Mind your language

The Spanish village that thought it was called ‘Kill Jews’

They were wrong. But they voted to change the name anyway

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

11 July 2015

9:00 AM

A village has changed its name because it seemed offensive. But I think the villagers were under a misapprehension.

The village is in Spain: Castrillo Matajudíos. Of its population of 57, 29 voted to change the name to Castrillo Mota de Judíos because they did not like the idea of the former name meaning ‘Kill Jews’. Another settlement, in Extremadura, is called Valle de Matamoros, but its inhabitants are not planning to change it lest it be taken to urge the killing of Moors.


The silly thing is that the Spanish place-name element mata does not mean ‘kill’ at all. It is quite common. There is a quiet little place in the Cantabrian region called Mataporquera. You might think it came from mata ‘kill’ and porquera, ‘piggy’. The swinish part is right, bearing a close resemblance to porquería, ‘pigswill’ or ‘rubbish’. But the mata part innocently means ‘woodland’. So Mataporquera would in English be Hogwood. Matamoros would be Moorwood, and Matajudíos would be Jewood. In Britain, Jew does not seem to enter into many place-names. There is the street Old Jewry in London, but Market Jew in Penzance derives from a Cornish word for Thursday. The new Spanish name Mota de Judios means Jewshill.

Why mata means ‘wood’ is another question. It comes from a late Latin word meaning ‘mat’, the thing the cat sits on. We speak of a mat of vegetation, and the Spanish still speak of the matorral, a more or less bosky brushwood. To our ears mat sounds so English that it is a surprise to find it comes from Latin, and even more of a surprise to learn that the Romans took it from Phoenician. The Hebrew word mittah ‘a bed’ is related to that, as the place one stretches out, nitah.

So it’s as ignorant to take Matajudíos to mean ‘Kill Jews’ as it would be to take Kilmany in Scotland as encouragement to kill lots of people. The Celtic element kil- generally means a church, and comes from Latin too, from cella, ‘cell’. But in some place-names, such as Killiecrankie, I’m told, the kill- comes from coille, ‘wood’. So you could say that the Spanish mata does mean kill — in Gaelic.

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  • Nexialist

    A nice example of over-cooked semantic and political correctness perhaps on the part of our Spanish brothers and sisters, who regard the ‘mata’ element in the town’s name as injurious to jews, though other villagers in a similar cleft etymological stick are not fussed at all at offending Muslims. This is probably because many Spaniards still recall that, alongside the Muslims, the Jews were also booted out of Spain in 1492 by the Catholic kings, unless they converted to Catholicism. More recently, left-wing Spanish politicians have mostly been quite accomodating and welcoming to arabs (including Wahabi crazies), especially since 1975, following the death of Franco. If you need to find a Muslim apologist, they are likely to be found in well-paid public sector sinecures on the Spanish left, including at the top of the PSOE (Socialist) party in the 1980s and 90s. This explains why ex PSOE leader Felipe Gonzalez owns a palace on a large piece of land quite close to the beach in Morrocco, a gift from King Mohammad V1 for countless favours since the 1980s. Indeed, the left in Spain has been extremely generous to the Muslims, but sadly this form of neighbourliness has not been reciprocated; rather over the last 10-15years, it has allowed tens of 1000s of Muslims and scores of radical Islamists to set up shop all over Spain. Spaniards are just waking up to the scale of the ‘fifth column’ in their midst and feeling betrayed. Still, the reputation of Barcelona has been enchanced no end, not only as the capital of neo-fascist political separatism (CiU, ERC), but also as Jihad Central in Europe. In other words, a long tradition of leftist sponsorship of terror and the jihadist ‘cultural other’ in Spain is likely to see the bloody reoccupation of ‘Al Andalus’ by Islamic State.

    • Fairly Educated Scot

      The two places are over 400 miles apart; one is in Castille where the speak “Spanish”, the other is in Extremadura where many speak Extremaduran. People living in one have almost certainly never heard of the other, the cases are not linked.
      The first one had been intentionally named “Jew-killer Camp” during a period of anti-Christian persecution while the Jews had been expelled from Spain. The other should change it’s name as well, but only if a majority of residents choose to.
      The “socialist party” are not socialist, exactly the same way as Labour in the UK they have ditched their origins to chase centrist voters. This explains why Pedemos are on track to wipe them out in the imminent elections.
      Explain to me what is “neo-fascist” about Catalan Independence? Catalonia was the most oppressed of the Spanish communities during the fascist rule of General Franco, ie Franco (a fascist) was opposed to Catalan independence and arrested people for speaking Catalan.
      If you want to see a working example of religions living side by side in peace without bigoted preconceptions like yours getting in the way visit Gibraltar. Protestants, Catholics, Several hundred Jews and Muslims living in harmony for decades.

      • Philsopinion

        ”If you want to see a working example of religions living side by side in peace without bigoted preconceptions like yours getting in the way visit Gibraltar. Protestants, Catholics, Several hundred Jews and Muslims living in harmony for decades.”

