The health service has been the focus of an ongoing row concerning language. | IB-Salut

The Balearic health service, IB-Salut, has a map of vaccination points on its website. This is a link to a Google map on which these points have been highlighted - health centres and others across Mallorca and the rest of the Balearics.

The health service, you may know, has been the focus of an ongoing row concerning language and therefore a requirement that workers in the health service attain a certain level of Catalan ability. The health service may not know, or perhaps does and realises that it has no other choice, that this kind of requirement doesn’t appear to apply to Google maps.

The one with the vaccination points is a peculiar mix of languages. There is predominantly Castellano usage - La Puebla, Puerto de Pollensa, Puerto de Sóller, for example, even Felanich, albeit one can only make out the ‘h’ as most of the name is obscured by a vaccination point icon.

There are also Mallorquí/Balear place names (courtesy of the article), e.g. Sa Coma and Ses Covetes, and there are one or two that are Catalan - Cales de Mallorca, as opposed to Calas; Colonia de Sant Jordi, rather than San Jorge. A different Colonia, Sant Pere in Catalan, appears as San Pedro.

Health service language correctness in a Catalan style is therefore at odds with the map. But as IB-Salut sees the need to have a map, a Google map, it just has to accept what Google supplies, unless it complains and seeks changes to names.

To this end, it isn’t unknown for internet giants to respond to complaints of a language nature. Three years ago, I followed the campaign of the Més councillor for culture in Sa Pobla, Toni Simó Tomàs, to get Facebook to change La Puebla to Sa Pobla. His was a successful campaign and a brief one. It took only some four weeks for Facebook and Instagram to make the required change. And rightly so.

I say rightly, as from a personal point of view I have never referred to Sa Pobla as anything other than Sa Pobla. That’s the name. And it sounds distinctly odd to call it something else.

Because of the article ‘sa’, Sa Pobla is Mallorquí rather than Catalan, although for the purposes of many a place name there is no difference. By and large, I have consistently opted for Catalan over Castellano. San Lorenzo? No, it’s Sant Llorenç. Santa Margarita? No, Santa Margalida. San Telmo? No, Sant Elm. And so on.

However, I am well aware that I am subject to Majorcan place name hybridisation. And I put this down mainly to what I first became familiar with years ago and have never felt any good reason to change. Accordingly, it is Puerto Alcúdia (never with a ‘de’ by the way) rather than Port d’Alcúdia or Puerto Pollensa instead of Port de Pollença. On occasion, I have dabbled with Cala Sant Vicenç, but it doesn’t somehow sound right; it has been Cala San Vicente for so long.

To me, the preponderance of Castellano on the Google map is antiquated. While accepting, because I do it myself, that there can be and is a degree of flexibility when it comes to language preference, the established and official list of Mallorca’s place names has been in existence for years.

The university is the keeper of the island’s toponymy, backed up by laws and decrees since 1986. There is no doubt, where the university is concerned, that it is a Colònia de Sant Pere rather than a Colonia de San Pedro or a Sant Elm rather than a San Telmo. Moreover, and this is one many of us ignore, it is actually sa Pobla as opposed to Sa Pobla. Likewise, ses Salines, although la Pobla or les Salines are also acceptable.

Place names are something that people can get very hot under the collar about and with this owing nothing to the Castellano-Catalan argument but everything to how a name has come to be officially written. On the health service’s Google map, the name is partially covered, but it looks as though it’s Palma Nova and not Palmanova. The university is adamant. It’s Palmanova, although the words were separate when the development first came about in the 1930s. Another example, albeit one that generates far less heat, is Porto Cristo and not Portocristo, while not far away it’s Portocolom and not Porto Colom.

Bravely though the university has compiled its comprehensive list of official toponyms, usage can ultimately boil down to personal preference. Google, I’m assuming, is not making any politico-linguistic statement with its map; it is what it is, even if many of the names seem anachronistic.

The mix is therefore likely to endure. A muddle of languages and usages, and a reflection of cultures, including foreign, all of which create questions. Why a double-l for Magalluf? Well, the first written documentation (1531) referred to platges de Magalluf. As for five centuries later, hard to say.