antedating scampi (UNCLASSIFIED)

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Dec 15 05:49:19 UTC 2010

The letter of February 1, 1819, from Venice appears in a Byron
collection of 1832 as well and in the 1830 Paris edition (no volume).
[Both edited by Thomas Moore--I suspect the 1830 edition to be the
Letters and Journals of Lord Byron. Vol. 4. 1832. p. 141
Letters and Journals of Lord Byron. 1830. p. 296

The letter was also specifically cited in an article on Byron in Italy
in The Journal of Health, March 23, 1831. The citation in the footnote
points to Moore's collection also being published in New York in 1831.

One more on scampi, but also a couple of other sea creatures on a plate.

OED has "calamari" at 1826, then a big gap to 1951.

So here is a source that interdates both calamari and, now, scampi.
A wanderer in Venice. By Edward Verrall Lucas. 1914
Restaurants. p. 40
> There are, for examples, those little toy octopuses which on my first visit, twenty-five years ago, used to be seen everywhere in baskets at corners, but now have disappeared from the streets. These are known as *calamai* [sic] or calamaretti, and if one has the courage to take the shuddering first step that counts they will be found to be very good. But they fail to look nice. Better still are *scampi*, a kind of small crawfish, rather like tenderer and sweeter langouste.
> To the investigator I recommend the dish called variously frutta di mare and fritto misto, in which one has a fried jumble of the smaller sea creatures of the lagoon, to the *scampi* and calamaretti being added fresh sardines (which the fishermen catch with the hand at low tide), shrimps, little soles, little red mullets, and a slice or two of big cuttle fish. A popular large fish is the *bronzino* [sic], and great steaks of tunny are always in demand too.

Then, again, on p. 229 [Venetian Fish].
> Here also are great joints of tunny, huge red scarpenna, sturgeon, mullet, live whole eels (to prove to me how living they were, a fishmonger one morning allowed one to bite him) and eels in writhing sections, aragosta, or langouste, and all the little Adriatic and lagoon fish--the *scampi* and shrimps and *calimari*[sic]--spread out in little wet heaps on the leaves of the plane-tree.
[emphasis and sp. comments added throughout]

Note that bronzino--actually brAnzino (a.k.a. European sea bass),
which has become popular with foodies and gourmands in the US in the
last decade or so--is missing from dictionaries (not unpredictably).
[Well, not, Wordnik, Wiki and Infoplease list
it as "Italian painter"==Agnolo di Cosimo [di Mariano]] Wordnik and
Wiki do have entried for "branzino". How popular is it? It's been
/featured/ in several food reality shows, including Iron Chef America
just in 2009-2010.

Google sees things differently. I went through over 100 ghits for
"bronzino" and every single one was for Agnolo di Cosimo. Finally, the
110th referred to a restaurant--but it was the Taverna del Bronzino in
Florence, named after the painter, not the fish. Of course, this has
little to do with the popularity--and more with spelling. Searching
for "bronzino food" gets 61K raw ghits (60K for "branzino food"),
"bronzino fish" 56K (285K with -a-), "bronzino grilled" 3360 (26K) and
"bronzino recipe" 5890 (21K) raw ghits. The focal point seems to be
the New York Magazine (and New York restaurants that it reviews, of
course) from 1995 to 1999, as the name of the fish comes up quite
regularly. Other than that, the name is only mentioned in /Italian/
dish names in tour guides and in books on aquaculture (going back to
1976). But nothing comes close to 1914--at least, not in English, as
most of the 1700 GB hits appear to be in Italian and some in French.

But back to "scampi". A slightly earlier interdating:
The gourmet's guide to Europe. By Nathaniel Newnham-Davis. 1911
Venice. p. 246
> Nowhere in Venice can you taste thescampi, prawns three times the size of British ones, fried to greater perfection, each one of them forming a delicious mouthful. ... I have lunched there on maccaroni, with tomato sauce and Parmesan, and scampi, which is always the most expensive dish on the bill of fare, on Lodigiano cheese, honeycombed and tasting like old Cheshire, on half a flask of Chianti, and some fruit, and my bill came to about four shillings.

Still earlier.
Country life, Volume 21. May 18, 1907
Fishing in Venice. p. 695
> There are, however, a quantity of excellent fish to be had in Venice, among which such names asturbot, sole, grey and red mullet, gurnard and mackerel will be the most familiar to my readers, while crabs, lobsters, prawns, shrimps and some exquisite crayfish known as /scampo/ and /canestrello/ are found in abundance, and form most excellent eating.
[Emphasis in original]

But even this does not seem satisfying. If we have Byron's letter from
1819, why are there no other sources for nearly 100 years? Well, not
The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Volume 13. October 1888
Impressions of Life in Vienna. p. 726
> The traveller will find it prudent to abstain, at any rate in hot weather, from the crabs, and tempting little lobsters called "scampi," which are brought hither from the Adriatic.

