what’s in a name

Now that, all over Spain, we’ve dutifully reflected without concentrating, and done our civic duty and voted for whoever we’ve voted for, abstained in protest, or blotted our ballots, the results are out. The Guardian website headline reads:

Spain's socialists routed in elections

Which is all very well, but although popular can be correctly translated as ‘of the people’, the PP, the Partido Popular, is not what I would call a People’s party.

To me, ‘The People’s Party’ sounds as if it should be a left-wing organisation, which the PP certainly aren’t. The Guardian describes them as ‘centre-right’, and I suppose it all depends on how wide the range is as to where the centre falls.

It’s telling that the PSOE name doesn’t seem to appear in the story, and that Zapatero’s party are referred to throughout as the ‘Socialists’. It would certainly be misleading to translate their name literally – the Partido Socialista Obrero Español – as it would become the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. I really don’t think PSOE counts as an ‘anticapitalist, revolutionary party’, which is how the British SWP describe themselves.

No mention is made of the fate of those who were calling for ¡Democracia Real YA!. When I first heard it, that phrase caused me problems as I wondered why on earth we were demanding a royal democracy. After all, the Real Academia Española is the Royal Academy, not the Real-and-authentic Academy, though their dictionary tells me that both meanings are valid.

On the subject of Royal Democrats, it’s not only when it comes foreign languages that there are problems with labelling. I once got into a sticky conversation with a friend from the States who couldn’t understand that not being a Monarchist didn’t necessarily make someone a Republican.

I wouldn’t call myself a Monarchist. But if the choice were between Cavaliers and Roundheads, I’d always opt for seven league boots, velvet britches, lace shirts and floppy hats with jaunty feathers rather than utilitarian leather jerkins etc. Of course, that’s probably just me yearning for the Sixties and early Seventies when life seemed so much easier.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

5 thoughts on “what’s in a name”

  1. I once had a shout-down with my best friend and I can’t remember exactly how it got started. My primary language used to be German.

    Maybe I said:
    I cooked it.
    He said: Did you fry it.
    No, I told you that I cooked it.
    But did you fry it is what I am asking!
    But I told you that I cooked it!
    No, COOKED!

    He is USA, and apparently there “to cook” means “to prepare” a meal, whereas in German “kochen” means primarily to “boil in water”.


    1. It took me ages to realise the difference between cocinar and cocer: I’m pretty sure I thought cocido and cocinado were just alternative forms like impreso and imprimido.

      It wasn’t till I learnt another language that I realised just how arbitrary meanings and world views can be: for me, Spanish is the language where everyone has 20 toes and yet they all know at least a dozen different words for ‘glass’ (the thing you drink out of).


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