That’s amore: Italy’s favorite word

Five small letters are all you need, according to a poll on the favorite words of Italians. “Amore” or love ranked ranked top for 22% of Bel Paese residents, nearly three times as popular as “mamma” followed by “pace” (peace) and “libertà” (freedom). Full results of the poll from think-tank Eurisko, commissioned by the Dante Aligheri society, have not yet been released.

Italian Nicknames Enter Phone Books staff updated:Fri. Nov. 14 11:07 amLooking for Mr. Hardhead? Miss Nitpicker? The son of ‘Napoleon?’ Search no more: listings in phone books on the Italian isle of Sardinia will be complete with nicknames in local dialect.

The idea came to local truck driver Salvatore Cabras who was tired of fielding calls from people looking for friends or relatives with the same exact name. Cabras decided to distinguish himself by adding the nickname he’s had since childhood, which translates to something like ‘tough guy.’

This initiative has more to it than an artificial push to institutionalize dialect that, in other parts of Italy, has led to bilingual street signs and translations of computer programs. Having the same name as another person has led to many legal horror stories in Italy, so much so that website keeps a running list of these unjust arrests. Italians are also largely stuck with names their parents assign them because courts only allow changes in very limited circumstances.

Nicknames can often be handed down for generations. Umberto Moro, for example, is known as "hornet" an appellative handed down from his grandfather’s knack for stinging wit. "I’ve inherited it and passed it on to my two daughters, it’s part of a tradition and distinguishes our common name."

Time will tell if the nickname listings are successful. It may depend on how many people consider them either positive or are able to shrug the negative ones off — it’s one thing to be known as the kid of ‘cockroach’ or ‘funnel’ (label given to a heavy drinker) — and quite another to go down on the books that way.

Mayor Angela Corrias, intimates call her ‘Puppu’, says hers has been handed down so many times no one remembers what it means. "It was my grandmother’s nickname, but no one could tell me what it derives from or the exact meaning. Now it’s mine and I’d have to say I’m happy to have it."?1999-2003

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingual journalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

Italians Fight Flood of English Words

Students of Italian may have an easier time using Italian newspapers to improve their understanding of the language thanks to the latest flood of neologisms from English. Italian journalists have coined 5,000 new words over the last five years, many of them come from English, according to a new book from the National Research Center (CNR).

Should an Italian casually offer, “Andiamo a drinkare una cosa al bar?” Chances are an English speaker with a minimal grasp of Italian will understand that a few cocktails are in the offing. And a pompous acquaintance going on about “glocalismo” or how he just bought shares in a “public utility” will be relatively easy to follow, as perhaps a friend who mentions a favorite “quizzone” or game show.

There is, however, a flip side to this trend — some of the new terms not based on English are incomprehensible to those outside Italy. A few examples? Describing that new coworker as a “cococo” isn’t a put-down, but just shorthand for the much-debated continuous collaboration contract. And what about celebrity labeled” attapirato?” Nothing tragic — they’ve been given the golden tapir award for some kind of dubious behavior from the country’s most-watched satirical show “Strip the News” (Striscia la notizia).

Not all Italians are enthusiastic about this hybrid language. Protests over the mix of Ital-English don’t come from the Accademia della Crusca, Europe’s oldest linguistic watchdog which has been notably silent about the growing number of foreign words in everyday Italian, but a group of Italian politicians and, yes, notable journalists who don’t like the way things are going. In a petition sent to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, signers take umbrage with the transformation of the labor ministry (“ministero del lavoro”) now known as “ministero del Welfare” and the names of state TV Rai’s channels (Rai Educational, Rai News, etc.)

This is the first sign of resistance in an Anglophile country just getting around to protecting its national identity. According to statistics, Italian is one of the most studied languages on the planet, but for the first time this spring Italians inaugurated a national exhibit on their native tongue.
The exhibit at the Uffizi Gallery’s Reali Poste in Florence — which explores the roots of modern Italian as well as its intersections with foreign languages — is precisely the kind of horn-tooting celebration Italians strenuously avoid. It took 10 years to find enough interest and funds to put it together and may form the cornerstone of the first museum on the history of the Italian language. Slated to close in the end of September, the unexpected success of the exhibit prompted organizers to hold it over until Dec. 31 2003. Tutto OK, then. ?1999-2004

Italian: 40% of words ‘extinct’

Modern Italian has lost some 40% of words commonly used in Medieval times, according to a study by national research council CNR. Linguists are compiling an historical dictionary to record these extinct terms and preserve them for the future. Perhaps more surprising than the quantity of linguistic dinosaurs are the 60% of words carried down through 800 years of history.

