Thursday, September 01, 2011

Five Regional Words

Remember a while back when I posted my five favorite Italian words?  And then I discussed my five least favorite Italian words?  Bryan and I were recently pondering some of the regional peculiarities of the language.  There are some expressions we hear down in these parts that we hadn't encountered in Ascoli Piceno or Roma, so today I'm giving you a lesson in southern speak - Five Southern Words:

Mo'.  This one sounds just like it looks, with a nice round O pronunciation.  Mo' means "now," as in: 
"When is the meeting?"
"Mo', mo'!"
To ask E' mo'? is a nice way of questioning, now what the hell do we do?  Then there's my favorite: fino a mo' - up til now.  I was too busy to call fino a mo'.  My friend Maria has an old Abruzzese saying, 'A mo' stavi buon'" (fino a mo' stavi bene), meaning you were doing fine up until now.

Fare acqua.  Literally "to make water," this expression is used by many of the older folks to talk about rain.  Mamma mia, quant'acqua ha fatto!  Good grief, it rained so hard!  Or for the forecast they say, sto pomeriggio fa acqua.  It's going to rain this afternoon.  Fare acqua always make me smile a little, it just sounds so old-style and quaint to my ears.

Voi.  I'd learned in language school that voi - the plural form of 'you' - is used for extreme courtesy when meeting someone important, but they never clued me in that it's used down here as a normal address when talking to someone you don't know, replacing the "Lei" form (formal 'you').  The first time I heard voi when I wasn't with Bryan (and it was clear they weren't addressing both of us) it took me a few seconds to figure out they were talking to me.  Here in the village we all pass quickly to the "tu" - informal 'you' - but out and about the voi usage pops up often.  It always makes me feel a little awkward, but I've gotten used to it.

Servizi.  While in other places servizio means service, be it customer or military, here it means "errands".  Faccio dei servizi, I'm running some errands.  It can also means "appointment" (ho un servizio alle 10:00).  When I ask my friend Antonietta what she did yesterday she'll say, "ho fatto i servizi," meaning she cleaned her house.

Passeggiata.  OK, I know, this is a common Italian word.  People everywhere take a passeggiata in the evening, strolling around the piazzas to meet up with friends and have a little exercise.  But around here to go for a walk is a camminata, while friends in the countryside will ask if we want to fare una passeggiata, meaning take a little excursion to go out and visit them.  It was a bit confusing at first because I really didn't want to walk the six kilometers to their farm.  If we say we went to Matera for the day, friends will ask, "Ah, did you have a bella passeggiata?"  Did you have a nice outing?

Then there's the local dialect, but that's a whole other language and another discussion for another time. 

So there you have 'em, a few words of Lucano-style Italian.  What are your region?  Do you have regional pecularities?

Watch a southern language lesson from the film, Benvenuti al Sud.

Other Five Lists:

My Five Favorite Towns in Italy

My Five List for Foodies


J.Doe said...

I don't know if this is a regional peculiarity but after living in Florence for 2 years I took a trip to Rome. While there I said "Mi fa freddo" meaning "I m cold". The person from Rome responded "Oh, you're from Florence" It seems that in proper Italian to say that one is cold the verb 'avere' is used and not 'fare' The proper phrase would be 'ho freddo' and not 'mi fa freddo'.
I was completely understood though and I'm not sure if this particular clerk was being friendly or simply busting my chops.

janie said...

I love this post! I worry about when I finally get to spend time in the south I won't understand what anyone is talking about.

Valerie said...

J. - Yes, each region has their little pecularities. Since the clerk in Rome recognized it was a Florentine speech pattern, I doubt that she was busting your chops. I've learned "ho freddo" but around here I've heard lots of people say, "sono freddo". Boh!

Janie - Not to worry, as long as they don't speak dialect you'll be able to figure it out! When are you coming south?

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Fascinating, we also have problems with regional words as in those used by those that speak a local dialect rather than Italian. Passegiata is used in a similar way around here.

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