Monday, May 17, 2010

Five More Words (and a surprise inside!)

Last time, I played along with the Five Favorite Italian Words meme.  Well today I'm twisting it around to list my Five Least Favorite Italian Words.  Despite the beauty of the language and its musical qualities, there are a few words I dread to hear.

Zanzara  (zahn-ZAH-rah).  Mosquito.
Le odio perche' mi amano.  I hate them because they love me.  Mosquitoes looove me and will travel great distances to find me.  I'm allergic to the bites, so this word sounds like the buzzing that will cover me with enormous, hard, intensely-itchy welts.  For me, zanzara means miseria.

Sciopero (SHOW-pay-roh).  Strike.
It strikes fear (pun intended) in everyone's heart to hear sciopero because it means every man, woman and child, in one way or another, will be affected.  Be it bus drivers, airport traffic controllers, cabbies, rail employees, or pasta manufacturers, a strike in Italy is a right royal pain in the rear.  They often seem to be 'mysteriously' scheduled for Fridays and Mondays to form a weekend ponte.  While they're kind enough to announce them in advance, the sciopero is a fairly frequent inconvenience.

Chiuso (CUE-zoh).  Closed.
This is an equal-opportunity dread word and one that locals and tourists alike will encounter.  We've found government offices shuttered despite a plaque listing the opening hours, restaurants chiuso because they felt like the day off, and even the Museo Borghese closed despite our advance reservations.  If you travel to Italy in July or August be prepared to see this word plastered outside a wide array of establishments as they are chiuso per ferie (closed for vacation).

Correre.  (CORE-rare-ray).  To run.
Okay, this is not a negative word or an insult, it's just incredibly difficult for me to say no matter how hard I try.  I can't get my tongue to twirl those r's properly and they end up thudding against my teeth and spilling off my lips like unattractive dribble.  I will walk around the proverbial linguistic block to avoid using this word, finding some other way to express the notion when need be.

Stranieri.  (Stran-YAY-ree).  Foreigners.
I hear this a lot because, well, I am one.  While I can't help being a foreigner, I don't like feeling like a stranger, which is what this word sounds like.  When I hear someone say, 'sono stranieri' it makes me feel like that they're saying, 'they're weirdos'.  Which they aren't.  Or at least I don't think they are.

Now it's your turn!  I'm departing for Italy tomorrow, so I'm going to leave you to 'talk amongst yerselves' here with your favorite (and least favorite) parole.  It's fun for everyone to learn new words, and I always enjoy hearing which ones tickle your fancy or make you cringe.  Plus, I'll have a random drawing to give an Italian sweet treat to a lucky commenter, so keep the (linguistic) ball rolling!
A presto!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Talking Lessons

My Five Favorite Italian Words

When I was growing up I had a very funny uncle.  He had a quip and a come-back for everything.  We enjoyed long-running jokes that lasted for decades.  He had a famous line that he would deadpan if we tripped over words or jumbled up our sentences:  "We give talking lessons on Thursdays".  Bryan and I uttered that line a lot during our first few months in Italy when we were struggling for words or mispronouncing things. 

Well, today is Thursday and we're giving a talking lesson because I was tagged by Carol of Our Year in Italy to list my five favorite Italian words.  The idea started with Jessica of WhyGo Italy (who, you will remember, stopped by the Pinon Tree a few months ago), then was turned into a full-fledged meme by Italofile

Here we go...

Allora (ah-LO-rah) 
This is one of those all-purpose words that they don't teach you in class but you hear sprinkled liberally in all conversations.  It is almost as ubiquitous as the "like" and "youknow" that teenage and 20-something American girls say constantly (but  is not nearly as grating and annoying).  It has several meanings: then, now then, so, thus.  It is very musical.  "A-lllo-raaaaa" starts a new topic or gets a conversation back on track.  A blunt allora in the middle of a story is a segue to the next act in the drama being told.  An allora uttered after ah or eh means the speaker is trying to find the right word or think through her train of thought.  Then there's E allora?  So what?  Allora rolls nicely off the tongue and makes you feel like you're speaking more naturally conversational when you throw it around.

