The Third Leader: Whose practices?

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The Independent Online

Iberian dismay, we note, over use of the phrase, "Spanish Practices", to describe the serpentine arrangements enjoyed by postal workers which, depending on view, suggest either a proper insistence on proper remuneration, or not so much as can do as can't do without large amounts of extra dosh, squire.

This is not the space to debate the justness of the phrase's attachment. Nor does anyone seem entirely certain of its derivation. But as one theory relates to the strangulation of commerce by crown-approved regulation, another quotes the "mañana mentality", and another mentions the Inquisition, we understand objections.

There is, of course, a long tradition, going back at least to the Philistines, of enemies insulting each other by association of adjective. Syphilis has been known, depending on where you weren't, as the French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Russian and Dutch disease. Desertion is known as either French or English leave. Why condoms are French letters and capotes Anglaises is less clear.

Perfidious Albion has certainly attracted its own obloquy. Le vice Anglais and the English disease are still abroad; the latter has been variously defined as hooliganism and, ah, strikes: my favourite is Joseph Skibell's "a morbid love of ruined things".

While well aware of the dangers of discrimination, conscious or not, and happy to lose the exercising phrase, there are others we do like, such as being hit by the Spanish archer (i.e. getting the El Bow). Perhaps the solution is to offer a generous new coining, drawn on the legendary lost home of such customs: how about Los Habitos de Fleet Street?

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