What’s in a name?

Bacacay is the name of a long street in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that bisects the geographical center of the city, running northeast to southwest through the neighborhoods of Villa Crespo, Caballito, and Flores.

It is also a village in the Bicol region of the Philippines, not far from Legazpi City, on the southern end of the main island of Luzon.

A search on Google for the meaning of the word has turned up 0 results. But there are some curious, if obscure, leads: “Bacacai” = the (possible?) common name, in Portuguese, of a variety of palm tree; “Bakakai” = “grupo punk rock”; “Baka Kay” = a girl with one friend on Facebook

Steve Dolph from Calque writes:

I’m just about certain that the name in BA is from the famous “Battle of Bacacay” where the Argentine forces (aka the Spanish at that time) repelled Brazilian (ie Portuguese) forces from the western side of Uruguay (what was then known as the Banda Oriental, or East Bank).

Bacacay, of course, is the title of Witold Gombrowicz’s book of short stories, originally published as Memoirs of a Time of Immaturity, and now available in English thanks to Bill Johnston and Archipelago Books.

So why have I decided to name this blog “Bacacay”? For starters, Gombrowicz lived on the street in Buenos Aires, hence his choice of the name for his title. And its indeterminate meaning, foreignness, and persistent dislocation/relocation seem meaningful, useful, and interesting… in the context of what this blog is about: Polish literature’s place in the world outside Poland, and Polish literature’s openness to the world.


One response to “What’s in a name?

  1. This is a very interesting entry. I grew up in Bacacay, Albay in the Philippines and I did wonder where they got the name of our town. The Philippines was a colony of the Spain for more than three centuries (333 years according to our history books). So perhaps, there is a connection between the street you mentioned and our town being given the same name. It’s more logical compared with some of the elders’ stories on how our town got its name.

    According to one of the local legends, the town’s name “Bacacay” was based on the sound of a mother made during the death of her daughter Cacay. They say the townsfolk heard her wailing “Baaaah… Cacay” repeatedly and the name “Bacacay” stuck.

    Again, thanks for this entry 😀

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