A popular Italian nickname for the Vicentines is so delightfully evocative that it may have been coined by Shakespeare or, failing that, by Ben Elton. Because that’s the kind of insult Blackadder could have turned to his long-suffering partner Baldrick.
The Vincenzans, you see, are called “magnagates” – cat eaters – after rumors that in times of poverty the locals were taken to the extreme feline. These days things have improved a bit, even if the traditional sausages of the Valdagno province still contain donkey meat.
The delightful rebuke got me thinking. What other inventive invectives are used elsewhere in Europe? Is there anything to rival it?
The term magnagates is actually part of a longer nursery rhyme about the people of the enlarged Veneto, which describes Venetians as “great men” and those of Padua as “great doctors”, before firing Vicenza’s cat-eaters and describing the residents. of Verona as “all mad” (Venetians great lords, Padovani great doctors, Veronesi all mad and Vicentini magna cats).
He continues to call the Cremonese “crazy”, the Brescians “traitors”, before dismissing the Treviso people to subsist on a diet of “bread and tripe”.
A dismal diet, due to poverty, was once a great stick with which to beat one’s regional rivals, it seems. The Portuguese also call Porto tripeers (“tripeiros”), according to Mary Lussiana, our local expert. “That’s all that’s left after the good cuts were sent to the army that was out of action,” she explains. In France, the inhabitants of Alès – in the Cévennes – received the same nickname (“mange-tripes”) from snobbish people from the nearby city of Nîmes. Anthony Peregrine, our expert on France, adds: “The inhabitants of the village where I live – Beaulieu, near Montpellier – have long been called” Li manjo-agasso “, which is the Occitan language of the” magpie eaters “- referring to difficult times at an indefinite moment in the past when, being the right ingredients scarce, the locals ate magpies.
Culinary nicknames abound, dating back to a time when food was all that really mattered. Lisboeti are called “alfacinha” or “little lettuce” (no one really knows why), the inhabitants of the Brussels suburb of St Gilles are known as “kuulkappers” or cutters (because it was once an area of vegetable gardens, where the Brussels was first developed) and, for probably similar reasons, those from Zagreb are called “blitvari”, or chard eaters, and those from Aalst in Belgium are known as “ajuinen”, or onions. Bologna is known simply as “la grassa” – la grassa – for its all-encompassing obsession with cooking.
The people of the Vendée have the nickname ‘ventrachoux’ or cabbage belly, “but the origins are controversial.” I think they were particularly good at growing, so they loved eating cabbage, “says Peregrine.” But there is a version that I prefer. After the revolution of 1789, the Vendée region was particularly angry at revolutionary excesses, so it rose up against the new republic, whose forces would have ambushed, guerrilla style. Upon the arrival of the republican forces, the order it would go to the Vendean guerrillas to hide flattened. As this often happened in cabbage fields, cabbage being a key crop, Vendean guerrillas became known as cabbage bellies. “
Does Britain have its own culinary nicknames? Of course. Scouse is a meat stew, as well as a term to describe Liverpool residents, there are all sorts of fish terms attached to the people of Grimsby, and I have been reliably informed that the East Anglian people are called carrots. cruncher and Leicestershire bean bacon.
There are some curious nicknames entirely unrelated to food, with Belgium a particularly rich source. Antony Mason, our man in Brussels, explains: “The inhabitants of Ghent have the nickname of stroppendragers (noose bearers), for a punishment inflicted on the rebel city by Emperor Charles V in 1540. Those of Mechelen are called maneblussers (fire extinguishers of the moon), after an incident in 1687 in which the moon shining through the fog was mistaken for a burning tower, and those of Louvain are known as “koeieschieters” (cow hunters), after the city’s defenders of the 17th century mistook cows for the enemy. “
Also noteworthy is the Alsatian insult “hasebock” – which applies to all other French, means “hare” and refers to the “perceived propensity of French troops to sneak, leaving Alsace helpless, whenever the forces Germans invade, “explains Peregrine. Just like hares.
In Greece, Cretans are known as “vrakokopeli” (breech boys), a reference to traditional clothing, while people from northern Croatia refer to Dalmatians as “tovari” – donkeys – which Dalmatians don’t seem to mind. Split football team Hajduk are called tovari and have a donkey as their mascot.
The term “plouc” is used throughout France and could be translated as “redneck” or “mountain”. More specifically, it derives from the Breton term plou, which refers to a political jurisdiction, and suggests there is no shortage of historical snobbery aimed at this northwestern region.
The highlanders of Belgium, says Antony Mason, are Ardennes people, “as portrayed, with a little humor, in the fantastic Netflix series La Trêve (The Break).” In Portugal it is the people of the Alentejo who are the butt of the joke when it comes to culture (or a perceived lack of it).
There are also the misers, the European equivalents of our “bad” Scots. Take a step forward Poznan, Poland – I was told other Poles consider the iron fist – and the island of Brač (a popular joke, according to Jane Foster, our Croatian expert: “Where do the lizards come from? Someone from Brač was given a baby crocodile to look after “).
And devotes a thought to East Friesland. Since the 1960s, taking the Mickey Mouse out of this small German region – land of yokels and idiots, according to stereotypes – has practically become a sport. There is also a Wikipedia page that lists some of the best gags.
They include: “How many East Frisians does it take to milk a cow? Twenty-four. Four to hold the nipples and twenty to raise and lower the cow!
And: “Why do East Frisians wear wooden shoes? So that they don’t bite their toes while grazing ”.
It makes the plight of Vicenza’s long-suffering cat-eaters seem rather more bearable.