As of today, there is no more Majella National Park in Abruzzo. Instead, there is Maiella National Park.
And it has caused an outrage on social media in the region. Majella National Park has changed the “j” for “i” in its name. For a non-Abruzzese person it might seem like something not worth mentioning. But the people of Abruzzo are furious. For them the “j” is sacred. It is one of the most used letters in local dialect which pronunciation sounds similar to the Spanish double “l”. It sounds raw, unpolished and very Abruzzese.
A popular Facebook page Abbruzzo di Morris (with a double “b”, yes, because in Abruzzese dialect many consonants are generously doubled when pronounced), which has over 66,000 passionate followers posted an announcement about the letter change today. It received more than 1000 reactions (crying and red-faced angry emojis and likes) and almost 300 comments (and counting). People are angry. Very few are in favour of the letter change. They say the “j” is poetry, the “j” is pure Abruzzo. Remove the “j” and you tamper with history. Here are some of the angry comments: “Removing the “j” is an insensitive and disrespectful act of modernism that has no sense.””; “For us Abruzzesi it will always be Majella!”; “Is this a joke? Possible that they are so stupid to abandon ancient cultural heritage?”; “Always and only Majella!”, “We will continue using the “j” with which we were born, brought up and it will be the name with which our children will grow up… MAJA”.
A local journalist added that Maiella with an “i” was introduced by the British forces during the World War II for phonetic reasons and in order to avoid the ambiguous interpretations in radio communications because in English “Majella” was often confused for “Magella”. Someone else chimed in saying that the Accademia della Crusca, the most important research institution of the Italian language in Florence, seems to favour “Maiella”. But, another fervent Abruzzese added that the “j” comes from the Middle Age Latin and was widely used between two vocals, so it is archaic but in no way random as some (including the Majella National Park officials) say.
Park officials explained the letter change by (vague) technical reasons and modern linguistic norms. Now everything, from the logo to the web address and every single sign on the park’s territory, will have to be changed.
Late afternoon today, as soon as the logo was changed on the park’s official Facebook page, another heated discussion exploded (all unhappy comments were deleted quickly but we managed to do a few screenshots before it happened!). Many commenters were not beating around the bush in their response: “When the ignorant manage the history of a land. MAJELLA forever!”; “Are you really doing this? The concept of Italianization is a little outdated. #jesuismajella”. Curse words were used, a few asked about the cost of the procedure and which park official’s nephew was going to get the graphic design contract. Many said that there are far more important issues the park should be thinking about and spending money on.
This discussion around a letter change in the park’s name might seem trivial to an outsider but it shows how much Abruzzo cares about traditions and that changes are not taken lightly here. We at ABRUZZISSIMO love the region’s rich history, its customs and beautiful dialect, so we will continue using Majella with the “j” to show our support and love for all things Abruzzo (even though it might not play well with Google Search Engine Optimisation).
By Anna Lebedeva, publisher and editor of ABRUZZISSIMO.