I was chewing the cud earlier this week with my good friend Prospero over the outbreak of robberies in Jimena. The news had broken that El Boca had been arrested and we were wondering how long it would be before justice caught up with Barrilete. Both hardened criminals – allegedly.
It then occurred to me that if you mention El Boca (the mouth) or Barrilete (many meanings but assuredly barrel) to any Spanish residents of Jimena they would immediately know who you meant. However if you used their proper name – Jesús, Pepe, Miguel or so on they’d look at you blankly because the village was filled with such names.
This is strange for a British person. It is true that back home you might earn a nickname but in Spain they are the common currency.
I first encountered the nickname when I moved to the valley around 12 years ago. I asked after Antonio and was met with a blank look. I should explain that Antonio lived half a kilometre from my house - three houses away and was my builder – but I could have been asking after a creature from Mars. Eventually it was established I didn’t mean Antonio at all – but Pescao.
Now don’t go running to your dictionary because Pescao isn’t likely to be there. I can however tell you that it relates to fish. In this region they cut the end off their words – whilst in Andalucía they take an inch – in San Pablo de Buceite they take a yard. I never did work out why Antonio’s nickname related to fish. We are some 60 kms from the sea and he is a labourer. I am reliably told his father shared the same handle – and he was a shepherd – goat herder.
The other neighbour was Juan – a name shared by his father-in-law, a land owner in the valley. His father-in-law is Mascota – Pet, but Juan’s nickname is Luti, or that’s what he likes you to call him. His actual nickname is El Entierro – the burial or funeral, so it is not surprising he likes to be called Luti.
Prospero told me some time back that the odious landlord of my old office is known as Malos Tratos. This normally has a specific meaning related to domestic violence, so in his case it would be wife beater. I was relieved to learn that he earned the nickname because of his dodgy business dealings. Indeed he lived with his wife in her no-nonsense mother’s house so I expect that he was on the receiving end of any Malos Tratos – I think he now has actually been thrown out.
All of this is fine except you suddenly realise that if your neighbours have a nickname in all probability so do you. If you were the only foreigner in the village you could be called El Inglés or Guiri but that would hardly suffice in Jimena were foreign residents are plentiful. My son is known in our street as – Niño – the young boy – he’s 34 (I think). My doctor is also Niño – he’s my age but as his father (a Gibraltarian) was the local quack he’ll always be the ‘young boy’ to his patients.
As many people know I am a journalist I flatter myself that I might be called something with that noble profession in mind – don’t snigger! However I have a nagging doubt that it might be – El Gordo – El Calvo – or God forbid – Gilipollas. Don’t ask!