It's always exciting when a new product emerges and someone happens to notice that, somewhere across the world, its name means "enema." Or "fragrant bounty of my armpit."
My breath, therefore, went on hiatus when I read this morning that Nokia's fine new smartphone, the Lumia, translates into Spanish as "prostitute."
It was MSNBC that offered this revelation, coupled with a suggestion that surely someone at Nokia should have checked this.
It quoted the Real Academia Espanola, one of the repositories of everything that is pure in the Spanish tongue. There, indeed, was a direct translation of "lumia" as "prostituta."
Thankfully, MSNBC's search didn't stop there. For Google Books also offered a clue from the famed work "Der Gitanismo im Spanischen argot." ("Gypsy In Spanish Slang")
This suggested that "lumia" has gypsy roots and that, therefore, the word tends only to occur in places that have a deep gypsy background.
I performed my own little research. I asked five Spanish speakers whether they had heard of the word. For each, it was a first.
This is not statistically significant. It does, however, suggest that this word might not be as colloquially current as, say, "Siri"--meaning "buttocks"--is in Japanese.
So, while some of you contemplate this peculiar happenstance, might I ask you to consider the word "puttock"? This was a medieval English word for prostitute.
Might I also offer you "dollymop"? This was, apparently, the colloquial Victorian word for "prostitute." Or at least one of them. For another was "tail."
And then there's the word "punk." You might imagine this refers to someone with tall, hard purple hair. However, in Elizabethan times it meant, well, "prostitute."
As did a word that seems to have made something of a return in these Internet days: Trull.
Perhaps "lumia" has more of a known connotation than my research thus far suggests. But we should surely only worry if the next fine Nokia smartphone was called the Nokia Puttock 900.