Friday, November 05, 2010

You may or may not be aware that everyone in Spain has two surnames – one from their father and one from their mother. Traditionally, the former has always gone first. So, if your father was García and your mother Durán, you (and your siblings) would be called García Durán. And, if they were both called Durán, you could become a pop group. But seriously, the Zapatero government has announced that – unless requested otherwise – in future your two surnames will always be listed alphabetically. So, you will soon be Durán García, not García Durán. Perhaps. Based on experience with my own names and knowing the Spanish mania for writing and shuffling paper by hand - with all the scope for errors this entails - it looks to me like a recipe for chaos.

The funny thing is that most Spaniards have no idea that this way of doing things is unique (I believe) to the Hispanic world. So, they really struggle when they have to deal with foreigners who have only one forename and one surname. And even more so with the more usual pattern of two forenames and one surname. My full handle is, in fact, David Colin Davies and I long ago gave up trying to explain that my single surname is the last of these. Now I even offer my name as David Colin, allowing them to think my (first) surname is Colin. This is not usually a problem, as I’m now well used to being summoned as ‘David Colin’. Or even just ‘David’ (Dabeeth). Or ocasionally 'Señor Coleen'. It’s when computers get involved that you have the real fun, as you never know which of your three names is/are being treated as a forename or a surname. Or in what bloody order. Finding out – e. g. when I was doing my tax return on line last year – can be a truly frustrating calvario.

Still on Spanish culture . . . In a recent Qorreo article on the Pope’s imminent visit to Santiago and Barcelona, Guy Hedgecoe pointed out that “Spain has been relatively unaffected by the abuse scandals that have rocked other countries with large Catholic communities.” I wonder why this is. I’ve said many times that Spain doesn’t have the tabloid-driven obsession with paedophilia that one sees in the UK – and perhaps the USA. But this alone surely can’t explain this. Either the incidence of sacerdotal abuse was (blessedly) lower here or it’s just not talked about much. I have no idea but hope it’s the former.

Guy also pointed out that “when Benedict XVI arrives, he will be visiting a nation of contradictions: Spain has a deep Catholic heritage and yet it has embraced modern-day consumerism and values with the zeal of a convert.” Which is a shame, as one of my main reasons for coming here ten years ago was that Spain was less far along the mad spectrum from capitalism to rampant consumerism than the UK. In truth, it probably still is. Though less so, if you see what I mean. There’s been some catching up.

Mind you, we could do with more of the consumer protection that tends to go with consumerism elsewhere. I’ve just received my utility bills for the last period  and the challenge of understanding them (and the price increases) is even greater than ever. At least as regards the gas bill. This is because this involves, firstly, the subtraction of the estimate charge for the first of the two-month period and, then, a separate item to cover a price increase initiated in the middle of the second month. The meter reading, though, was done at the end of the second month, meaning that there’s been an arbitrary decision by the company as to how much I used before and after the increase. Of course, none of this is explained and I was enough of a geek to spend more than half an hour today working it all out. There’s no way I can tell but I’d be astonished if the assumptions were in my favour. Especially as the cash-strapped government stands to get higher tax receipts from any excess bills.

But the good news is that it’s all systems go down near the town hall. Firstly, they’ve almost finished the lovely brick paving in Plaza de España, prior to opening the new underground car park there. Very late but never mind. Plus, the new fosa museum nearby is finally open and I have my slot at 10 on Sunday morning. Ironically, I could have gone at the time I was making my (‘obligatory’) advance booking at the desk today but I had to reject the receptionist’s suggestion that I go right on it and join the group just about to start. But he was a nice man, who warned me (in both rapid Spanish and a suspension of logic) that I’d have to be able to understand Spanish as the commentary was only in this language. To be honest, I almost said that I wouldn’t be coming unless he promised me a dedicated machine in Gallego. Which is probably available anyway, truth to tell.

The other good news is that my pupil turned up this week. Rather late but, hey, let’s not be picky.

Finally . . . To go back to Catholicism in Spain . . .  It may well be that 75% of Spaniards regard themselves as Catholics but only a third of these (or 25% of the total population) attend (‘obligatory’) Mass once a week. When my younger daughter does and insists that I come in for a while, I always joke that she’s the youngest person there and I’m the second youngest. Which, in fact, isn’t usually far from the truth. Catholics are literally a dying breed here.

Ite missa est. Dominus vobiscum.


Lenox said...

So which of your parent's two surnames will you bestow on your child and in which order? Will the names starting with a 'Z' - Zapatero for instance - die out within a generation? Will all Spanish 'apellidos' begin with an 'A' by 2525?
God, I hope so.
Interestingly, the 'word verification' tonight is 'proge', which isn't far away from 'progre' which is, of course, the problem.

Mike the Traditionalist said...

Well it seems there will be a choice of putting the mother's name first or the father's if both are in agreement as to the order. Boy what chaos this is going to be. There are already big problems with endings such as o and a getting mixed up. Regueiro - Regueira, Ferreiro - Ferreira.
Ite missa est. Deo gratias.

sp said...

After telling people what to call themselves the Powers That Be have now decided to shorten the alphabet by two letters and to rename some of the others. This has been a good week for my list of Things That Have Nothing To Do With The Authorities But Are Going To Be Meddled With Anyway. I watched the report of this latter change on TV1 last night and it was just that: a report. There was no suggestion that these people should just get real jobs and leave the rest of us alone.

Colin said...

Thanks. Couldn't agree more and will say something on these two things tonight.

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