        Because the out-group in that instance is the rest of Spain.

        • Fairly Educated Scot

          Many Gibraltanians are ethnically Spanish, Llanito (Gibraltar’s language) is largely derived from Spanish, thousands of Spanish travel into Gibraltar every day for work, Spanish citizens are free to visit and even move to Gibraltar, most Gibraltanian’s will work in harmony with several Spaniards. There is no “out-group”.

          • Philsopinion

            Of coure there is, it’s Spain as represented by the Spanish government and its claim over the place.

  • Precambrian

    And here was me thinking Killiecrankie meant a form of extreme comedy criticism….

  • awooble

    Interesting, if it only it were true. The town was originally called Castrillo Motajudíos, which means “Jews Camp Hill” however it was changed to Castrillo Matajudíos in 1627 during a time of religious persecution. It has nothing to do with woodland although it may sound like that.

  • Jaysonrex

    “Matajudios” or “Kill the Jews”: not a surprising name considering that the Holy Inquisition was invented, developed, and substantially improved (in terms of Jews tortured and killed per day or week) by the Spanish Inquisition with the invaluable assistance of the Pope and the Vatican Mafia (aka Curia Romana).

  • This article comes out tomorrow, but has comments from a day ago…lol, nice.

    • Mc

      The online version of Spectator publishes a number of articles in advance of appearing in their weekly hard copy version. When they do so, the online articles bear the future date of the yet-to-be published hard copy version. A number of news organizations do this.

  • Nexialist

    It appears that the village which changed its name from ‘Castrillo Matajudios’ to ‘Castrillo Mota de judios’ lies in the province of Burgos and not Castilla La mancha or Extremadura, though this does not exclude other villages in Spain of the same name which have been lumbered with similar issues of how to turn vile, anti-semitic sounding place names into more modern forms, in line with more ‘inclusive’ sensibilities (see bajurtov.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/el-pueblo-matajudios-cambia-su-nombre-387-años-despues/). Once again, Spaniards have demonstrated that old-fashioned hatreds, ethnic bigotries and jew baiting can be consigned to the dustbin of history. But the case of ‘Matajudios’ also brings into sharp relief the degree to which recent political, social and ideological differences are still as sharp and sectarian as ever, ranging from the PSOE-sponsored ‘ley de memoria historica’ in 2005, the ‘ley del aborto’, housing, crime, drugs, family law, to the -co-oficialidad’ of Spanish and other historical ‘lenguas’ in the regions, such as Vascongadas and Cataluña, where unelected criminal gangs and political mafias still reign supreme, including ETA and ERC in the Catalan parliament. These regions have been transformed into monstrous monolingual nightmares for most Spanish-speaking folk, with more than a touch of a fascistic, local culture, imposed by Orwellian city councils. Moreover, in the spirit of total denial, Spain’s cowardly political class as a whole refuse en masse to mount a serious investigation and hold to account the authors and perpetrators of the 11M Madrid train bombings of March 2004, for fear of losing their jobs and perks if names are named, such as ex-PSOE Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba and the Cadena Ser’s Inaki Gabilondo. And as our ‘Fairly Educated Scot’ indicates, the PSOE is not really a left or Socialist party at all, having been marginalised by the onward march of Podemos mainly among the disaffected middle classes, notably students and public sector workers, desperate to hang on to their ‘jobs for life’ and dwindling salaries. Podemos iis the Spanish version of the extreme left formation Syriza in Greece, though the Communist leadership of Podemos was radicalised and trained in Venezuela under the tutelage of Hugo Chavez and his bloated apprentice Nicolas Maduro. Needless to say, rather than bring prosperity, Chavez’s inflated, leftist authoritarian populism and his state-sponsored theft of foreign companies killed capitalism and the oil industry in Venezuela, leading to an economic collapse and a pariah state. A bad omen for Spain. Regarding their national elections in November 2015, Spaniards are increasingly aware of the dangers of letting Pablo Iglesias and his gang of university Chavista cronies into power, though they might have to bite the bullet, since the much derided ruling PP (not a conservative party, more like a bunch of incompetent petty criminals) is almost certain to implode. This leaves the way open for the viciously sectarian ‘izquierda abertzale’ (basque left and ETA) and the neo-fascist centre-left Catalan coalition in power, i.e. CiU (Convergence and Union) and ERC (Catalan Republican Left) to continue demanding ludicrous transfers of powers from Madrid and stealing more money from the ‘Spanish taxpayer’ than ever before. Also, if anyone has the misfortune to live in Spain, own a property there or a have a bank account, sell them NOW, close them down NOW and run with the proceeds, though it may be too late to stop the rot.

  • Man In Black

    Right, so Santiago Matamoros means St James of Moor’s Wood, despite his frequent depictions sword raised trampling Muslims ???

    And in bullfighting, the Matador is a Woodsman ???

    give me a break …

  • Man In Black

    … plus, mata/mota in cases where he author is right would be translated Motte.

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