Thursday, December 19, 2013

Spain & the EU; Failing institutions; Mansions in Spain; Odd English words; & Naughty Spanish words.

Years ago I forecast here that the Spaniards would one day exit their passionate love affair with the EU. This was at a time when there was nary a negative comment in the media. That said, it wasn't risky to make the prediction as it was bound to happen, with or without La Crisis, which merely accelerated it. Here's an article from The Local confirming the development.

I dunno. First the Spanish King, now the EU. It'll be the Legislature and the Executive falling out of favour next. And then where will be? Right here, as a matter of fact. Whither España? At least they knew what to do at times like this in the 19th century.

It might just be the time to start thinking about that castle in Spain again. Prices are still 8% down on last year but last quarter saw the first increase for quite a while. Albeit only 0.7%. If you are thinking of buying, then you should take on board this excellent advice from the British government. And if you need an honest, property-specialist lawyer, write to me on It's not me, by the way. I'm neither of these things.

I've just finished a book about the two major British naval mutinies of the last decade of the 18th century. I'm not sure why. But now that I have, here's a list of all the words which the (American) author used which were new to me. Or not entirely new but very unusual. As it's a book about sailors and ships, I imagine some of them relate to the sea.

Recognised by my spellcheck, if not by me

top hamper
to close-haul
hanger (as a weapon)
a scottish shingle (as a person)
a junker (as in 'band of junkers')
a tartan (type of boat)
crimp (as a noun, but not in today's sense)
to buss
crank (as an adjective)
to tattle
a Jonathan (American usage suggests someone from New England)
to gam
to duke out
to ring the welkin
to rive (pp. rove)
to pike
to twit(t)
to shot(t)
souse (as a noun)
to kedge off
to gyve
to plash
to slat(t)
to tell off (meaning to put in position)
shoal (as an adjective)
sally port

Not recognised by my spellcheck

to unreeve
to tweetle
abrawl (as an adjective)
beserk (as an adjective. See below)

I did look one or two of these up, e. g. brummagem - Dated: cheap, showy or counterfeit. Yes, I've had a couple of dates like that.

As I say, the author was American and so some of these (old English?) terms may still mean something in the USA. Where there may also be the expression 'to dry one's hands of something', as opposed to 'to wash one's hands of something.' But, anyway, the above list would be a handy reference for a game of Dictionary.

The fact that he was writing in 1964 probably explains his liberal use of queer and queerly to mean something quite different from today.

Reading about England in the late 18th century was an odd experience, as it kept reminding me of modern Spain. For example, this resolution from a petition: That no good to the country can arise from a change in administration, unless their successors pledge themselves to sort out the corruptions of the State, and to restore to the people their due weight in the Legislature.

And I enjoyed this paragraph on the differing approaches of the French and British navies:- The frugal French went to the limit of delicacy; they aimed their cannons to bring down British top hamper, not to smash up stout hulls that would be costly to repair [after capture]. The British, more of a beserker folk [??], aimed only for the hulls, which accounted for the almost unbelievable disparity in casualties. It was not uncommon in fierce engagements between matched ordnance for ten Frenchmen to fall for one Englishman.

Finally . . . and still on the subject of words and phrases, here's The Local's list of the top ten 'naughty' expressions in Spanish. They really are common. In every sense of the word. Enjoy.


kraal said...

unreeve - withdraw a rope from a securing ring or block.
gasconade - extravagant boasting.
pantisocrat - from a utopian social org. in which all are equal in social position and responsibility.
bilboes - sliding shackles fitted to ankles.
shindy - large lively party.

Some of the other words I guess you could explain but these are in the OED. Shindy was in use when we were in our teens. Cheers, Kev

Colin Davies said...

Thanks, Kev. So 'shindy' is a variant of shindig, I guess.

I was pretty sure 'reeving' was something to do with knots. Usually putting 2 ropes together. Like our old reef knots?

'Bilboes' I guessed, wrongly, were footwear of some sort.



Perry said...


You reeve ropes through the sheaves of a block & tackle.

Shoal means the water become shallower. Shoaling beach.

To kedge off means rowing out from the stern of a boat that has run aground with the kedge &secondary) anchor & dropping it some distance out, so that the boat crew can haul the boat off, using the anchor rope.

Barratry is the act of damaging ship or cargo, in defiance of the owners' best interests.

I could go on.



Moloch could be a slave trader.

Orlop is the cable or lowest deck in a square rigger or similar.

Poorly secured halyards slat or slap against the mast & verily disturb the sleeping sailor.

A Cathead is a beam that supports the ship's bow anchor.

A sally port is a muster point on a dock for ferrying the crew to & from the ship.

Talebearing is false witness.

Pawl is the ratchet part of a jamming cleat or windlass. Prevents the rope running backwards.

Hanger is a cutlass.

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