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Nicole’s Italian Accent


I owe Nicole Kidman a lot. If it weren’t for her, Italians might still think I’m a man. Well, OK, not after meeting me but sometimes via email. Or maybe if they saw my name on a “when you were out” phone message. Not fun.

When Nicole started becoming famous, Italians learned there was another variant on their own Nicola (Nicholas, pronounced “knee-COla”), Nicoletta (feminine version) and Nicola (the English woman’s name, pronounced “NICK-ola”).

I know, France is just over the Alps but until La Kidman became an international household word, there just weren’t any well-known Nicoles around. Because it’s a French name, the Italian pronunciation is a full-bodied “knee-coal,” but at least we all know I’m a girl.

Anyway, the actress with whom I gladly share a first name is now starring in a series of charming, vaguely retro-style ads set in Rome for Sky Italia. Naturally, a beautiful Hollywood star turning up to shoot commercials in the artfully crumbling palazzi of the Testaccio area created a suitably noisy clamor, with locals making demands for more money and generally not acting in a charming manner.

No matter, the results are worth watching and hopefully her midget ex and his new wife caught the ads in the hotel before sashaying off to the castle for nuptials. In the first advert, still my favorite, a middle-age couple fills a wicker basket with food for “Nicoletta” (unfortunately, well-meaning, friendly types often take the liberty of Italianizing names. I hate it, because here the Italian feminine version is a diminutive).

They put in celery and carrots (sauteed in olive oil, these are some base ingredients for many pasta sauces; Italians rarely eat them just as veg) then eggplant, meatballs and oven-baked pasta.

Nicole pulls the basket up the side of the building and says, “Ammazza!” loosely translated from local dialect as “wow!” or “my god!” Now, I know English speakers who’ve lived here for 20 years and still don’t know their ciaos from their arrivederlas; you’ve got to love an Aussie for dropping into Rome and managing to convincingly pull off dialect.

Kidman speaks more, and her pronunciation wavers more obviously, in the rest of the series but they are all stunningly shot and adorable. There’s a rooftop laundry scene, where a beefy signora dreams about wearing one of Nicole’s gowns (which haven’t gone to the dry cleaners but hang next to the plebe’s undershirts) holding it up to herself; or the one where during an argumentative tenant meeting she suggests putting in a rooftop swimming pool.

Normally immune to all things cute and quaint, these are hard not to like. It’s almost enough to forgive her for “Bewitched.”

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 9:16 PM | Permalink

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