spanish slang). And the Wanda Panda mascot is a cartoon toucan (tucán in Spanish):


Some notes on the shoes. And then a digression on why Wanda and panda don’t rhyme in English (though they do in Spanish).

But first, a little bit more about the company. Some evocatively poetic ad copy on their site:

Close your eyes, take a deep breath and remember those pleasant times in the past when you were so at ease. Just think how comfortable you felt. A precious moment that you want to relive again.

This is our reason to be and the reason why we created Wanda Panda We want our designs to enable you to experience that sensation each day.

A footwear line inspired by the Mediterranean breeze. They will become part of your style, the way you dress, and your own charisma as soon as you start wearing them.

Then from the Footwear etc. site:

Wanda Panda is a fun, energetic brand with beautifully crafted shoes for women made in Spain. With a focus on travel, nature and people, they craft their cork shoes in a way to bring happiness to anyone who wears them!

[Side note on modifier attachment: the phrase made in Spain is intended to modify beautifully crafted shoes for women — that’s high attachment (HA) — rather than women — low attachment (LA) — but few readers will note the potential ambiguity, despite a default preference for LA in parsing, because the  ‘women made in Spain’ interpretation is anomalous in the real word, and because the passage is about shoes, not women.]

Three of their sandals: one that counts as a flat and two wedges:

(#2) Becky flat in burgundy

(#3) Madonna wedge in beige

(#4) Izel (high) wedge in moss

The model names for the sandals are mostly straightforward women’s given names: Becky, Brenda, Salome, Marlene, Iris, Iva, Meryl, Wanda (yes, you can buy a Wanda Panda Wanda), Adelaida, Madonna, Bea, Bilma, Tamina

[Digression on English spelling. One of the little (well-known) regularities in the Englisjh spelling-to-sound mapping is that in positions where the letter A would be expected to have the pronunciation /æ/, it is instead pronounced /a/ when it follows a syllable-initial letter W (representing /w/). This is a remnant of a historical sound-change, and the details are not immediately relevant here, but the effect is quite general.

Here’s a small table of representative words with a syllable-initial labial consonant followed by the letter A in a position where A would normally be pronounced /æ/. In the first column are words beginning with the labial /w/; in the second are words beginning with other labial consonants /p b m/; the paired words are otherwise identical in spelling; in the first column, A represents /a/, but in the second, /æ/.


In any case, in Spain, Wanda Panda appears to be panda-free.

2 Responses to “The news for shoes”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Wanda strikes me as a bit odd for a Spanish company name, given that native Spanish doesn’t use w. (Also interesting that it’s apparently pronounced as /w/ in Spanish; I’m pretty sure it would be /v/ in French — cf. wagon-lit “sleeping car”.)

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    I’ve posted an inquiry on the Wanda Panda site about the pronunciation of their name, but haven’t gotten an answer. I was under the impression that Wanda was pronounced with an exotic [w] (roughly like Bach in English pronounced with an exotic [x] instead of [k]). But there are several naturalization schemes, notably [u] as an extra syllable. Otherwise, a voiced oral labial in word-initial position would be [b] (Spanish has no /v/ distinct from /b/), or conceivably a voiced bilabial frcative [β].

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