“The fundamental core of vocabulary from the 1200-1300 still stands the test of time,” said professor Pietro Beltrami, director of the dictionary project. “Italian as a language was only codified and became used nationally in the 1500s, following the publication of Pietro Bembo’s ‘Prose della volgar lingua’ (Prose in vernacular.)”

Some of words used in Dante’s time have easily recognizable modern counterparts — many of those from the 13th and 14th centuries, for example, simply dropped a few letters. For example the words "burn" and "fugitive" were "abbruciare" and "affuggitivo" compared to modern versions "bruciare" and "fuggitivo." Others are a bit harder to arrive at from modern Italian — like "cerusico" (surgeon), "bambarottolo" (silly person), "bastracone" (big lug).

Related resources:
Browse the first 8,000 entries of the dictionary, A-C.

Anger with Style,Perfecting the ”Bad Words”

Dictionary of Italian Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Italian Language Watchdog Offers Online Help

The oldest language watchdog in Europe finally entered the Internet age. L’accademia della crusca, whose very name implies separating the wheat from the linguistic chaff, can now help students of today’s Italian clear up doubts on the language in real time.
Even some of the more tricky questions, such as how to deal with foreign words used in Italian find a prompt answer. (According to the language arbiters, no matter the quantity, they remain invariable. Examples: “i film, gli sport, i computer.”)
If you’ve got some nagging doubt, take advantage of the ‘consulenza linguistica’ section where you can view frequent questions, ask one of your own or just browse the forum. Another fascinating feature is dedicated to new words — find out why "girotondo" "badante" and "giftshop" have made it into Italian and find references and reasons for use.
For scholars, the virtual library is of sure interest — they can consult the first Italian vocabulary from 1612 online as well as other historic publications before trying to drag them out of some dusty library.
The English version is still under construction.

Italian resume workshop

Readers have often asked how to perfect a resume for the Italian job market (called ‘curriculum vitae’ or CV by Italians) and while there is no perfect formula, here are a few pointers. Once you’ve secured the interview, try our interview tip sheet or the Reader-recommended reference: Survivor Package.

• Italian CVs are generally a bit longer than their US counterparts — but one-two pages is still a good guideline.

• Tailor your resume the job offer — interviewers can be brusque if they can’t understand quickly exactly what you’ve done. Interviews are often more of a gauge to see whether you’re a good fit than to verify your experience.

• References. Generally not included or mentioned in the resume — but if you have work experience in Italy, be prepared to name names in the interview. Italians do check references — but will prefer to use their own contacts (often the most prominent person of the company) rather than any numbers you supply. The trick is to make sure higher-ups know about you & your work.

• If you’re not fluent in Italian — get the best translation you possibly can.

• Otherwise stick to a brief, clearly written resume in English, with a few Italian-style additions. You may want to add personal information (date and place of birth, marital status — it’s legal info in Italy) and this final sentence: "In accordance with Italian law no. 675/96, I authorize the handling of my personal data." (the Italian version: "l’autorizzazione al trattamento dei dati personali in riferimento alla Legge 675/96"). Now, we’ve never heard of a resume actually getting chucked because it didn’t mention the Italian privacy law waiver — but showing that at least you’re aware of it will make you appear clued in.

&#149 Dates. Keep in mind that Italian standard format is day, month, then year, usually separated by slashes.

• Have some passport-sized photos ready. Don’t attach them unless they’re asked for, though, and make sure they’re professional-looking and conservative.

The sections of a resume

This is the most basic format and order — use headings to block off the sections. Personal data generally goes first, but the other sections can be switched depending on your experience and the kind of job you’re applying to.

Dati Personali (personal data): First & last name, telephone (if you have a mobile, put that) address, place & date of birth. Nationality or work visa status would also be a helpful addition here. If you belong to a professional organization — journalist, lawyer doctor whatever put that here, too.

Formazione (studies)
Chronological, last degree first. Italians often include the final grade and thesis topic. You may want to add major, minor as well as study abroad or other seminar/post-grad training courses.

Esperienze Lavorative (work experience)
Start with current or most recent. Better not to leave chronological gaps, but do place more emphasis on important or lengthy posts.

