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‘You want to be American’!

A tongue-in-cheek, Neapolitan language song written by Renato Carosone in the late 1950s, Tu vuò fà l’americano is about a young wannabee who affects a contemporary American life style (sharp clothes, whisky and soda, rock-and-roll, baseball and Camel cigarettes) but who relies on his parents for money.  Seen as a satire on the process of Americanisation in post-war Italy, the lyrics most damningly accuse: ‘How can your girl friend understand you, if you speak to her in half American when you make love under the moon.  Where do you get off saying ‘I love you?’

Sung famously, in English, by Sophia Loren in ‘It Started in Naples‘, and also appearing in the Talented Mr Ripley, lyrics in both Neapolitan and English are below. Continue reading

A Poem For Sunday

The Dish

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“Olivetti Lettera” by Ron Padgett:

Good-bye, little Lettera.
It was nice with you again.
I once loved a girl and oh
Well I once loved a girl.

You are so small, the way
what I remember is
packed into my human skull
and it’s dark in there.

And it’s singing in there,
this typewriter who is a
girl, then, an Italian girl,
undressing, slowly, in the dark.

(From Collected Poems © 2013 by Ron Padgett. Used by permission of Coffee House Press. Photo of an Olivetti Lettera typewriter by Luca Violetto)

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Sunday Italian Poem: My Lady Looks So Gentle and Pure – Dante

My lady looks so gentle and so pure
When yielding salutation by the way,
That the tongue trembles and has naught to say,
And the eyes, which fain would see, may not endure.
And still, amid the praise she hears secure
She walks with humbleness for her array;
Seeming a creature sent from Heaven to stay
On earth, and show a miracle made sure.
She is so pleasant in the eyes of men
That through the sight the inmost heart doth gain
A sweetness which needs proof to know it by:
And from between her lips there seems to move
A soothing essence that is full of love,
Saying for ever to the spirit, “Sigh!”

By: Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).  Translated into English by D.G. Rossetti (1828-1882).

An Intense Encounter between Lovers

‘But first we must free ourselves
from the strict stinginess that produces us,
that produces me on this chair
in the corner of a café
awaiting with the ardor of a clerk
the very moment in which
the small blue flames of the eyes
across from me, eyes familiar
with risk, will, having taken aim,
lay claim to a blush
from my face. Which blush they will obtain.’

From: My Poems Won’t Change the World: Selected Poems by Patrizia Cavalli, edited by Gini Alhadeff, translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff and others, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Photo: By Lorenzo Mattotti.

Some last minute Italian slang phrases before the exam on Monday

Learning Italiano

Thank you Huffington Post for this list.

  Example
Che figata! “What a cool thing!” “It’s official. Prada wants to hire me!” “Che figata!”
 
Che palle! What a pain! “Dobbiamosalire1000 gradini per raggiungerela cima!” “Che palle!”
 
Figurati! It’s not a problem! “I’m sorry I spilled red wine on your brand new, white 500€ Gucci shirt.” “…Figurati!”
 
Mi fa cagare! It’s awful! (lit. it makes me want to defecate) That restaurant? Mi fa cagare!” “His tight shirt? Mi fa cagare!” “American coffee? Mi fa cagare!”
 
Che schifo! How disgusting A pigeon poops on your head: “Che schifo!”
 
Dai! Come on! (encouragement) (encouragement) “Let’s go to Sicily.” “No.” “Dai!” OR “One more shot of limoncello, dai!”  
Stop it! (stop it!) ” Someone’s stealing chips from your plate? “dai!”
 
Meno Male! Thank god! Ho finalmente superato l’esame. Meno…

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Why do Italians say ‘Calcio’ not ‘Soccer’?

In today’s Italian lesson, we tackled the Subjunctive.  As in English, it is used to express ‘various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred‘.  Unlike modern English, in which the subjunctive is hard to make out, in Italian it is a minefield for foreigners and, according to my teacher, when used properly is the mark of an educated native speaker.

This lead to a long conversation about the differences between English and Italian.  My teacher said that Italians pick up the lax English grammar rules (what there are) quickly; what they struggle with is pronunciation, the sheer magnitude of English vocabulary and the way English speakers use word order and qualifiers to provide nuance and meaning. Conversely, the English pick up basic Italian vocabulary quickly (aka restaurant Italian) but can have problems with rigid grammar rules, pronouns, reflexives and cases such as the pluperfect and of course the subjunctive.

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