Author Topic: Changing names  (Read 1393 times)

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Changing names
« on: January 27, 2012, 10:35:37 AM »

Its all in the name - Andreu's view.  ;)

Bring Me The Head Of Antonio García

Yes, I know. It was Alfredo García. But poetic licence and all that; the title refers to the Christian name and surname that head the lists of names in Mallorca and the Balearics.

There's something odd about these two names though. Neither is Catalan nor Mallorcan. Both are Spanish. Mallorca and the Balearics defend the languages but they have been overrun by Castellano names. García is followed by Martínez and Fernández. You have to look down the list to get to a Ferrer or a Pons. At a time when town halls are getting uppity about the suggestion that they should put the names of streets or towns into a Spanish form, the objection seems a bit odd when the names of the people have taken on a distinctly Spanish flavour.

This Spanishisation, if I can invent such a word, isn't all that surprising. Only just over 50% of today's population of the Balearics was born on the islands, and among these natives there are plenty who bear Spanish names. There again, it isn't always that clearcut with surnames, owing to the two-surname practice and which one is preferred.

And clearcut the history of surnames has also not been. It required a law in 1998 to actually formalise the right to use the Catalan form of a surname, and the origin of surnames that are identifiably Mallorcan is pretty obscure and complex. Few can probably be considered to be so; the more typical surnames, e.g. Serra, Font, Ferrer, come from Catalonia or other Catalan regions.

It will not be a surprise to learn that María and Catalina top the female list of Christian names. So regular and so prolific are Marías and Catalinas, as are Juans and Antonios, that if you bump into someone in the street whose name you have completely forgotten, there's a strong chance that if you took a punt on María or Juan you would be right.

It's a bit like the old Monty Python Australian sketch. "This is Bruce, this is Bruce, this is Bruce." Or this is how it seems. But there is more diversity of names than you might think. Well, Mohammed is now making a good name for himself at any rate. There is far less rigidity than was once the case where Christian names are concerned, though there is still a rule that names cannot be used that might expose someone to future ridicule. I'm not sure whether there is a system of changing names by deed poll, but even if there were, I would imagine that Facebookdotcom Forwardslash-MountaindewUK might not get approval.

Despite the fact that there isn't the old insistence on Christian names, the Juans, the Antonios, the Miguels, the Marías, the Catalinas and the Antonias remain two a centimo. Conservative naming habits endure, making for a uniformity that seems strangely out of kilter with the modern day. Or perhaps the choice of name is a holding onto tradition where others fall by the wayside.

This uniformity does come with a complication, one caused by the Spanish-Catalan divide. The Juans become Joans. To the unknowing Brit, Juan has changed sex, both in how his name is written and is pronounced. And you can throw in the confusion caused by those from foreign lands, such as myself. I am either Andreu or Andriu, though fortunately hardly ever Andres, as I might otherwise have to also answer to Ursula.

The enduring nature and tradition of Christian names is such that their popularity has not fundamentally been affected since the 1920s, and this despite an altogether more relaxed attitude. Juan, Antonio, Maria, Catalina. There they were at the head of the lists back then. Compare this with the UK. Of the top ten most popular names for boys in 2010, only two - Thomas and George - featured in a 1924 survey. As for girls, Doris, Irene, Joyce, oh and Joan, have all but disappeared.

But to come back to the Spanishisation of local names, if the Catalan radical tendency had its way, it would probably insist that all names were Catalanised. A junta comprising a determinedly Catalan Pep, Pere and Pau would issue the order: bring us the name if not necessarily the head of Antonio García and at least drop the "o" from Antonio.

Perhaps, but in the Peckinpah film, "El Jefe", who demanded the head, was played by an actor whose surname is number three on the Balearics list. Emilio Fernández. In the Spanish-Catalan battle of the names, it is the Spanish who win. Hands and heads down.

After all is said and done, a lot more will be said than done!

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