Saturday, April 25, 2009


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!


Cybernest said...

ha ha... very good post Sancho!

Girripollas... (as I've always understood it spelt) I would doubt... but then I've never had the (dubious?) pleasure of sharing a beer with you... so not best placed to judge.... or vice versa I'm sure! :)

Mascota... could also be 'The Hat'... as a mascota can also be a trilby or homburg type hat... or even a flat cap... which I would hazard a guess is more likely as the reason for this nickname.... but what do I know!

Oh and... Malos Tratos... to my mind would more likely refer to "Bad Dealings" of the business variety.

Saving everyone the trouble of guessing my 'nick' I use Grumpy Old Gibo (GOB for short!) but you're welcome to volunteer your own... I'm sure you have something in mind... probably not too far removed from 'Girripolla' either!

Saludos! :)

Cybernest said...

Actually... my lady friend, with whom I shared this (like many) amusement, just reminded me (as they do) my nickname in Spanish is in fact... El Gruñon (The grumpy one)... but I know many would not believe this as at all appropriate I'm sure! :@:@

Btw... I thought you might also be amused to hear... the 'captcha' letters for me to verify my comment here are 'dottines'... perhaps also very appropriate!!

Prospero said...

One of the key laws by which one must abide in the world of apodos or nicknames, is that you never, ever refer to it in the presence of the nicknamed, unless he or she does so first.
But further complications abound: There are two brothers where I live nicknamed Tapón (Plug, Top, Cork, depending on the beverage, I guess). At the time I had no idea they were brothers, or even that the other one had the same nickname. One of them, I forget which now, had promised to deliver some wood to the house and, polite character that I am, I had paid for it in advance (I no longer even say good morning in advance). The wood had not been delivered several days later and I was loudly complaining about 'that guy they call Tapón' - he's stolen from me!'
'Oh, you mean my brother...'
I spluttered into my drink and left hastily, never to refer to either of them again, though we do nod at each other in the street.

Cybernest said...

heh heh! Bet you wish you had put a cork in... before you came out with that one! :)

Interestingly, the nickname (apodo) 'Tapon', whilst you are quite in your Spanish definitions of course... actually normally refers to a person's height (or more specifically... the lack of). I would hazard a guess these brothers are either very tall or very short... maybe even squat too maybe even one very tall... the other very short!! lol

Good to see you posting Prospero... hope you're feeling better! :)