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Lingo Dolce Lingo

May
29
2007

Every time a new Italian dictionary comes out, wordsmiths note the list of bon mots now commonly in use. Many of these new words are in English, a lot of them are thanks to technology.
You don’t need to know Italian to understand that recent entry “downloadare” is a handy computer neologism.
It has found favor in part because the common Italian translation for getting documents off the Internet or a network is “scaricare” (dump, empty, get rid of), the same word that one uses to dispose of trash or a lover: too violent for sharing photos or that company report.
Likewise, one of the 700 new words in the prestigious Devoto-Oli dictionary is “bannare,” to ban, or get rid of trolls on a forum or mailing list. It sounds better than the Italian terms which veer towards “censor,” “exclude” and “cut out.”
The legendary creativity and flexibility of Italians may have something to do with the increasing number of English words used here. Western European cousins the French and Spanish, on the other hand, defend their languages to the point of creating new words with sometimes comic results.
Italians point il mouse del computer — which as an American still makes me giggle, especially when pronounced with proper Italic rolling accent — but how can you keep a straight face in Spain, having to use a ratón to negotiate the ordenador?
Sometimes the words aren’t translated because it’s easier, other times because it is just too awkward. The “mouse” concept is kept distanced as much as possible from Italian — and constitutes an old running joke among translators and the computer literate — because in Dante’s language, “topo” (mouse) is way too close to “topa,” slang for female genitalia.
Meanwhile, the Bel Paese’s language watchdog is more concerned with the decline of the language due to text messages.
Called the “Bran Academy” (Accademia della Crusca), the name underlines its function as separating the linguistic wheat from the chaff.
Over the years, it has tried a few times to fight the flood of English into Italian, but has had little impact. (Not surprisingly, the English version is still under construction.)
Which is perhaps why it has focused on thumb jockeys who have the bad taste to text “xché” instead of “perché” (because, why; x works because per is what you say in multiplying). Or sign off with “tvtb” instead of the lyrical “ti voglio tanto bene” (loosely: I love you a lot).
There are, however, at least a few new words that originate in Italy.
An interesting one from recent chronicles is “pizzini,” from Sicilian dialect, the name for the complicated handwritten notes with which Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano ordered minions around while spending 40 years on the lam.
Or, my favorite: “lampadato.” Perfect shorthand for the orange-skinned guy who has gone crispy after one too many sessions at the tanning bed, called “lamp” (lampada) in Italian.
If nothing else Italians appreciate a good bake, as the flickr tag for “really tan” bears out.
Tutto ok, then.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 11:43 AM | Permalink

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