What's In A Name?

A couple of days ago I came across a book published last year, that tells the story of Frigiliana through its nicknames. I’ve only read about thirty pages so far, but it promises to be fascinating. A long-standing tradition in this village, and I guess in Andalucía generally, was to name the first son after the local patron saint and the first daughter after the “patron” Virgin. Subsequent children were often given names which reflected the devotion of the parents to the catholic church. This is a tradition which is followed less these days, and so among younger people there is a wider variety of names than hitherto; for example, we have young women called Gema, Vanesa, Olga, Lucretia and young men by the name of Raúl, Oscar or Germán. There are two patron saints of Frigiliana, San Antonio de Padua and San Sebastián, and the Virgin venerated is Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of the Sorrows), though Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) is also important. As a consequence the village abounds in Antonios, Sebastiáns, Dolores and Rosarios, abounds to a confusing extent. Add to this the Juans, Franciscos, Pablos, Carmens, Marías, Victorias and other common names and there is a clear need to distinguish between the different holders of the same name. This was a problem that we encountered as soon as we moved into our present home, an apartment build on top of an existing house. The house is the home of Dolores, and for a while her sister Rosario lived there with her, both being widows. Our next door neighbour is also Rosario, and her next door neighbour at that time was another Dolores. As if that were not enough, my wife went to the free Spanish classes offered by the town hall and her teacher was one Dolores. Unwittingly, we adopted the village solution; we identified Dolores Debajo (Dolores downstairs), Dolores Profe (Dolores the teacher) and Dolores Su Brazo, which requires a word or two of explanation. This last Dolores, also a widow, lived a very lonely life and sought to inject a little social contact into her life by heading down into the village, leaning heavily on her stick, where she would accost some male tourist with her free arm outstretched and with the appeal, “Señor, señor - su brazo.” which freely translated means, “Please sir, give me your arm.” Clutching the tendered arm she would then direct her prey along the street and up the 32 steps at the entrance to our street and along to her front door, where he would be thanked profusely and receive copious kisses to the back of his hand. Then, some ten minutes or so after her knight in shining armour had retreated thankfully to rejoin his family, out would come Dolores to head back down into the village in search of her next victim. I look forward to learning how our Spanish hosts developed the nicknames identified in my new book.

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