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The Bench of the Lazybones

Outside Palma’s Cort building (Ajuntament de Palma; Palma town hall) there is a beautiful hard stone bench inviting passers-by (and tourists) to sit down and have a break from the rushing around, or seek some shade on a stifling hot day such as yesterday. The bench is commonly called Banc dels vagos (bench of the layabouts) by the locals, or Banc de Sinofos, from the expression si no fos per… (if it weren’t for…), referring to the capital’s affluent heirs who had the means to not be obliged to work. Of course, this mockery originated during the 19th century when plenty of rich layabouts were living in Palma but, the term is still being used today, often in reference to the civil servants working at the town hall.

The photo was taken in Palma, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: August 1st, 2012. The time was 15:21:46.

2 replies »

  1. You very correctly explain the meaning of the Banc dels Vagos and to whom it may apply, but I think you have missed the true meaning of the other name. Although you correctly translate si no fos per… (if it weren’t for…), in this context it refers to a group of elderly people whose typical conversation would be: “How are you?” “Not bad, if it weren’t for…(the liver, the diabetes, the old age, etc.)”.

  2. Joan Salvadó is correct. The explanation given by various layabouts for their lack of gainful employment was to cite, usually, some physical infirmity which prevented them from working. This behaviour is not peculiar to Palma and the Banc dels Vagos. In my home town (Limerick) there is a similar Banc – created by the window embrasures of the (now defunct) 18th-century Corn Exchange. In my youth, I was priveliged to hear many luridly, wonderful medical histories by the occupants of “the ‘change”. Often as a prelude to a request for a “loan”. People everywhere are brothers-under-the-skin, it seems.

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