Luis Alposta

About the word lunfardo

he first one in associating the word lunfardo with lombardo was Amaro Villanueva.

By reading Los amores de Giacumina, sainete (one-act farce) by Agustín Fontanella, published in 1906, and the little novel with the same name, by Ramón Romero (first work in the River Plate area completely written in cocoliche *, published serialized in 1886), he found in both texts the word lumbardo said by a Neapolitan and, as easily is derived from the story, it refers to the one born in Lombardy.

Going on with the search, the latter brought results and, in the Chiappini’s Vocabulario Romanesco, he found this revealing proof: lombardo with the meaning of thief.

Mr. Larousse, more explicit, is who tells us that, in medieval France, «financers, money changers, usurers, that mostly came from Italy» were known as lombardos.

The importance of such testimony does not need a comment: he had found the word lombardo with the meaning of thief, which had already changed to lumbardo recorded in the porteño local usage, in which lunfardo means, also, thief, and later, by extension, the concealment vocabulary used by outlaws was known likewise.

The steps would be then: lombardo-lumbardo-lunfardo.

Now, leaving aside dictionaries, my contribution to the subject is having found a literary antecedent that documents what was above said and which can be regarded as illustrious because it was signed by François Villon.

In his ballad “Petition to the Duke of Bourbon”, in the first four lines of the third stanza, he says:

Si pudiese vender mi salud
a un lombardo, usurero de naturaleza,
emprendería, creo, la aventura:
tanto la falta de plata me ha embrujado…

(If I had to sell my health
To a Lombard, usurer by nature,
I think I would embark on the adventure:
The lack of money so much has cast a spell on me…)

Because of all this, we would owe a word which has a lot to do with our everyday talk to some ancient Lombards of bad reputation.

(*) Translator’s Note: Cocoliche is an Italian-Spanish macaronic language that was spoken by Italian immigrants in Argentina (especially in Greater Buenos Aires) between 1880-1950.