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Turnabout is fair play

October 10th, 2006

The Oz reports on the “infiltration” (or maybe “infiltrazione”) of Italian by English words.

Prime recent examples were flop instead of the Italian fiasco, and trend instead of tendenza.

Umm, does anyone notice un problema here?

Seriously, I’m all for linguistic diversity, but if these are, as claimed, the prime examples, it’s hard to see that there’s a big imbalance of trade here.

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  1. Savvas Tzionis
    October 11th, 2006 at 07:42 | #1

    Same thing with the Greek Language.

    My mother bemoaned it, but, as I told her, she was watching too much Greek Satellte tv where xenomania rules.

    In everyday life, these English words barely register in Greece (of course, here in Australia we developed our own words. Friza instead of Psiyio for Fridge. Caro instead of Amaxi for Car.)

  2. Gaby
    October 11th, 2006 at 10:55 | #2

    I reckon I’ve heard “trenda” for “trend” on RAI International.

    My very informal impression is that speaking English among the Italian young is quite cool. Hence the sprinkling of words, and their eventual adaption as above. Different to the French, or how their attitude to the “purity” of their language is routinely depicted in the media?

    You here it a bit in soccer commentary. “Cross” for “traversa”. “Pass” for “apoggio” or “passagio”. “Dribbling”. “Shot” for “tiro”.

  3. James Farrell
    October 11th, 2006 at 11:28 | #3

    It would be interesting if indeed Italians see flop as a substitute for fiasco. The two words have quite a different sense in English. So I’m curious whether their flop/fiasco means flop or fiasco.

    And I wonder if they’ll adopt spagbol.

  4. Gaby
    October 11th, 2006 at 12:47 | #4

    James, re “spagbol”, probably no. Not for chauvinistic linguistic reasons. But for chauvinistic culinary ones.

    A “sugo a la Bolognese” is customarily eaten with papardelle (very wide ribbon pasta), or at times fettucine (thinner ones). Italians are very protective of their food customs.

  5. James Farrell
    October 11th, 2006 at 13:20 | #5

    Does Faster Pasta still exist, Gaby?

  6. Nanni
    October 11th, 2006 at 14:16 | #6

    I’m overly sensitive to this subject. Italians tried eradicated my own language in the attempt to subjugate Sardinians. Until 1995 -the last century, but not really long ago- it was illegal to talk in Sardinian to a public officer, be it a teacher or a policeman. There are ongoing trials against Sardinians that defiantly spoke to the authority in their language. It doesn’t need to be mentioned -or maybe it does- that the White settlers did the same with the aboriginal languages.
    I think it is funny to see such a hypocritical concern for a couple of foreign words.

  7. October 11th, 2006 at 16:23 | #7

    The French are past masters at this sort of attempt at protectionism, as they are at many types of protectionism – witness l’Académie française. I am (a little) surprised the Italians are following them.
    I much prefer English, which is such a bastard mix of other languages that it is almost impossible to work out where it starts and ends. Anyone trying to referee a meeting involving New Yorker and a person from outback Queensland would know what I mean.
    Just in case this is thought chauvinistic – Indonesian / Malay is much the same and all the more powerful for it.
    The important thing is that it is understood, not where it came from.

  8. Gaby
    October 11th, 2006 at 16:32 | #8

    Nanni, interesting. I wasn’t aware of that re Sardinian. Is it more than a dialect and a separate language to Italian?

    James, “Fasta Pasta” certainly does. It’s now a franchise chain. But not as popular as it once was. Adelaide has seen a massive proliferation of Italian cafes, which are basically direct competitors to “Fasta Pasta”.

    “Fasta Pasta” is a good name and at the time, circa middish ’80’s, a smart idea.

  9. James Farrell
    October 11th, 2006 at 17:09 | #9

    Yes, I spent 1987 in Adelaide, and it’s a fond memory. Pie floaters I haven’t missed.

  10. Gaby
    October 11th, 2006 at 17:38 | #10

    Have to disagree about the floater James. Great as an occasional snack, especially after a few beers.

    For the uninitiated, a pie floater is a meat pie served in a flat bowl covered in pea and ham soup to which one may add various accompaniments. I go for Worchestershire sause and lashings of tomato sause.

    Great when when could wash it down with cold ginger beer on tap.

  11. October 11th, 2006 at 17:51 | #11

    Sounds like something you might see after having too many beers.

  12. Nanni
    October 11th, 2006 at 19:51 | #12

    Gaby,Sardinia has four languages and as many dialects as villages. As you can image, someof them are nearly extinct. But the funny bit is that since 1995 the regional government has been trying, unsuccessfully, to codify a single official language.

  13. Gaby
    October 11th, 2006 at 23:13 | #13

    Andrew, there is that potential aspect…or even seeing it again in those circumstances post consumption…

    Nanni, I had no idea about that. I’d just assumed that, like many parts of Italy, there would be a few extant dialects. I have to read up more about Sardinia. I’m told by family that it is very beautiful.

    For instance, my mother is from Friuli, a little village in the Natisone Valley, near the Slovenian border. A truly beautiful place. Her local dialect is very “sing song” and borrows freely from Slovene.

    And what can you do about politicians! Sempre vogliano rompere le scatole.

  14. Redmond
    October 12th, 2006 at 01:17 | #14

    As the article points out, it would be better if the Italians borrowed the words correctly. It only leads to misunerstanding.

    They are not the only borrowers to muck up the words they’ve taken.

    Some examples from French into English:
    tampon, douche and menu do not mean in French what they mean in English. No French person would understand “lingerie” as pronounced in Australia.

    Some from English to French:
    record + man = le recordman. The word doesn’t exist in English, and means “a person who holds a sports record”.
    “le footing” means “jogging”, which is probably where the Italians got the word.
    “le parking” is a parking station, and “le smoking” is a dinner jacket.

    The Germans use “clever”, but it is a very sly sort of cleverness. They also call a mobile phone “das Handy”. It looks like an English word, but it isn’t.

    I think the Icelanders have the right idea. Build new words from roots that already exist. That’s assuming that you are a communicator rather than a poseur.

  15. October 12th, 2006 at 09:43 | #15

    Heh. The examples from the Oz are primo!

  16. Guido
    October 12th, 2006 at 14:50 | #16

    Italian is my first language, although I use English 90% of the time.

    The words golf for jumper, tight for morning suit etc. are not new inventions, they have been around for decades.

    What is interesting is the italianisation of English words when it comes to computers.

    So you say ‘clicca con il mouse’. Saying ’email’ (you pronounce it eh mah eel) is quicker than the correct term: Posta elettronica.

    Oh well I guess is a payback for the inventions of Pasta Bolognaise and Chicken Parmigiana. Two dishes that never existed in Italy before their invention by Italian migrants in the Anglosphere.

  17. October 12th, 2006 at 16:39 | #17

    The true problem will come once ‘texting’ language takes over all other languages!

    LOL. U w0nt belive h0w bad itll be 🙁

  18. Alexander McLeay
    October 13th, 2006 at 00:02 | #18

    Redmond, I suppose the question is what is a ‘parking station’? A car park? A train station you can park at?

  19. Redmond
    October 15th, 2006 at 01:52 | #19

    Where do you live, Mr McLeay?

    A parking station is a building where you can park your motor vehicle.
    There’s one called Conifer Knoll Parking Station at the St Lucia campus of the University of Queensland.

  20. NicM
    October 16th, 2006 at 18:49 | #20

    Guido, don’t Italians use abbreviations like English speakers do? Surely Posta elettronica could be shortened to eposta?

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