The has been a recent upsurge of social media banter over the confusion of our American cousins surrounding the phrase “a cheeky Nando’s”. http://www.theladbible.com/articles/the-struggle-is-real-for-americans-to-understand-what-a-cheeky-nando-s-is
Many assume that this is modern street slang which relates exclusively to the restaurant chain of that name. As used by younger British men, this is indeed the case. But like so many pieces of popular culture, the phrase actually has medieval origins and has changed its meaning over the centuries.
For some years I was, like many of us, under the impression that the phrase dated from the 1530s. Professor Aloysius “Corpus” Christie, in his 4-volume “Lads Nights Out in Tudor England” (London, Faber and Faber, 1958) quotes “Thommo” Cromwell as writing “The Kynge be styl undere ye habytte of sneakynge offe to Hever at hys nappe tyme with Mystresse Boleyn, that ye courtiers banter amonge themselves ‘Hys Grace be offe ageyne for an cheekye Nan-doze. Epycke! #Bant Boleyn'”.
However, recent research demonstrating conclusively that ‘Barnet’ is an anagram of ‘Banter’ pushes the phrase back further still, to 1471. A recently discovered codocil to “The Arrivall” relates how Edward IV having left “hys best mate Banthony Woodville” in charge of London, took his troops into action “agaynste ye Bantcastrian army where due to ye fogge and being totallye slaughterede after an nyghte in ye ale house, they were totallye slaughtered on ye fyelde of battaille. I didst near pysse mynself laughing! Nyce one! Ledge! #warwickthebantmaker“.
Although this passage pushes documentary evidence of ‘lad’ culture back to 1471, it is unlikely to provide the origin of “cheeky nando’s” since the phrase fails to appear anywhere within it. The original Nando, of course, may have been Fernando I, ruler of Portugal from 1369-71. This was a time when the Iberian peninsula was in ferment, with the rival claimants Henry of Castile and Pedro the Cruel fighting a series of vicious wars in which the enlisted the help of English and French allies, banking on the animosity between the two powers attendant on the rivalry most famously expressed through the Hundred Years War.
It is my contention that matter would be settled by the discovery of a letter from John of Gaunt to his brother the Black Prince reading “Prinno, thou absolutte ledge! Whilst I embroil mynself in ye warre of Castile (and a few of ye Spanyshe chyckes as well, if thou knowst well my meaninge) it wouldst be welle epycke couldst thou rayse an army in Portugal ledde by Cheeky Nando, to take Henry in ye flanke. But notte in ye Dutche sense! #lisbant #dukeofbantcaster!”
If anyone finds such a document, let me know.
Christie, A: “Lads Nights Out in Tudor England” (London, Faber and Faber, 1958)
The “Nuts Magazine” pullout supplement on the Black Prince’s Navarette Campaign, 1367 (two pages stuck together after a lager spillage)
The Arrivall of King Edward IV
Jeff de Cuisine refuses to stoop to eating in chain restaurants, but after finishing this blog entry is off to a nice little bistro most people don’t know about for a quick supper followed by a classical concert. #royalalbanthall #ludwigvanbanthoven