‘What do you call a man who looks after sheep in English?’ a fellow pilgrim asks me on the road to Santiago?
‘Er, a shepherd?’
‘That’s right. Un chepa. In Ferrolano un chepa is a guardía municipal (local policeman).
I’ll explain. Ferrol is a port in the far north of Galicia, which due to its strategic importance, became a leading naval centre during the 18th century. My walking companion is from Ferrol and he’s telling me how contact with British naval engineers and sailors in the past led to certain English words and phrases taking root in the local slang / lingo – albeit in a much morphed phonological way. In Ferrolano, for example, they don’t go ‘a todo pastilla’ (very fast), they go ‘filispin’ – from full speed ahead. And when they are on the moon / on another planet, instead of being ‘en Babia’, they are ‘orasai’ – from out-side. Cepillo (brush) is brus; bizcocho (cake), queique; and, according to my Ferrolano friend, the sound that coins make if you move them around in your pocket is something like chinklar – from jingle, jangle.
All interesting stuff, and quite familiar in a way, reminding me of estar al liquindoi, a wonderful bit of Malageñan and Gaditano port-side pidgin, meaning ‘to be on the look-out’. From? Well, there’s no definitive answer, but from something like ‘look and do it’, ‘looking doing’ or ‘looking down’. The derivation of the Anglo-Canary word for security guard, guachimán is more straightforward – watching man. In fact, there are a whole load of Anglo-Canary words and expressions, but more about those in another blog.