Sunday, 6 February 2011

Lanspresados and Snecklifters

A lanspresado is (according to a 1736 dictionary of thieves' slang):

He that comes into Company with but Two-pence in his Pocket.

You either know a lanspresado, or you are one. I have taken the latter course, or it has taken me, either way I'd love a drink, thank you, and I usually have a pint of brandy at this time of day.

Lanspresados are everywhere. They have usually forgotten their wallets or can't find a cashpoint (Did you know that in Wisconsin cashpoints are called time machines?) or some intensely complicated thing has happened with their rent which means that they're skint till Thursday.

Lanspresado isn't in the OED, which is odd as I would have thought the first thing you did when making a dictionary was to ransack old ones (as with this old post on antiscian). The OED's lackadaisicality means that I have no idea where the word lanspresado comes from. However, I can give you an explanation of a more English sounding equivalent: the snecklifter.

You see a lanpresado has to prowl around. He goes to the pub, but of course he can't approach the bar unless he sees a friend already there. So he lifts the latch of the pub door, pokes his head in, sees if there's someone who'll buy him a drink and if there isn't he walks calmly away.

An old word for a latch is a sneck and so a snecklifter is a chap who pokes his head into the pub to see if there's anyone who might stand him a little drink.

Though I've checked that that's all true, I originally learnt it from the back of a bottle of beer, which goes to show something, but I'm not sure what. You see the Jennings Brewery of Cumbria brews a beer called Snecklifter, and very tasty it is too.


  1. By a gobsmacking coincidence, my boyfriend made a lovely steak and ale pie today which had Snecklifter in it. You go all your life without hearing a word, then read about and eat it in the same day. Makes you thirsty just thinking about it.

  2. Wisconsin is trending quite a bit due to the Green Bay Packers win last night. Love the word Snecklifter... and yep I know a couple of them!

  3. I know too many of them; or, rather, bump into them too often. Lanspresados tend to hang about railway stations, bus stations, high streets and off licences. Snecklifters tend to be more discerning, seeking out likely victims in bars and pubs. But mostly pubs.