The most evocative Italian words, according to me

14 Jan

Personally, I have no doubt that Italian is the most beautiful & affectionate language in the world.  I’ve heard, and actually maybe just read this in “Eat, Pray, Love” (which may or may not be a definitive source), that the evolution of Italian into the national language was no accident.  While many countries had competing regional dialects, the “lingua franca” of most countries was naturally shaped by the language of the primary financial center. So, “Paris-ian” overtook all regional dialects to become the language of France, “London-ian” became the language of England, and so on.

Invecce (instead), Italian was the dialect chosen by a panel from a region of Tuscany to be the official language of Italy, because it was the most beautiful dialect.

Actually this whimsical story makes sense. I am continually surprised at how vitally important “beauty” is to Italians.  It’s part of the fabric of society – you can see how the aesthetic of style is infused into even children (I am still not as style conscious as the average 8 year old here). A speech is not referred to as good or bad, but bella (beautiful) or brutta (ugly). It’s part of what makes Italy as charming as it is, although sometimes you wish less emphasis were put on superficial beauty and more on actual substance.  If you live here you know what I mean, yes? 😉

Anyway, on to a few of my favourite Italian words:

“La Zanzara” – it sounds like it would be an exotic beauty treatment involving spices and asses milk that Cleopatra would indulge in before greeting Mark Anthony.  Instead, it means “mosquito”!

“Lamentare” – this to me is the perfect word to sum up the Italian cultural identity.  In English it just means “to complain”.  But to simply complain is tedious, unimaginative, uninspired.  Not Lamentare! We are talking about a tragedy of epic proportions.  There is love, passion, angst and fire all wrapped up in how you can express your opposition even to, say, someone choosing the wrong combination of gelato flavours or using an inappropriate shape of pasta with any given sauce.

“Fastidioso” – In English this means someone who is slavishly particular to standards, or having a meticulous attitude.  In Italian, it means to bother the hell out of someone, i.e. “David, stop fastidioso-ing your sister while I am driving!” It implies the kind of action when you pinch someone’s triceps repeatedly until they punch you in the face. Which is kind of what fastidiousness makes me want to do. 🙂

“Il Culetto” – What do we call the end of a loaf of bread in English?  The “heel.”  Ho-hum.  In Italian, it’s the “little bum,” proving once and for all that everything in Italy is just so damn sexy.

“Fango” – It’s not a dance, or new style of stilettos. It’s “mud.” What else do I need to say?

So. What are your favorite Italian words, and why?

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7 Responses to “The most evocative Italian words, according to me”

  1. Tiana Kai (@TianaKaiMiami) January 14, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    I love these! Zanzara is the cutest word for the most annoying creature on earth. I love ‘valanga’ (avalanche) it sounds like a type of salsa dance. 🙂

    • A Life in Rome... January 14, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

      So true, isn’t it? I keep on thinking of new words to add 🙂

  2. kittykatmandoo January 17, 2013 at 11:16 am #

    la zanzara is one of mine, also…my other faves are: pipistrello (bat), strabiliante (amazing), caccola (something found in one’s nose), meraviglioso (wonderful).

    • Tiana Kai (@TianaKaiMiami) January 23, 2013 at 1:16 am #

      Lol, those are great. I always forget caccola because it doesn’t sound like what it is… Pipistrello is another favorite! 🙂

  3. learnitalianforfun January 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Very nice post 😉 I enjoyed reading it very much! All the best xx

  4. AriesInTO January 31, 2013 at 4:30 am #

    So many words to love! My favourite swear phrase that I picked up while in Florence (overheard when a driver forgot to angle his mirrors in before backing out of a narrow lane way) “Porca putana miseria!” which cannot be accurately translated by me but which conveyed so much with just a few words. I love the simplicity of “prego”, the darkness of “sporca”, the liquidity of “gianduia”, the urgency of “veni qua!” and the happy portent of “Andiamo!” Basically I love Italian 🙂

    • A Life in Rome... January 31, 2013 at 6:26 am #

      Oh yes, the swearing is magnificent! Thanks for your additions!

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