Loecch, barabbini and “horizontals”

In Milanese Loecch means truly dazed, daft. It comes from the Spanish loco, a comparable expression. The Neapolitans also say locco. In Italian dictionaries, it means ignorant.

Once the locchi were called barabba and they lived on Corso di Porta Ticinese, and in the village of Cittadella. Today they are scattered just about everywhere in the democratic quarters, but especially along Corso di Porta Ticinese, Corso di Porta Vittoria and Corso di Porta San Celso. The locco has no desire to work. His characteristic is precisely that of having no fixed trade, no steady occupation. He lives by certain secret or evident endeavors. Though he works not, he is not exactly a thief by calling, nor a wretch. We might say he is a trader of the lowest rank. He lives one day at a time and adores his independence. He makes ends meet through ploys, of which he has a well-varied supply. Now the gigolo of some wealthy dowager with a taste for pleasure, then the roué brother of some courtesan in vogue, now a procurer, then a wily scavenger of fruits and greens at markets. In other cases, the hatchet man of bloodless vendettas, elsewhere an accomplice or a money lender; an inflator par excellence, hunter and fisherman in the suburban ditches, a vendor of fruit on the summer cart. An occasional thief, but a mere dodger. A police informer, should the chance present itself… and so on.

Milan also has the barabbino which should not be confused with the locco, nor with the antique barabba. This is simply the birichino, the scamp, the rascal. After the gamin of Paris, the most insolent, frisky, restless youngster in the world might very well be the Milanese barabbino. His favorite pastime is that of knocking off edges, and soiling freshly painted walls. The barabbino hates clean, white houses. He is always armed with a telltale pit of charcoal or a nail, with which he leaves the wicked sign of his passage on the pristine walls of buildings. He has the instinct of playing tricks on people in his blood. When he can indulge that instinct he is happy. The barabbino is the quickest colporteur of songs, ditties, cries, fashionable sayings that spring forth without a cause, without a source or a known inventor, without clear merit, yet are taken up and repeated by an entire population.

Parade on, you more or less gorgeous young ladies, of the past, present and future; the joy and ornament of the Lombard metropolis, delight of family men and tutors! Many of you, after having attempted in vain to make an honest living with the labor of your hands, have opted to live less honestly with the labor… of quite another part of the body. The world is unjust towards the “horizontals,” the press worse than unjust. Why display such scorn, such animosity, or even such compassion for these lovable young women who care not for the esteem or the respect of gentlemen of grave propriety, who speak of them with so much bitterness, perhaps after having groveled at their feet, begging for mercy and love? These damsels, in the end, ask no more of life than the means to stay elegant and pleasingly plump. If you’ve the wherewithal by all means consign it to them, for your ruin, but do stop your moralizing away from the heat of the chase. If you’re broke, wrap yourself in a shawl and let them pass, without insult. Those wishing to watch a fine parade of these young ladies should visit the Galleria from four to five in the afternoon, and then after six into the evening, near the Franzetti wine shop, and Savini.