Conoscenza Lingue (knowledge of languages)
Spell it out — you’ll save some confusion.
English mother tongue
Basic written and spoken Italian
Scholastic German

Conoscenze Informatiche (knowledge of computers)
This can be a simple list of programs you know how to use — Italians don’t take for granted that potential candidates know how to use even Word. If you’re applying for something more tech-related, be sure to mention your level of knowledge.

This is a relatively new addition to the Italian CV world — use it singular and in English, the Italian translation "interessi extraprofessionali" is less common.

The Bug Zapper: Nitpick these Instructions!

It’s mosquito season and what better way to test your Italian than nitpick for errors in this instruction manual for an electric bug zapper. Everyday proof that universal translators are far from perfect…The first reader to send back a “debugged” Italian version wins an Italian mosquito kit complete with a citronella candle and itch creme, as well as our unending admiration.?1999-2004

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

Durante l’utillizzazione di apparecchiature elettriche, specialmente alla presenza di bambini, tutte le precauzioni di base devono essere seguite, incluse le seguenti.

Non lasciarlo cadere o farlo cadere in acqua o altro liquido. Se e caduto nell’acqua staccare prima immediatemente la spina.

E’ necessaria una supervisione attenta quando l’apparecchio viene usato da bambini o vicino ad essi o ad invalidi.

Non abbandoni l’apparecchio senza cura quando è in funzione. Tenga il cavo dalle superficie riscaldate.

Non funziona qualunque apparecchio o è stato danneggiato un qualungue maniera.

Non gocciola o inserisce oggetti qualunque in qualunque apertura perché questo può causare un colpo electtrico.

Non mette parte calda dell’unità superficie sensibile del calore quando è caldo.

Per evitare l’azzardo della scottatura, non lascia superficie riscaldate a toccare il pelle nudo.

Questo apparecchio dovrebbe essere messo un magazino mai quando è caldo o quando è ancora collegato col corrente.

Questo prodotto è inteso per famiglia usa solo.

Non usarlo vicino alle vasche, bacini o altri vasi che contengono acqua.

Conservare Queste istruzioni

Italy By Numbers: Italian-English Dictionary

+7,000 words added
75% new words (circa) high-tech related
145,000 words total
+200 false friends

The authoritative Italian-English 2003 dictionary published by Zingarelli presents an interesting dilemma for students of contemporary Italian. Most of the new terms — the last edition was published in 1995, before the Internet made much headway in the Bel Paese — are simply the adoption of words from English.

Some examples are spamming, browser, e-zine, firewall which do not have direct correspondents in Italian. No guide is given to how these words are actually pronounced by Italians, so unless the English speaker is adept at rolling out the vowels he or she is likely to be misunderstood — and resort to long-winded explanations like "flooding the mail box (of other users) with undesired messages" for terms like spamming.
False friends continue to grow — evidenced in the dictionary by an exclamation mark and the explicit warning ‘do not translate this way’. Among these tricky terms, the correct translations are: incumbent (in carica) inconsistent (contraddittorio), eventually (alla fine) attitude (atteggiamento).

Related resources:
2001 Italian & English Idioms
More on every day speak…

Teach Yourself Beginner’s Italian
Jump start your command of the language with this reader favorite…

Anger with Style,Perfecting the ”Bad Words”

Often the first words learned and the last mastered, le parolacce (bad words) pose numerous problems for students of Italian. Rules about using slang or dubious expressions are constantly changing, however, women who liberally use the “baddies” are still often considered sboccate (without restraint) even by the younger set. Yet the Italian chaos (lost baggage, wildcat strikes, post office lines) surely inspires expletives. Our advice? Substitute the heavy expletive with a gaffe-free euphemism. The point will be made, even by the fairer sex or in a situation requiring the formal “lei” form. Here’s a list suggested by the Treccani**, mother of all Italian dictionaries.If you’re intent on deciphering Italian slang — this is one of the more reputable guides…
Dictionary of Italian Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

Offending Expletive Kinder, Gentler Euphemism
Che cazzo! Che cavolo! or Che kaiser! These have the advantage of sounding like the orginal — but you can’t be blamed for cursing the "cabbage" or the "Kaiser" when things go wrong…
Porca puttana! Porco zio! or Porco due! (The "pig" in question is roughly like the word "damn" so you’re still getting a bit of oomph…)
Andare affanculo

andare a quel paese/ mandare qualcuno a quel paese. Es. "Ma va’ a quel paese" "Ti mando a quel paese." You’re not telling them to screw themselves, but still "sending them up."

andare a fare in bagno Es. "Ma va’ fa ‘n bagno!" This one has the advantage of sounding the most like the original, without getting so strong — no one’s going to get offended by telling them to "go have a bath."

