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Post More Funny Place Names: Spain
Created by John Eipper on 04/04/12 2:14 AM

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More Funny Place Names: Spain (John Heelan, -UK, 04/04/12 2:14 am)

The English language is not the only one to generate embarrassing place names.

In the 10th century, the Moors named a small Granadino pueblo after the noxious waterway in its vicinity, Wadi as-Sakruya, a name that over 1000 years elided into the Spanish "Asquerosa," meaning "disgusting, loathsome," etc. In 1931, the local council decided to change its unfortunate name to "Valderrubio" in honour of the tobacco grown and processed in the area.

One of its claims to fame (or infamy) is that the García Rodríguez family had a summer residence in Asquerosa. One of the neighbouring families provided the templates for the characters in Bernalda Alba, in Lorca's eponymous tragedy. The disrespect perceived by that family, linked to a history of political and business squabbles with Lorca's father, García Rodríguez, is said by some researchers to be one of the causes of Lorca's rapid assassination early in the Spanish Civil War by acquaintances of that family.

Oops! My hobby-horse is staring to run away with me!

JE comments: No need to add the "oops"--last week I re-read La casa de Bernarda Alba for about the tenth time, as part of an independent-study project I'm directing. Nearly have the whole thing memorized.

Asquerosa--how about Villaviciosa, in Asturias? Historically the name means "fertile town," but now it connotes a Village of Vice. I've always wanted to visit.

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  • More Funny Place Names: How About San Cucufato? (Jordi Molins, -Spain 04/04/12 3:21 PM)
    When commenting John Heelan's post of 4 April, JE brought up the Asturian town of Villaviciosa.

    The traditional disdain of Spain towards other cultures and languages can be seen in how Spaniards translate town names in Catalonia. For example, the beautiful Valencian town of Vila Joiosa is translated into Spanish as Villajoyosa. In Catalan, Vila Joiosa means "the town of joy" (Catalan is closer to French than to Spanish, so joia and joie de vivre come from the same origin, but there is nothing similar in Spanish). However, "joyosa" means "full of jewels" in Spanish, which does not make any sense. Also, the musicality of the word "Vila Joiosa" is clearly superior to the sonority of "Villajoyosa."

    Another interesting issue is the names of small Catalan towns in for example the Spanish Wikipedia. The Spanish Wikipedia editors, as all-too-typical Spaniards, translate all the names into Spanish-sounding names. This could make sense for large cities, but for small cities, apart from the clear cacophony in some cases (e.g., San Cucufato del Vallés instead of the original Sant Cugat del Vallès), it may be a problem for tourists, since all signs in Catalan cities are, of course, in Catalan, so tourists may fail to find what they are looking for. Personally, I did not know what San Cucufato meant up to a few months ago, and if a tourist had asked me, I would have failed to help her. So, the insistence of turning into Spanish any Catalan name, and very often in a very ugly way, is becoming a problem, since tourists to Catalonia tend to rely to the Spanish Wikipedia for names to visit.

    JE comments:  I confess my ignorance of Sant Cugat (and yes:  "Cucufato/Cucufate" sounds really awful, as does Cucuphas in English).  Wikipedia to the rescue:  Sant Cugat was the 3rd-century missionary who was the first to preach to the Catalans.  The story of his martyrdom at the hands of the Romans is not for the weak of stomach:

    (My translation from Spanish Wiki):  "Legend has it that first they opened his abdomen and ripped out his intestines, but [Cucuphas] replaced them and sewed up his abdomen with a thread.  Later the emperor Galerius sentenced him to the stake, but the flames were supposedly blown out with a gust of air from God.  Later he was thrown into a dungeon, but his jailers were converted to Christianity.  Finally legend says that God allowed Cucuphas's throat to be slit, as the saint's wish was to ascend into Heaven through martyrdom."

    The English Wikipedia account is somewhat different, and mentions Cucuphas's flagellation with iron nails and scorpions:


    This is the kind of textual discrepancy that would have greatly interested Prof. Hilton.

    Anyhow, the Benedictine abbey at Sant Cugat del Vallès is located at the site of the martyrdom.

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