Friday 23 July 2010

I Just Spazzed A Monkey

A chap I know was having a quiet drink with some friends in a club on Pall Mall. A lady of about eighty strode up to them. She appeared to be no stranger in the land of gin.

'I just spazzed a monkey on the gee-gees,' she exclaimed, and then looked at them all sternly. 'Now, do any of you young men know what that means?'

She was terribly impressed that they all knew that she had lost £500 betting on race horses, and wandered off without further conversation. I'm more impressed with her. I like the idea of a lady who goes around springing surprise tests of slang on the youth of Britain.

And, in case you were wondering, a pony is £25, and a Dead Brazilian = Ayrton Senna = Tenner = £10.

As for quid, nobody is sure. It may come from quidditas in Latin, meaning that which is, perhaps with the sense of hard cash against airy nothings. But it may come from cud, as in the thing that cows chew. The idea is that cud came to refer to chewing tobacco and therefore to the little piece of tobacco to be chewed. It then came to mean any small amount of anything, and hence a unit of money.

Anyway, the first use of quid comes from the 1661 classic Strange News From Bartholomew Fair:

The fool lost his purse, but how he knew not; for the reckoning being suddainly brought in, his Quids were vanisht.

The Inky Fool in a rare lapse of concentration


  1. In the interests of absolute truth, the chap in question just e-mailed me this:

    A gentlemen's club in Berkeley Square - is that Pall Mall? Burns Night, hence Ladies were allowed.

    We guessed, but didn't know. Turns out the "monkey" was the symbol on a 500 rupee note, possibly issued by the East India Company when paper money was introduced to the Raj.

    Berkeley Square is just over 700 yards from Pall Mall, and rotten with nightingales.

  2. The Antipodean, mildly depressed, listening to TMS, wondering if they're possibly related and while not in the land of gin, quite happy within the borders of Cointreau,23 July 2010 at 17:46

    Dogberry, I'm wondering how on earth monkey = ₤500. Also, appreciating that it might be politically incorrect, but spazzing = lost?

    More details, please, not that I don't appreaciate the details given already.

  3. The Antipodean, just off to google Berkeley Sq and nightingales,23 July 2010 at 17:52

    Many thanks to your friend, and I meant appreciate, of course.

  4. The chap who'd lost his purse: the quids were tobacco not dosh, no?

    I remember playing Scrabble, aged 11, with a very smart lady in Surrey. I had the letters IQUD but didn't think I could play 'QUID' because it was slang.

    The very smart lady told me it was a measure of tobacco and therefore perfectly acceptable.

    BTW, today I purchased an 1888 book from my local Oxfam for £7. Archie Macnab by He Himself. It's an amusing read.