Friday, April 26, 2013

Names, Nicknames & Short names in Spanish

I have previously talked about names in Spain. Both how very confusing it was to me to see that the whole British Royal Family has gotten brand new names here in Spain, and also how certain (or most?) names in Spanish can be turned into several others, that don't necessarily resemble the original. (Such as Francisco --> Paco, og Jose --> Pepe.) 

I have been told a number of times that it's just what people do here, it's no big deal. And since my name doesn't exist in Spanish, as it is written, I just get a "Spanishfied" version of it. I gave up insisting that my name was different a long time ago. I was met with blank looks and comments like "But that's the same!" Ha, yes, exactly the same- just how Prince Charles is exactly the same as Principe Carlos!

So, that's just how it works, get used to it and expect to get a lot of nicknames, right? 

That's when it was so so fascinating to me to see a little video clip about this Catalan politician, called Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira. 

Josep in Catalan is Jose in Castellano (Spanish). And Lluis in Catalan is Luis in Castellano. At some debate he is approached with the Spanish version of his name, (Jose Luis) by a Spanish person from Castilla y Leon.

An excerpt from the video on Youtube: 

-Don Jose Luis. (Mr Jose Luis.)
-Perdon, yo me llamo Josep Lluis. (Excuse me, my name is Josep Lluis.)
-Bueno, es que yo no entiendo Catalan. (Well, I don't understand (/speak) Catalan.)
-Es que no hace falta entender Catalan. Yo me llamo como me llamo aqui y en la China popular blabla y usted no tiene ningun derecho a modificar mi nombre. (That doesn't matter. My name is my name here and in China and you don't have any right to change my name.)

Fine, fine. The name in his passport is Josep Lluis, just like the name in my passport is the name I would love to be called. But all this time, I thought it was normal and perfectly OK here to call people other things than their real names, so why does this Josep Lluis get so offended? 


  1. Hi there
    Yes I can answer our question about why it is important for him to be addressed Josep and not Jose. It is all in the history and how Catalan people were FORCED to change their names to the Castilian version and so it is a very touchy subject. The other guy in this video knew this totally clearly and he did it deliberately as a subtle attack. Because on the face of it to people who don't know the background it could look petty to insist on Josep so it is a very manipulative way to remind Catalans that they are feared and disliked rather than respected.
    The comment - But I don't speak Catalan - is another very typical response which is used thousands of times to put down Catalan people. After all if I am speaking to someone from Morocco and they are called Rashid I try to learn their name - I don't say any nonsense about not speaking Arab!

    It is all subtle and insidious and quite hard to challenge because the Catalans get accused of being 'difficult' but there are hidden meanings that do need to be exposed. In power relationships it is often easy to blame the victim when they speak out rather than see how the game is being played. A bit like when women started to question the use of words like 'mankind' or 'chairman'. We got accused of being irritating and politically correct but it was so important to draw attention to these little signs of a power imbalance.

    End of lecture! Sorry - I am in bed with flu and may be speaking from my fever. Is an interesting post and important questions. Kate

    1. Hi Kate, thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear you are sick- que te mejores pronto!

      I had a feeling this had something to do with the ever lasting battle that we could talk about a lot. It's very clear in his way of responding that he takes great offence, and that he is very defensive from the beginning. I haven't seen him in other debates or anywhere else, so I don't know anything about him to really say more. But I know about many of these political issues, and although it's probably true that the other man is trying to provoke him, I think he has some good points too. (And I will probably get into a lot of trouble for saying so! So I 'd better leave it at that!!)
      You say "Catalans are feared and disliked rather than respected."- which is very interesting. Why is it so? Does this have anything to do with the attitude Catalans have towards people from other regions of Spain? If only everyone could just love each other and live happily ever after... ;)

      All in all- taking it out of the political context- I found it interesting since I have the feeling it's so totally OK to shorten/change names all the time, and with this man it was certainly not.

  2. This would annoy me to no end. If you tell someone what your name is, why is it so hard to call them by it? I know it's a cultural thing in Spain, but if someone introduces themselves by one name, what does it hurt to call them by it? Sore subject for someone who is constantly called 'Carol', 'Caroline', and even 'Carolina', even though it's not my name.

    1. It's funny how you can get used to things! I have lived my whole life before Spain with no nickname at all, and was happy to be called my real name. Now I don't think much about it anymore, but it took me some time, insisting, repronouncing my name every time I presented myself. But I totally get where you're coming from!

  3. Wow, that guy really got offended. :) Most people can't say my name in America either, at least not the way it is supposed to be but I got used to it. Most people just use a nickname because it is easier to say in English.

    1. Do they call you Cathrin? Or Catherine? I got curious now :)I also got used to not be called my real name, funny though cause in the beginning I was always insisting my real name being used, now I don't care anymore.

  4. I found this really interesting. Great post. My name is a discernibly complex one for spaniards to pronounce but I couldn't give less of a shitzu. Since coming here in 2010 i've had the inevitable 'hos'; 'yos'; 'jorge' 'george' and I even had 'jobs' not so long ago. I actually find it hilarious, especially with the kids I teach.

    I suppose people are a little more prone to being ticked off about mispronounced names in the context of politics though – especially when it's castellano vs. catalan! I showed this clip to my students in class today and they were booing and hissing at him! "Cabron!" "No está ogulloso de su país!" etc. Provoked some interesting debate so thanks! :)

    1. my name is Josh' by the way!

    2. Hi Yos! (haha) I assume you are teaching children outside of Catalunya! It is so interessting how Catalans are perceived outside of Catalunya and how much 'national' pride there is inside of Catalunya. (Of course referring to pride towards Catalunya, NOT Spain)