Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Spanish friend told me a couple of days ago that someone in a political forum to which she belonged had threatened to take out a denuncia – or law suit – against someone he felt has insulted him. I found it impossible to believe that the police and the courts would get involved in such trivia but my friend assured me they could. And would. And then I recalled the comment of a fellow-blogger a few months ago – that initiating denuncias was Spain's second favourite sport. By pure coincidence, this comment comes from a British newspaper today:- On social media, it takes only a matter of minutes for an innocuous aside to be inflated to “bullying”. Formerly a very grave charge, in our brave new world of tolerance, bullying now basically means: “They said something I don’t like.” Taking Offence is the new national sport. The writer goes on to stress:- It is not the business of government to banish insults. Nor should it be up to the police to make partial value judgments on what might be considered offensive to a hypothetical person. As the comedian Rowan Atkinson warned, the law had created “an outrage industry” and a society of “an extraordinarily authoritarian and controlling nature”. Quite. And hardly what an unregulated internet was meant to create. The Law of Unintended Consequences yet again.

From Richard Fletcher's Moorish Spain, I learn, inter alia, that:-
  • The Spanish for horseman – jinete – comes from a North African tribal confederation of light cavalry, the Zanata. There's an English word, too, new to me – 'jennet'. Which is 'a small Spanish horse'. 
  • The first translation of the Koran into a Western language was by an Englishman, Robert of Ketton, in 1143. Ketton lies in the heart of Rutland.
  • The English Exchequer is named after a ruled and chequered tablecloth which was used as an abacus from the early 12th century onwards. And:-
  • Roger Bacon was the pupil of a bishop-scholar called Robert Grosseteste. With whom his fellow students probably had some fun when his name was called from the class register.
Maybe I was unfair to Sr Rajoy in suggesting he wouldn't change the mood music in his dealings with the Catalán demands for a referendum on independence. It's reported he is “willing to discuss a new financial compact between Madrid and the autonomous regions, including Cataluña.” However, the sting in the tail was that Madrid “would not tolerate a move towards Catalan secession.” “The unity of Spain” he said “goes back more than five centuries. This is the oldest country in Europe and we are working towards greater integration and not the opposite.” One wonders what form his non-tolerance of a move towards secession would take. Arrests? Military intervention? Cutting off of funds? None of these seems promising to me but perhaps Sr Rajoy, like Baldrick, has a cunning plan. Time will surely tell.

Some stats:-
  • 85% of Spaniards think people lie on their CVs as to the level of their English.
  • 87% of Spaniards say they don't lie on their CV as regards the same thing.
  • 100% of foreigners – and probably Spaniards too – believe that 100% of the latter are lying.
My daughter visited a copistería today, a place where they copy or print out whatever you like. It was empty. I mention this because these used to be exceptionally crowded places. I guess the deep-freezing of the property market has hit them hard.

Finally:- Here's a fulsome review of the book on English manners I mentioned yesterday. Mr Hitchings sounds like a man worth knowing. Perhaps in another age he would have translated the Koran into Latin. Or English, even.


Anonymous said...

People say they´ll report (denounce) something but when they see the queue at the police station they give up, so Colin, its safe to continue to call the spanish liars on your blog, you old c.nt. Those horrible memory sticks are killing copy shops but saving paper and therefore the trees... one persons loss is another trees/persons gain...

Perry said...


"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life".

Thus spake Robert Heinlein.

His novel depicted a world where genetic selection for increased health, longevity, and intelligence had become so widespread that the unmodified 'control naturals' were a carefully managed (and protected) minority.

Dueling and the carrying of arms
was a socially accepted way of maintaining civility in public - a man could wear distinctive clothing to show his unwillingness to duel, but this resulted in a lower social status.

As attested to by:

In another context, James Clavell's novel "Shogun" starts with the Erasmus shipwrecked on the Japanese coast. Blackthorne and the few survivors of his crew are taken captive by a local samurai, Kasigi Omi who gives orders to his villagers. When one shows insubordination, Kasigi Omi cuts him down. Here is an image. It asserts, "Do not mess with me".



