The oldest surname in the world

Ramón J Sender’s La tesis de Nancy is the account of an affair between strawman and strawwoman, in which Curro, Work, a part-gypsy ingénu-cynic from the Seville town of Alcalá de Guadaira “who devotes himself to the resale of bullfight tickets in the summer and to wine-tasting for the rest of the year” leaves Dutch Elsa for Nancy, an American cheerleader and doctoral student of Spanish anthropology and literature, who believes her amour to be a direct descendant of the Antonines.

In letters to her cousin, Betsy, the latter documents her frequently polysemic problems with Andalusian and Caló dialect, culture and history, satirising thus the inadequacies of writers on Spain such as Adolf Schulten, whose romantic historico-archaeological research served in the ideological construction of the Spanish nation under Franco.

If this all sounds rather serious, do not fear: for, like all good Spanish novels, Nancy’s thesis is nothing more than an excuse for a monster collection of gags. The following is worthy of a French philosopher:

[Curro] replied that the oldest surname in the world is Pérez. And that Adam, in the sense of earthly paradise, was called Pérez, because God said to him: If you eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, perecerás, [you will perish|Pérez you will be].

Some of the jokes have become, or already were, commonplace, and few are anything but dreadful. Masculona, fat-arsed, as the feminine form of masculino, is a favourite of S, while I’ve heard the following train anecdote in Dutch and English forms:

On our way back [from Cadiz, the puritanical] Mrs Adams wouldn’t stop talking about how all the travellers in our compartment were smugglers, because there is rather a lot of smuggling between Cádiz and the free port of Tangier… The carriage was full and next to Mrs Adams was a Briton [“inglés” …] with long legs and a tartan cap. From the luggage rack, which was full of packages, a drop of a yellow liquid fell onto Mrs Adams’ hand. She smelt it, licked it, tasted it a moment and said to the Briton, “Scotch, eh?”
The Brit, turning towards her, said most earnestly, “No, madam, fox terrier.”

Sender tells us that there was a square in Puerto de Santa María which at some stage in its history changed names, so that the sign reads “Plaza de Alfonso X el Sabio, antes Burro“. Alcalá de Guadaira has had the grace to name a street after him.

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