La Fortalesa - that is the correct spelling. | Efe


Oh dear. Is Ivar Tollefsen absolutely certain that he has bought a seventeenth-century fortress on the Formentor peninsula and not a restaurant in Sa Pobla? One asks, as the acquisition of the estate has aroused the inevitable argument regarding its spelling. This sort of thing matters, and none more so than in Pollensa, where they steadfastly adhere to the "literary" or formal format, i.e. the Catalan format.

The last time there was a ballyhoo about this - local to Pollensa, that is - was when a tennis player got married at the fortress in October 2019. The media was insisting that Rafael Nadal's wedding was somewhere else. It wasn't at La Fortalesa. That is how it is spelt in Pollensa. Not with a 'sa' and not with a 'z' either (Fortaleza). Mallorca may, by and large, opt for the Mallorquí salat article ('sa' or 'es' for masculine), but not in Pollensa they don't. Even the then mayor, Tomeu Cifre, was consulted regarding the venue of the Nadal nuptials. "La Fortalesa is the correct form. Always has been, always will be."

So there we had it. The town hall offered its official verdict three years ago, but then along came a Norwegian billionaire who quite feasibly had got the wrong place. There is a Sa Fortalesa restaurant in Sa Pobla, which some no doubt, and erroneously, spell with a 'z'; they may even, and worse still, use a 'la'.

In Sa Pobla, they have spent many a year seeking to distance themselves from all talk of a 'la', be it Catalan (La Pobla) or the Castellano La Puebla. There was success on a global scale in respect of the latter when the Més councillor for culture, taking advantage of being acting mayor while the actual mayor was off on his summer holidays, took Facebook to task. It's not La Puebla, it's Sa Pobla. It was a triumph for Toni Simó Tomás, who fancies a crack at becoming mayor in May; Facebook made the change.

Facebook were presumably not bothered one way or the other or even aware of politico-linguistic debate in Mallorca. Had they been, they might have asked Toni why he wasn't backing La Pobla, which is an acceptable alternative even if it is rarely used. Aren't Més the great advocates of Catalan? Erm, yes, but the aspiring mayor lives in a village that everyone knows as Sa Pobla. I say everyone, as you do occasionally come across La Puebla, which is - to me - most peculiar.

In Mallorca, getting the correct place names (or using the wrong ones) can provoke furious debate. Which is why the University of the Balearic Islands sits as arbiter on all things toponymic, having been drawn into battles over, as an example, a place in Manacor. It's Porto Cristo, say the university and the town hall; there are those who beg to differ and argue the case for Portocristo.

Overwhelmingly, there are the generally accepted spellings, or what have come to be generally accepted over recent decades. La Puebla is now weird, but so also are, for instance, Andrach or Felanich. They are Andratx or Felanitx, albeit, and to make things more confusing, there is a Catalan Andraitx version.

The politico-linguistics would suggest that the place name arguments are just Catalan v. Castellano. But not so. Take the example of Cala Rajada or Cala Ratjada. Both are acceptable, according to Catalan sources, but Rajada is the preferred use. Magaluf or Magalluf? Well again, both are valid; it depends on your choice of historical source, though I accept that Magaluf is way more common. The university is clear enough - Cala Rajada and Magaluf - as it is also clear about Magaluf's (Magalluf's) neighbour. Once upon a time, Palma Nova may have been the usage. But not now; it's Palmanova.

Back in Pollensa, meanwhile, they continue to row about the fortress. But even the most adamant adherents to La Fortalesa may be willing to accept a misspelling if they could get into the place (if only the grounds). An asset in the cultural interest, which is supposed to entail minimum rights of public access (four days a month), demands for this to be complied with have fallen on deaf ears. Ivar Tollefsen is said to be more amenable, always assuming that he did actually buy the fortress and not a restaurant.