What does “seny” mean? Why did you choose such a long header for a blog?

“Strength, balance, courage and common sense” its just the translation of “Força, equilibri,valor i seny”. The – unofficial – motto of the castellers.

It’s something like “The Internationale” for the workers, the “Gaudeamus Igitur” for the students or the Hipocratic Oath for the doctors. “Força, equilibri, valor i seny” are nothing but some words that identify a whole community. In this case, the castellers.

The enxaneta, the acotxador and the dosos wear helmet for their safety. This is seny. PHOTO: Castellers de Sant Cugat
Casteller children (canalla) wear helmet for their safety. This is “seny”. PHOTO: Castellers de Sant Cugat

The motto comes from “Els Xiquets de Valls”, a poem written by the composer, politician and founder of the choirs’ association movement in Catalonia Josep Anselm Clavé. It goes like this:

A la plaça, a la plaça

prenen part en nostra festa

els forçuts Xiquets de Valls,

i en pilars, castells i torres

mostraran sa habilitat.

Pels carrers fan la passada

amb les gralles i els tabals.

Nara, nara! Ram, plam, tramp!

i a la casa de la vila

a migdia faran cap.

Quina gatzara, quina delícia,

causen al poble els braus Xiquets,

quan gallardegen amb llur perícia:

Força, equilibri, valor i seny!

I would translate it from Catalan to English, freely – and poorly – like:

 To the main square, to the main square

are taken part in our party

the strongmen Xiquets de Valls,

and in pillars, castells and towers

they will show their habilities.

Through the streets make the parade

with the gralles and the tabals.*

Ta-dah, ta-dah! Rum, plum, trump!

and to the town hall

in midday they will head on.

What a hubbub, what a delight,

cause to the people the brave Xiquets,

when they boast with such know-how:

Strength, balance, courage and common sense!

So, after that, can we say that “Seny” is “common sense”? Well, yes. And no.

Seny is a typical Catalan word without translation, like some other words in Catalan. Or like the German “Zeitgeist” or the Galician “morriña”… These words that suck a quintessential part of the nation or the population that speaks that language.

Recently, Banc Sabadell, the most powerful bank in Catalonia, has engaged a campaign with the “seny” as a motive. Unfortunately, it’s only available with subtitles in Spanish… But it is basically about several Catalan personalities giving their opinion about what does “seny” mean for them.

And yes, Puyol is one of these people.

To me, Seny reminds me when I was doing something nasty and my grandma scolded me “És que no tens dos dits de seny?” Like: “Don’t you have an inch of intelligence?” or “Do you have a little brain or else?”. Actually, “Dos dits” means “two fingers”, though. Another measurement tool…

And this is why I named this blog “Strength, balance, courage i seny”.

*I Just realised that the gralles and the tabals deserve more than a post in this blog. But for now, I think that what you have to know about them is that they are musical instruments used to guide the castellers when they are climbing. The gralla is a wood wind and the tabal is a percussion instrument like a drum.

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