Pimpante  (Peem-PAHN-tay)
Lively, exuberant, chirpy.  It's just plain fun to say this word.  Go ahead, give it a try.  Pim-pan-te.  See what I mean?  Sono cosi' pimpante.  I'm so excited!  It's as chirpy as its definition.  Throughout our trip to Basilicata, Maria was pimpante, bubbly about the experience and the people she met.  I leave next Tuesday for a three-week adventure and am pimpante at the thought.  One definition says it means "full of beans," I guess like jumping beans, or maybe like the old Rolling Stones line, "it's a gas, gas, gas."  As they say in Italian eh-eh-eh (ha ha).

Spiritosa (Spee-ree-TO-zah)
Not to be confused with spirituale, spiritosa has nothing to do with religion but everything to do with spirited fun.  "Sei spiritosa," Francesca once told me.  It means you're witty, playful, funny.  It can also be used sarcastically: "Ah, spiritoso, eh?"  You're a real wise guy.   

Dimmi!  (DEEM-mee)
Drag out those double m's and you've got yourself a keeper.  Dimmmi!  Tell me!  Say it, speak, tell me what you want.  Dimmi tutto, tell me everything, is used among friends.  Kids beg, Dimmi di si' mamma, Mommy please say yes.  Plain ol' dimmi might be called out by a familiar barista for you to state your order.  And you'll sometimes hear people on the street answering their telefonini (cell phones) by barking it into the receiver.  Dimmi te can be used to express "tell me about it" or "who would've thought".

Il Solito (eel SO-lee-to)
Al solito means 'as always' or 'as usual'.  Di solito means usually, ordinarily, normally.  But IL solito...ah, that is a nice one.  Il solito means 'the usual'.  My barista friend Giuliano would greet me each morning with this gem as he placed a nice frothy, hot cappuccino and almond-studded cornetto in front of me.  Il solito is a such a beautiful thing, not only because it means I'm going to get my needed caffeine fix, but it indicates that I am known, a part of the morning tribe, accepted there as a regular. 

Anyone can play along, but I'm tagging Eleonora of Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino because I think she might fling out some good foodie terminology at you, and Bryan, because, 1) he never does memes and I think it's high time he tried one, and 2) it will give him something to do while I'm traveling.  Besides, he knows all about talking lessons.

Related Links:

For more wordy fun head over to Dianne Hales' fabulous site, Learning Italian Word by Word.

Read the list of my five least favorite Italian words:  Five More Words, and a Surprise Inside

Monday, May 10, 2010

La Cucina Rustica

Vorrei una cucina rustica.  Articulating exactly what "rustic" means can be a challenge, even in my native language.  As I told you last time, I've had a hard time finding a good point of reference as we plan out what to do to create the kind of kitchen we have envisioned.  I leave next week and I am looking forward to scurrying around the countryside in search of antique and once-upon-a-time pieces that we think would fit the age and simplicity of the apartment.  We'll wrap those pieces around new appliances.  I'm into "old" and "traditional" but even I draw the line at stoking a wood stove for cooking.

I know what I don't want.  I don't fake new-spun "old style".  I don't want gleaming white wood.  I don't want a crowded wall of closed-up cupboards.  And I don't want perfect, factory-fabricated, chemical-laden cabinetry. 

After some time cruising the webwaves for authentic rustico inspiration, I found a few photos that sort of fit in with my visions.

This one I love - all old-time charm (but no oven, which I need).  I would be so happy if I could find a stone sink like that one, though.

This one is a more "sanitized" version of the antica style above.  I like the yellow walls, which is weird because I'm normally not a fan of yellow in general.  This is way bigger than my kitchen space, though.

This one is fancier, in a manner of speaking, but I like the brick cabinet base and wood doors, which may be more practical than the curtains shown in the two previous photos.  Alas, no wood beams or ceiling brick in our casa.  There used to be, but the previous owner ripped them out!