Spain, a nation of whores, soldiers and fools?

Spanish entries from the 1811 Dictionary of the vulgar tongue, with some fanciful etymological speculation and a mercifully brief bout of bar-room anthropology.

Dave kindly sent me a link to a Grose-based dictionary, which forms part of Liam Quin’s excellent collection of scanned and OCR-ed old stuff. Here’s the gear:

  • bristol milk A Spanish wine called sherry, much drunk at that place, particularly in the morning.
    [Whence Harvey’s excellent Bristol Cream. The OED has a couple of 17th century quotes.]
  • cambrade A chamber fellow; a Spanish military term. Soldiers were in that country divided into chambers, five men making a chamber, whence it was generally used to signify companion.
    [In other words, comrade. The DRAE omits the military sense, but there’s fine confirmation in Minsheu’s 1599 Pleasant and Delightfull Dialogues:

    SARGENTO ¿Cuántos son de camarada?
    SOLDADO Tres, y conmigo cuatro.
    SARGENTO Tantos pies tiene un gato.
    SOLDADO Cinco con el rabo


  • camesa A shirt or shift. cant. spanish.
  • cob A Spanish dollar.
    [The OED finds this in 17th and 18th century Ireland, and subsequently in other British possessions, including Gibraltar. They don’t know the etymology, but I bet it ties into the debasement of Spanish imperial silver coinage with copper, cobre, during the disastrous boom and bust of the late 16th and early 17th centuries (see eg James Casey Early modern Spain). Unfortunately, I can’t think of any 17th century Spanish words that support this hypothesis, but the entries for Spanish and Spanish coin below show the opinion in which their currency was (still) held.]
  • donkey/DONKEY DICK A he, or jack ass: called donkey, perhaps, from the Spanish or don-like gravity of that animal, intitled also the king of Spain’s trumpeter.
    [See Donkey Xote.]
  • quim The private parts of a woman: perhaps from the Spanish quemar, to burn. (CAMBRIDGE) A piece’s furbelow.
    [Again, I can’t think of any Spanish usage, but a burning sensation is one of the symptoms of Spanish gout (see below).]
  • mundungus Bad or rank tobacco: from mondongo, a Spanish word signifying tripes, or the uncleaned entrails of a beast, full of filth.
  • spado A sword. SPANISH.
  • spanish The spanish; ready money.
  • spanish coin Fair words and compliments.
  • spanish faggot The sun.
  • spanish gout The pox.
  • spanish padlock A kind of girdle contrived by jealous husbands of that nation, to secure the chastity of their wives.
  • spanish trumpeter/KING OF SPAIN’S TRUMPETER An ass when braying.
  • spanish worm A nail: so called by carpenters when they meet with one in a board they are sawing.
  • tol/TOLEDO A sword: from Spanish swords made at Toledo, which place was famous for sword blades of an extraordinary temper.

Comparison with other lexically embedded national stereotypes (eg the Dutch and the French) here and elsewhere suggests that they wear pretty well, perhaps unfairly so: I don’t know whether I’d trust a contemporary Toledo sword.

Similar posts


  1. I’m glad you liked the “Vulgar Tongue” – I’m always looking for suitable things to add to my Web site, by the way :-)


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *