Thursday, September 11, 2008

When English in Rome ... (English words the Italians have incorporated -- and hate themselves for it)

'Weekend', 'welfare,' 'OK', 'briefing', 'mission', 'know how', 'shampoo' and 'cool'.

According to a article, these are a few of the English words that Italians say are stinking up their language.

Yeah, WE'RE the contagion. I'll try to remember that every 20 minutes when I have to listen to the term "venti latte macchiato con panna."

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LL Blackwell said...

And oh, how we mangle their beautiful language whenever we try to say it.

Actually, this brings up an interesting question: Yes, accent is an issue when saying foreign words (Italians, for instance, have a hard time ending on a hard consonant), but what about when it's just spelling that makes us mis-pronounce? We are able to say "PEE-tza," but most people seem incapable of "bru-SKE-ta" (bruschetta).

June Casagrande said...

I'm SO happy you brought up bruschetta. I pronounced it "bru-SHET-a" for years until I took an adult ed class in Italian. Lo and behold, it's bru-SKET-a."

I suspect the difference isn't our inability to pronounce it -- just our ignorance of how.

We can all say "chianti" and "spaghetti" -- but just because those words have been popularized by, respectively, Hannibal Lecter and Chef Boyardee.

Anyway, since I learned how to pronounced it a few years ago, I've grown tired of Americans looking at me like I'm dumb for pronouncing it correctly.

Shifting Alfa Romeo gears: So how the heck do you get "pruh-jhoot" out of "proscuitto" and "maddigot" out of "manicotti"? (Or have I just been too heavily influenced by sicilians?)

Joel said...

I think it was an English professor and mentor who suggested (not exactly as profanely and insolently as I'm about to) that we kinda have the right to bastardize and anglicize other languages as we appropriate them. That's kinda the point. We're picking and choosing and making them our own.

And, as you suggest, June, you're gonna (wow: speaking of bastardizing the language, I'm conjugating loosely and colloquially, ain't I?) get looks askance whether you do it "right" or "wrong."

Not that I don't want to get it close to the original. But, yeah, it often seems like "right" is somewhere between or on either side of the original and a brute-force, bloody English raping of the thing. And I'm not always sure my body parts work the same as theirs and can generate the sounds they do. I'd love to roll an "r," for instance, but seem practically incapable. I mean, c'mon, that's why we have accents (I mean the tonal variations not the stress marks), isn't it? And I love a good accent; there are some I could get lost in. I'll listen to the BBC just for the sound of it sometimes. Verily, we can't even agree with the Brits or the Aussies on how to say words that are ostensibly the same. Really, the midwesterners and the southerners and the northeasterners even in our country can't get on the same page. And thank God, I say; thank God.

In truth, pronunciation is one of those things I am perpetually self-conscious about and if you listen long enough, I'm gonna take just about every side of this argument, including shades of several emotions. I think I'm just ranting--yeah, and in every direction.

LL Blackwell said...

Yeah, those crazy Sicilians (I'm half)!

It's like the time I met the girls from Georgia, and I knew they were speaking English, and I could mostly understand them, but BOY was it different.

Or even Australians, who think the word "no" has three syllables.

(These are both meant with the utmost respect; I LOVE dialects and accents just as much as I love the written word.)


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