12 FEBRUARY 1937, Page 20


[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—While perusing a copy of The Spectator in my dentist's office recently (it was dated October 23rd, 1936, which is considered very recent for a professional man's waiting-room), I happened upon an article by Mr. Cyril Q. Henriques—a very interesting piece and well written.

Mr. Henriques, however, attributes the Latin-American term " Gringo," as applied to Nordics, to an Englishman whose servant was named Green. We in North America trace the expression to a different source, though as to its accuracy I would hesitate to testify. During a short war between Mexico and the States in the 184o's a song very popular with the Northern soldiers was " Green grow the rashes, 0 1 " The Latins, being unable to manipulate their tongues around such " barbarously spelled " words, said " green go," or " gringo." In retaliation, the United States soldiers called the Mexicanos " greasers," from their oily appearance. This term applied only to Mexicans, however, Latins of Central America being known as " Spiggoties." " Spiggoty," probably, came from efforts of Central Americans to say " Speak English," sounding somewhat like " Spika da Inglis " pronounced very rapidly.

Another amusing adaptation of a foreign language by Mexicans is the term " la cucaracha," a corruption of the common English word " cockroach." La cucaracha applies not only to the ordinary pest which infests damp places, but to a certain type of- swamp-dwelling human, and a very entrancing melodY is sting on both sides of the border, eulogising " la cucaracha." It represents a Mexican of " la cucaracha " type, who as he stumbles along a road bewails his dearth of marihuana (hash-heesh) to smoke and the fact that his sweetheart loves him no more, along with sundry other burdens.

The music is ecstatic and worthy of a more serious subject. A listener, having no knowledge of Spanish jargon and hearing

it sung for the first time, accompanied by MAdcan guitars, is nearly overcome with emotion, so lilting and full of entreaty