James Atkinson said...

Colin, Five hundred years, not that long then really. Not quite as long as the moores occupied Andalusia in fact. Is Spain really the oldest Country in Europe? A genuine question on my part.

Colin Davies said...

@James. No, I don't think it is. It seems to me that Sr R doesn't know his European history. England and France had the 100 Years War 1337 to 1453. Pick either date and it's still more than 500 years ago.

James Atkinson said...

Colin,That's true, but as a political unit the England is now part of Great Britain, which only existed with the Act of Union with Scotland I assume, and which since the loss of Eire is now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If we include countries which have since changed their staus due to additional territory being added, or it could get rather complicated, couldn't it?

Colin Davies said...

Well, England still exists as a country, as do Wales and Scotland. Not sure about NI. Only came into being as a result of the 1921 partition of Ireland.

Anonymous said...

@James Atkinson,

It can get complicated indeed. You are absolutely right to point out England is not a country - well, not a nation state. The nation state - as everybody who paid attention in school should know is called The United Kingdom (of blah blah and the rest).

You are also correct to point out that frontiers and borders have shifted since then. The England at the time of the 100 years war had little in common with the England of the 16th century let alone with today's "England". England then was ruled by monarchs from a French dinasty who owned territories (of greater importance to them than England) in France.

I don't think England can be compared to Spain, perhaps it might be more correct to compare it to to Castille or Aragon, which are of course very old.

500 years as a nation state is actually very long. How many countries (nations) can you name which are as old as that? Outside Europe, perhaps Japan and Thailand.
Ethiopia? China maybe, but within completely different borders. Iran?

Essentially if one refers to unified nations within stable borders there are only 3 nations in Europe that can dispute the crown of maximum longevity: Portugal, Spain and France (and perhaps the UK). An aside could be made for Scandinavia, but there again the borders have changed quite considerably since the late middle ages. The rest of the nations/countries in Europe (and the world) are either much much younger or have had their borders changed beyond recognition. Once I read a Polish guy asserting Poland is Europe's oldest country. He obviously omitted the fact that Poland was erased from the map from the end of the 18th century till 1918. And the greater Lithuania of the 15th century can hardly be equated to "Poland" as such.

Portugal, by the way, was englobed into the Spanish monarchy from around 1560 till 1640. Even if Spain's borders have not changed much since around 1500 there have been some mofications. For example, Spain lost the Rousillon to France in 1660 (I think). And so on.

Last but not least the discussion can become endless when national pride and sensibilities start to surface and get intertwined in the debate.


Colin Davies said...

@JA. I suspect the only thing that can be said with conviction is that Spain is not the oldest country in Europe.

This line is from a Wikipedia article on the formation of states and is surely correct - "a declaration of being the "oldest country" in the world[Europe] is not fruitful and will inevitably be disputed"

"I think all Balkan and European countries hate Bulgaria. Why? Because we're the oldest country in Europe and one of the oldest people in the world."

"San Marino is the oldest country in Europe and the world. It gained independence in 301 AD from the Roman Empire and is the oldest republic. Its borders too have remained unchanged, making it 1,711 year old nation-state."

"Andorra, a tiny principality in the
border between Spain and France. It has been
borders haven't changed since 1288."

The winner is... San Marino, an even tinier republic located as an independent enclave inside Italy. It claims to exist in the same form
and borders since the early 4th century, and
documentation to support the idea that since
exactly the same form of government (though it
oldest republic, since its foundation)."

etc., etc.

Perry said...

The Kingdom of England was a sovereign state from 927 to 1707.

The Kingdom of Scotland was a sovereign state from 843 until 1707, when it was incorporated into the Kingdom of Great Britain under Queen Anne.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland existed between 1801 and 1927, then becoming the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, because in 1922, the Irish Free State was established and under the terms of the treaty, Northern Ireland almost immediately removed itself from the new state.

The Irish Free State became Ireland in 1937.