Friday, May 20, 2016

The Great Vowel Controversy Of Calvia

Where, you will doubtless be wondering, is a toponymy commission when it is most needed. Only a week ago I was highlighting the government's revival of this twenty-person gathering of place names' experts. It is needed for Mallorca in particular: of the four islands there is less official toponymy in Mallorca than in the other three. And there is ample evidence of this. Paguera or Peguera? Palma or Palma de Mallorca? Just two daft examples currently doing the rounds to add to those of, for example, Porto Cristo versus Portocristo (and others) or Cala Ratjada plays Cala Rajada.

The Partido Popular in Calvia is minded to ignore the aspirations of said commission and indeed of the town hall responding to the apparently desperate requirement to harmonise the municipality's place names. (By the way, can we add Magaluf or Magalluf to the list?) The PP is suggesting that the citizens should decide. Have a referendum. Make the decision the people's Paguera or Peguera. It was always Pag, says the PP, until a unilateral decision taken by the town hall converted it into Peg in the 1980s. Not that it did wholly convert it. Had it done, there wouldn't be the argument there now is. Pag and Peg have resided side by side in comparative toponymic harmony since the '80s. But now the town hall appears determined to divide society in this part of Calvia over the choice between two vowels.

As might be detected, given the left-wing leaning of the administration and the opposition of the PP (and Ciudadanos), there is a bit of a Catalan thing going on here. The left, with the Open Left (Equerra Oberta) coming to the aid of the PSOE-Si Se Puede Calvia administration alliance, insists that there is no "linguistic conflict", only that there should be compliance with the law and with the department of toponymy at the university. Apart from begging a question, given there is such a department, as to why a toponymy commission is needed as well, this makes clear that toponymic correctness lies in the Catalanist camp. For what it's worth, the name is derived from "forn de brea" aka "pega", referring to pine sap. In Castellano, the colloquial "pega" means something like a snag or a catch. And yes, there is a snag. Is it Pag or is it Peg?

For reasons best known, so it would seem, to the good folk of Pag/Peguera, they opted for Pag at some time in the past, only for Peg to hit the revivalist trail some thirty odd years ago, courtesy of the town hall. And so we now arrive at the current controversy. Should the people decide? Perhaps they should. Holding a referendum is in current vogue. They're having one in the UK it would appear, though the subject is of somewhat greater consequence than a vowel. Of greater relevance is the citizen participation via referendum of Palma.

In that city the people (a very small minority) used their voice in choosing between Born terraces or not Born terraces. The vote went strongly against the town hall preference, which is probably why Palma hasn't opted for another referendum over the planned demolition of the Sa Feixina monument (the people would say no, and the town hall knows they would). It may also be why there is no referendum proposal regarding the choice between Palma or Palma de Mallorca.

There will undoubtedly be some Palma fanatics (in addition to those at the town hall) who will argue the case for with or without "de Mallorca", but the vast majority, one suspects, really couldn't care less. It was the nasty PP who were of course responsible for appending "de Mallorca", a move of some common sense if only to distinguish the city from others. But even if "de Mallorca" were to be retained, it's not as though anyone here ever refers to it thus. Tell me the last time you said, if you live outside Palma (de Mallorca), that you were having a night out in Palma de Mallorca.

The apparent pointlessness of this argument is reinforced twice over. Firstly by the fact that the Balearic parliament has to have a debate to decide whether it should hold a further debate to decide between the rival claims. Secondly by the weird assertion by a PSOE parliamentary deputy that the PP's adding of "de Mallorca" had been part of the Bauzá regime's desire to weaken Catalan culture and language. At least Mayor Hila had the sense to say that Palma was a Roman thing, because if Catalan gets dragged in, the name should really be the one that the bestower of all things Catalan, the conquering Jaume I of Aragon, gave the city: Ciutat de Mallorca.

Anyway, Pag or Peg, let the people decide. And perhaps give them some other choices. Piguera, anyone?

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