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Sunday, August 10, 2014


In the past I have posted a research similar to this called Period Cartoons, Expressions and Songs that I had, mostly, taken out of a magazine.

Since that time, I have been gathering more expressions which I now want to share with you. But please, don't forget, many of them still need verification! These expressions I have gathered from word-of-mouth and they are close to hearsay, so, not proven to be completely right!

Expression that comes from the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula during the Reconquista period in which the Christian rulers fought the Muslim occupation. It actually means “Dog Killer”and refers to what Christianity perceived to be the infidels.
In defensive medieval architecture the expression means Machicolation, which is an opening in the floor of a battlement through which hot water or hot oil, stones, arrows or other could be dropped to kill the enemy.
And with this, we can understand the origins of the name. This is the official explanation you can find. But it gets more interesting. Besides being the name of places and villages across the Iberian Peninsula (we can only imagine what happened there!), it is said that it is what the local population called the invading French. Since the word “dog” was still a pejorative expression, it would make sense for them to call the enemy that and yelling “Kill the dogs” (mata-os-cães) when defending their own.
Curiously enough, in Torres Vedras, Portugal, near the Wellington Defensive Line, there is/was a village called Matacães, but probably the name has a more ancient origin then the Napoleonic one.

“Friends of Peniche”, meaning a false friend or someone that is more interested in receiving then equally giving back.
Officially the origin comes from the succession crisis of 1580 when Portugal and Spain shared the same King, Felipe the 2nd of Spain and 1st of Portugal.
The war that proceeded this succession had the help of our English allies and around 20 thousand men under the command of Francis Drake who disembarked on the island/peninsula Peniche and took the fort back from the Spanish occupiers. In the meanwhile, in Lisbon everyone awaited these “Friends that would come from Peniche” but soon rose suspicion when Drake's men plundered the maritime towns on their way and when news came that the ships didn't had the artillery capability needed to end the blockade of the Portuguese and Spanish supporters, as promised by Elizabeth the 1st. When facing the power of the enemy, the English allies understood that they didn't had enough fire power to strike back and, soon later, many of them had died from the plague anyways.
There are 2 other meanings to the expression and they come from the French Invasion period:
1st, that the people of Peniche had promised to send goods to the Lisbon population that was under the French siege, and the help never came; 2nd, that the population of Peniche called the Brits that when they understood that they were better treated by the French then the new occupiers.

 The island/peninsula of Peniche, Portugal. Image taken from the web.

“The position in which Napoleon lost the war”, meaning a prostrating-faced-down position showing, in a humiliating way, the rear end of the body.
It might have had the origin at the end of the battle of Waterloo when Napoleon was struck by a bullet and fell on the ground, or it might have had the origin of the several French soldiers that returned after the war in Russia and fell dead on the ground in starvation, cold or of tiresome.
Funny enough, we can later find this same expression in relation to the 1st World War when referring the loosing Germans.

There are 2 explanations:
1- That this expression emerged around 1830 after the UK tried to convince Brazil to end it's slave traffic, by forcing the government to adopt new laws, which everyone knew wouldn't be followed. Hence the, “For English (men) to see”.
2- That this expression came from the growing touristic interest of the Iberian Peninsula, more so the unknown Portugal, after the Napoleonic Wars. Travelers would be interested in having a cultural and local experience and the population would put up a “show” just for the English people to see. Still used in the same context today, be warned!

The first expression comes from the fact that in old times shops would have a nail on the wall inside of the establishment where all the unpayed bills were put. When the debt was payed, the paper would be removed from the nail. “To put on the nail”: It refers to situations where money is owed, of course, but also pawn shops.
The second expression means to drive a nail into something, but also to the act of borrowing something which the person cannot or has no interest in returning. Commonly used in situations where money is asked or a cigarette.
What I have heard, is that these two would have been used during the French Invasions period when the British allies stayed in Portugal and their officers occupyed houses belonging to local wealthy families. A nail with an official paper would be driven in the estate's door, informing the family that they had a certain amount of time to vacate, for the British officer to live there.

Pawn Shop Scene in London. Taken from modernurbanspace.blogspot.com

Some of the explanations have an interesting and believable background, other not so much. Could they be true? Is it what really happened? Would love more information on it!

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