[LMB] GJ&RQ typo or question

Pamela Weber pp.weber at gmail.com
Thu Nov 5 15:37:52 GMT 2015

> >
> >
> >PM:  Somewhere in there, an Escobaran city called "Nuovo Valencia" is
> >mentioned. Shouldn't the first word have a feminine ending?
> >
> >
> >  LMB:  The language on Escobar is a rather scrambled creole or amalgam
> >of Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and a few other things, so it won't be
> >following the rules of any one of them, or only randomly.
> Having said that, I'd expect that the gender-matching rules of romance
> languages to be one of the more robust phenomena.  BICBW.
Robust, yes. But we're talking names here in a living language; there's
always historical evolution and implicit (hidden) wordings.

In Santiago (Chile), we have city districts
"Lo Prado", "Lo Espejo", "Lo Barnechea".

"Lo Prado" as the name of a location is completely counterintuitive, Prado
(=meadow) being masculine, and Lo being the neutral article. It's difficult
to explain in a language like English in which articles don't reflect
gender, so just imagine a place called "*There* Meadows" or "*Then*
Meadows". It rubs you the wrong way and at first glance you'd say: this is
wrong, it should say "*The* Meadows".

But since "Lo" is the neutral definite article in Spanish, and -o is the
masculine/neuter word ending, even Lo Prado and Lo Espejo is way less
dissonant than L*o* Barneche*a* with its gender mix of word endings, which
always sounded bizarre to me when I thought of it from a purely linguistic
POW even though Barnechea is just a proper name and doesn't mean anything
(female or otherwise, at least not without googling it). It's like Lo
Barnechea rubbed me the wrong way but with a steel brush. But it exists,
it's not a typo, I'm not making it up, see here

Btw, this is the kind of stuff you only think about if you are (1) new in
town (2) a weird poliglot kid who pays way too much attention to grammar
and (3) extremely bored on a long commute in a pre-cellphone era and have
run out of all reading material apart from your bus ticket. That was me in
the eighties. True story.

So then someone explained to me that those district names "Lo Something"
derived from the names of *Landholdings* that got swallowed up by a growing
city. Thus "Lo Prado" doesn't mean "The Meadow" which would be "El Prado"
(yes, like the Museum), but comes from "Lo DE (la familia) Prado" and means
"that which is the property of the Prado family". Or was, before it was
sold and built over. And obviously Lo Barnechea from "Lo DE Barrenechea",
hence the counter-intuitive mix of neuter and feminine word endings.
Doesn't make it sound less weird, but now imagine someone explaining to
you: my hometown (on Barrayaran South Continent) is actually really truly
called *There Meadows* and it's not a typo on my birth certificate and I'm
not having you on, it's short for *There Shall Be Meadows* which was the
leitmotiv of the half dozen stubborn-as-hell founding fathers whose
descendants are still eking out a living there growing bonsai'd skellytums,
and if you don't like it, you can go argue with my Gran'tante Lucrezia
VorBorgia. Suddenly "There Meadows" doesn't sound all that implausible

That said, the use of "Lo" in place names isn't frequent enough to make it
a norm, there are plenty other districts more "normally" called La Granja
and El Bosque, so it still stands as a linguistic curiosity and a
contravention of Spanish gender-matching rules that you probably won't find
explained in Spanish textbooks even though it's not even unique to Chile as
far as I know.

Extrapolating this to a construct like "N**v*o* Valenci*a*"; and since I
don't speak Italian nor Portuguese I'll tackle it as Nuevo Valencia in

I'd find it entirely plausible that "Nuevo Valencia" could be derived from
Nuevo Asentamiento de Valencia or Nuevo Distrito de Valencia or even Nuevo
Reino (Kingdom) de Valencia or, hell, Nuevo Imperio Divino de Valencia,
with the two middle words dropped colloquially. Why not? Kareenburg went to
Kayburg in less then a generation, didn't it? Now I leave it to you why the
original mouthful should have been Nuev*o* XXXX*o* de Valencia and not a
nice short Nuev*a* Valencia or just plain Valencia, but hey, such locations
get named either by homesick people standing knee-deep in muck or by
cartographers half a planet removed. Locals would probably have called it
"Vale" or something:

*Hola, ¿de dónde eres? Hola, soy de Vale.¿De Vale?Sí, de Nuevo Valencia,
Quinto Continente de Escobar. ¿Y tú?And now poor Ivan has to make Vorbarr
Sultana sound charming to an Escobarran or walk into another bar.*

Since I am no linguist, just grew up trilingual, you can quote me at your
peril. I'm robust enough as a practicing native Spanish-speaker to testify
that Nuevo/Nuovo Valencia sounds like a linguistic oddity, but not an
impossibility, and might even give more plausibility to the worldbuilding
if you have a nice little back story about a cartographer with a poetic


More information about the Lois-Bujold mailing list