Per dio! Per Diana! or Per Bacco! These often come up as subsitutes in kid’s comic books — and sound a bit stilted but are still effective…
Scemo! Non è una volpe. Instead of calling a person an idiot — just say politely that they’re not exactly a fox…
Deficiente! Frescone! When you want to call someone you don’t know an idiot, this will do it, without getting you into trouble.
Figlio di puttana Figlio di una buona donna. Instead of son-of-a-bitch, becomes literally son-of-a-good-woman — but the meaning comes across..
Minchia*! Mizzica! An expression of surprise, or for emphasis. "Mizzica questo forum funziona!" "Wow, this forum works!"

*Not from the illustrious Treccani, but since this Sicilian term has become widely used throughout Italy, better to have a safe version at hand.

Soccer-inspired vocab

Soccer, “pallone” is the national sport and a national obsession every four years when the World Cup comes around. Ever since Silvio Berlusconi co-opted the hurtling cry “Go Italy” (Forza Italia) for his political party and peppered speeches with increasingly sporty metaphors (“scendere in campo” is another favorite) Italians have become a little more shy of using soccer terms in daily life. Here are some that continue to stick around.

More on everyday language? Try the Dictionary of Italian Slang and Colloquial Expressions

Term Rough Translation/Use

(salvarsi in) calcio d’angolo

Saved with a corner kick. Used outside soccer to mean saved at the last minute, saving a situation with a less risky solution. "Ti perdono. Comunque ti sei salvato in calcio d’angolo con il complimento successivo.." I forgive you — you saved yourself with a corner kick thanks to that last compliment.



Scoring for the other team. Fare autogoal = make a stupid mistake, bite one’s own tail.

(nel) pallone

Literally in the ball. Often mistaken as similar to "on the ball" in English, in Italian it means confused, muddled. Avere la testa nel pallone = have one’s head in the clouds, sick with a head cold, or generally out of it. "Suo marito aveva la testa nel pallone. Non riusciva a prendere una decisione." Her husband was in a muddle, he couldn’t make a decision.
fischio d’inizio Kick off. Used also for meetings conventions etc. "Il meeting quest’anno è stato fatto all’ombra del campanile di Paderno del Grappa; un centinaio di persone sono in attesa del fischio d’inizio." This year’s meeting was held in the shadow of the belltower in Paderno del Grappa; hundreds were waiting for the official kick-off.
scendere in campo


Literally take to the field, throw one’s hat in the ring, take action. Used by many, considered a Berlusconi trademark.

serie B


B series, A series is the professional league. Used to mean second rate. "Cittadini di serie B" second-class citizens, another one used by Berlusca.

(sbagliare un) calcio di rigore


Penalty kick. Missing the penalty kick is making a banal mistake, not being able to meet one’s objectives for silly reasons.

palla lunga e pedalare


Keep the ball rolling and run. Keep going,

cartellino giallo

Literally yellow card — when a foul is committed it’s the first warning. Sometimes used to describe foul play or a warning in general. "Ha ricevuto il cartellino giallo dal giudice." The judge gave him a yellow flag.

fare dribbling To dribble — borrowed from the English basketball term but often used in soccer commentary (and everyday language) to mean fancy footwork. Antonella ha dribblato le domande dei giornalisti con un "no comment". Antonella dribbled the journalist’s questions with a "no comment."
(prendere in) contropiede Stealing the ball. When someone is caught unawares or unprepared. "Il premier israeliano ha posto una nuova condizione che ha, almeno apparentemente,preso in contropiede gli Stati Uniti e ha suscitato imbarazzo a Washington." The Premier of Israel made a new demand, which apparently caught the US unawares and embarassed Washington."
1-0 palla al centro 1-0 and the ball’s back in the center. Way of telling someone, succinctly, that you’ve just "scored" or are ahead of them, or that they owe you one.
(in) panchina On the bench. Someone who is out of action, standing on the sidelines. "E’ rimasta in panchina per tutta la riunione." She spent the whole meeting on the sidelines.