The exonymy wars: Generalidad de Cataluña and Comunitat de Madrid on Wikipedia

I was amused to note that there are massive flames on the Spanish Wikipedia re the (political) rectitude of using the Spanish equivalent of official Catalan toponyms and babylonyms (eg Generalidad de Cataluña instead of Generalitat de Catalunya), but that there is no corresponding bad-mouthing on the Catalan Wikipedia re the use of Catalan equivalents for official Spanish titles (eg Comunitat de Madrid instead of Comunidad de Madrid) – “do as you would be done by” doesn’t seem to apply. The Spanish norms are sufficiently inconclusive that you can rely on being liberally and publicly cursed whatever you do, and it would be good to see this spirit of free discussion extend to parts of the internet inhabited by the peripheral official languages.

A “babylonym” is what I call the name given to part or all of the political-industrial complex, there being as far as I know no satisfactory alternative – “chrematonym“doesn’t work because its range is generally wider. Establishing a satisfactory solution is important, given the prophecies of the Church of Monty Python:


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Last updated 01/12/2018

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Barcelona (1399):

English language (462):

Föcked Translation (414): I posted to a light-hearted blog called Fucked Translation over on Blogger from 2007 to 2016, when I was often in Barcelona. Its original subtitle was "What happens when Spanish institutions and businesses give translation contracts to relatives or to some guy in a bar who once went to London and only charges 0.05€/word." I never actually did much Spanish-English translation (most of my work is from Dutch, French and German) but I was intrigued and amused by the hubristic Spanish belief, then common, that nepotism and quality went hand in hand, and by the nemeses that inevitably followed.

Monty Python (8):

Spain (1881):

Spanish language (504):

Translation (788):


  1. These debates are as hysterical as they are sad. And sterile. It's just not how language works, except for newspeak.

    Thanks for enriching my vocabulary with "babylonym". Now that's how language works!

  2. It's always Lleida and A Coruña, not Lérida and La Coruña in Spanish.

    I used to think that it was very clever to talk about the Falkland Islands in English and las islas Malvinas in Spanish but now I don't know what to do.

  3. The notion that practice should be allowed to supersede the magnificent (though historically flawed) theory of linguistic integrity is positively alarming.

    Might everyone in the S Atlantic not agree – with love or hate – to those islands being renamed Las islas Thatcher?

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