My niece was studying recently for an Italian exam and wanting to assist her linguistic endeavours I sent some tips on modern Italian usage. Being based in Rome since August I’ve had the chance to observe the evolution of my mother tongue.
I promptly forwarded her a photo of a notice I had spotted on a Roman wall, posted by a professional dog trainer seeking work. This signore had studied the metodo gentile (gentle method of dog training, a reassuring detail) and was offering services in dog sitteraggi e cat sitteraggi.
Now there’s a word I doubt my niece had learnt – sitteraggi – an ingenious fusion of the English “sitter” and the Italian suffix “aggi”. That final double “g”, by the way, is soft, pronounced like the “g” in genuine or gesticulate.
Italians are renowned craftsmen and women and are proving just as adept at absorbing the English language into their own, shaping it with the ease they do fine leather into shoes.
While the French resist English incursions, Italians appropriate words and beat them like they might a baccala (codfish) until they ooze the essence of Italianità.
Gabriella Coslovich.Credit:Selina Ou
Around the time that Uluru was at last being closed to climbers, I read in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that Melbourne academic Marcia Langton had tweeted that una maledizione would befall upon those scaling the rock.
In Italian, Langton’s words assumed an operatic ferocity – maledizione is far more menacing than any docile curse one could wish upon the climbers of Uluru – but what I’d like to point out is the thrilling use of the present perfect ha twittato (she tweeted).
In Italy, I’ve been warned about cyberbullismo, offered crema ultra-liftante for my saggy old skin, the opportunity to chattare online with assistants from Amazon, Apple, or Ryanair, and gamble at lo slot (pokies).
Possibly my favourite Italianisation is dimmerabile – dee-meh-rah-bee-leh – used in reference to lights with a dimmer switch.
Post-war Italian migrants to Australia were ahead of their time, adapting English to their needs, christening their adopted suburban landscapes with words such as la backyarda and la fenza. In modern-day Italy the language mashing continues, especially among younger Italians spellbound by “i social”, although the challenges of new media are universal.
As one magazine probed: Il tuo fidanzato chatta con altre donne. Che fare? Your betrothed is chatting (online) with other women. What do you do?
Call the guy schooled in the gentle method of dog training and get him to have a quiet chatta with the fidanzato, I reckon.
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