Cambridgeshire camels.

The meaning of this proverb is very obscure. Fuller says a camel is used proverbially, to signify an aukward, ungain animal: scholars, long resident in college, are not famous for the gracefulness of their address; probably it was from this the gownsmen of Cambridge might be called camels, a term by no means dishonorable, as proving they have attended to Euclid more than to their dancing-masters. Some have supposed this term to have originated from the Fen-men, stalking through the marshes on their stilts, who then, by the apparent length of their legs, somewhat resemble the camel. Ray’s supposition, that “this nick-name was groundlessly fastened on his countrymen, because the first three letters are the same in Cambridge and camel,” seems to have very little reason to support it.

Entry taken from Provincial Glossary, edited by Francis Grose.

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