The biggest controversy in padel? How to pronounce it!
It’s a debate that spans the Atlantic – just how should ‘padel’ be pronounced? Here at The Bandeja we favour ‘padel as in paddle’ but there are alternatives, as Austin Edwards, co-founder of The Padel State website in the US explains.
The only question I may get more often than ‘where can I play padel in the US?’ is ‘how do you actually pronounce ‘padel’?’ The answer? It’s complicated!
I reached out to padel entrepreneurs, experts, influencers, players and pros who follow us on LinkedIn to get their take on this growing ‘controversy’ and even amongst this core group there was no real consensus.
PA-del, Paddle, or Pa-DEL?
Within minutes of posting the poll a connection in the UK – where the sport is commonly pronounced in the same way Americans would pronounce ‘paddle’ – pointed out that the second option should have been ‘pa-DEL’ instead of ‘PA-del’, with the emphasis on the second syllable as that’s how most Americans pronounce it.
To his point, that is definitely how I hear most Americans pronouncing it, including in this introductory video from the US Professional Tennis Association. Then there are other videos like this one, featuring the former president of the United States Padel Association (USPA) Mike May that clearly call the sport ‘paddle’.
some American racket sports enthusiasts felt the need to start pronouncing it ‘pa-DEL’ to differentiate it from other sports — and that caught on.
When we asked friend-of-The-Bandeja Minter Dial, an American living in the UK, for his top padel tips he hedged his bets on pronunciation….
What it is not!
Meanwhile, in a television interview with New York Live, Mexican-born US padel pioneer Santiago Gomez – who is the visionary behind Padel Haus in Brooklyn – calls it both ‘PA-del’ and ‘pa-DEL’, but points out that it is most definitely not called ‘paddle ball’. And on a recent segment of NBC’s The Today Show, the hosts wound up pronouncing it both ways throughout the piece.
The first time I ever heard of the sport, from a former Spanish pro, I understood him to pronounce it ‘paddle’. But then the first time I ever was ever invited to play it was by friends who most definitely called it ‘pa-DEL at ‘PADELphia’, which is a clever name that only works if you pronounce it like my friends did. No wonder there are even multiple contentious Reddit threads about the subject!
So why the confusion?
Again, it’s complicated. According to the Lawn Tennis Association of Britain, the sport’s inventor Enrique Corcuera originally called it ‘paddle Corcuera’. Then in 1993, after spreading rapidly across the Spanish-speaking world in Europe and South America, the Sports Council of Spain recognised paddle as a sport but changed its spelling to padel for pronunciation purposes in the Spanish language.
While that was all well and good in places like Spain and Argentina and some English-speaking countries like the UK, here in the US we already had numerous other racket sports that people occasionally referred to as ‘paddle’ or ‘paddle tennis’, including the primarily cold-weather game of platform tennis and the primarily warm-weather game now known as pop tennis.
Thus, some American racket sports enthusiasts felt the need to start pronouncing it ‘pa-DEL’ to differentiate it from these other sports – and that caught on quick. Many US players I’ve talked to said they are going to continue calling it that no matter what simply because they think it sounds cooler.
Patricio Misitrano, the co-founder and Chief Sports Officer of Sports Haus in Norwalk, CT (which recently debuted five indoor padel courts) may have summed up the ongoing controversy best with his LinkedIn post that stated: “The correct name and pronunciation is pádel. It is a ‘grave’ Spanish word, which means that the ’tilde’ (accent) and emphasis is on the letter a. I refuse to call it padEl but people can call it whatever they want.”
Another poster responded with: “For the sake of platform tennis players, Californians and racquets pros everywhere, let’s call it anything other than ‘paddle’.”
For now, it looks as though US padel players may never be able to come to a consensus on how to pronounce it. But if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s how much we all love playing it – no matter what we call it. 🎾