Journal of the Society of Arts, Volume 25. 1877
Fiume and Her New Port. By George L. Faber. p. 1034/1
> The "scampo," a delicious kind of crawfish, is caught here, which has the reputation of not being met with elsewhere, excepting in Norway. It resembles the prawn in taste; it varies from 4 in. to 8 in. in length, sometimes growing even larger; and it is found chiefly in those parts of the sea where fresh water springs abound.
[The "new port" in question is Rijeka, but, at the time, was "the
chief, indeed the only port of the kingdom of Hungary", listed as

Still further:
That Boy of Norcott's. By Charles James Lever. New York: 1869
Chapter 23. p. 51
> Oysters they had not, not even those native shrimps they call scampi ; but the wine will compensate for much : the wine is Rœdiger; Champagne, with a faint suspicion of dryness.

Here's another one, slightly out of order, but it might explain the
Dublin prawn connection.
Handbook to the Mediterranean: its cities, coasts and islands. By John
Murray (Firm), R. L. Playfair. Part 2. 1892
Hungary. 95. Fiume. p. 300/1
> The fish-market is worthy of a visit A speciality of Fiume in the way of fish is the so-called " Scampo" (/Nephrops Norvegicus/), a delicious kind of crayfish, from 4 to 8 in. in length. It is found in the deeper parts of the Quarnero, where fresh-water springs abound, but is not met with elsewhere in the Adriatic. It is caught by the Italian trawling-boats, bragozzi, which fish off these shores in winter.

Note several connecting points: Fiume, Quarnero, fresh-water springs,
"scampo" itself and the Latin nomenclature. I am curios about the
history that ended up given the prawn the name "Norwegian" since it is
only found in a small part of the Adriatic. There is nothing
"Norwegian" about scampi [prawns], but the fact that they had been
identified as such may give a clue as to why early OED definition
included "Dublin Bay prawns".

I may have a couple more updates, as there are still some GB hits that
I have not investigated, but this is close to exhaustive.

Another paradoxical find has nothing to do with food or crustaceans,
but I wanted to include it to highlight, once again, problems with
Google's OCR (and there is another bonus).
A baker's dozen: Original humorous dialogues. By George Melville
Baker. Boston/New York: 1876
Coals of Fire. p. 71
> /Adam. (Jumping up.)/ You little scampi Ah--ah--my dear boy, never mind, never mind. It's only a plate.
> /Phil./ That's thrue for yez, honey. /(Gives a plate in the same manner to Bob, who drops'it, with a howl.)/
> /Adam./ (/To/ Bob.) You careless scampi--ah--I mean--

What looks like "scampi" in processed text is actually "scamp !".

Similar misinterpretation for 1857 and 1883 Harper's and 1902 The
Independent, and at least a dozen other GB hits. (Similarly, when I
was searching for "biomedical" most of the hits--more than 80%--were
for "biometrical".) The nice thing about all of these is that they
expand on the OED citations for scamp n. 2.[beta], but you have to
look for them under "scampi" rather than "scamp". (There is also the
1843 Moncrieff's Scamps of London, cited here, but that's likely scamp n. 1.a., still postdating
it by a decade.)


On Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 1:12 PM, Paul Frank <paulfrank at> wrote:
> On Tue, 14 Dec 2010 11:55 -0600, "Mullins, Bill AMRDEC"
> <Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL> wrote:
>> OED has 1928 for scampi (n)
>> _Ironwood [MI] Daily Globe_ Mar 10 1920 p 2 col 5
>> "His favorite dish is "scampi," a small crab-fish found only in the
>> Quarnero."  Later in the article:
>> " "Scampi" is the favorite seafood in practically all of the north
>> Adriatic resorts."
> From a letter dated February 1, 1819:
> "Within this last fortnight I have been rather indisposed with a
> rebellion of stomach, which would retain nothing, (liver, I suppose) and
> an inability, or fantasy, not to be able to eat of any thing with relish
> but a kind of Adriatic fish called 'scampi,' which happens to be the
> most indigestible of marine viands."
> Thomas Moore, ed., The Works of Lord Byron: With his Letters and
> Journals, and his Life, Volume 4, 1947, p. 141. Google Books:

The American Dialect Society -

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