Dreaming In Italian


Swearing in Italian

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

As I learn more and more Italian, especially through reading Italian mysteries, I’m learning a lot of ways of swearing. Some are mild, as in English and others not so much. Take something that by now seems pretty mild in English, the word “damn”. In italian that would be “porca miseria”. There are others similar that are more serious, porca putana, porca troia, and porca madona. They are something like “holy shit” or “goddamn it” with the later being the more serious and never said in polite company – well, none are really said in polite company. There’s a certain flexibility in the meaning. As an adjective, as in that damned bus is always late the word “maledetto” it the word of choice. To say that you are “incazzato” means that you’re pissed off. If you’re REALLY pissed off you’re incazzato nero”.

Of course there are the old standbys “vafanculo”, i.e. “fuck you”. Someone that is a pain in the ass is a “rompicoglioni” – literally ball buster. I remember a movie with Italian-american mafiosi when asked why one of the mobsters shot someone he said “he was busting my balls”.  Just a “coglione” is “asshole” when referring to someone disagreeable. Another frequent word is “cazzo” which has a wide variety of meanings. It can refer to the male, er, member or as an expletive simply as “shit”. If I stub my toe I’d say “cazzo!”.

Gestures I’m less sure of. The raised middle finger is becoming more widely used here as a “fuck you” gesture but the traditional one is raising you index and pinkie finger. Popular in the U.S. at rock concerts, it has an entirely different meaning here. It’s means “cornuto” or, your partner is sleeping around and is considered a pretty rude gesture.

In one book I’m reading a policeman keeps a list of different degrees of “rotture di coglioni”  – things that are a pain in the ass, examples such as having to pay a parking ticket is at level 5, while a obligatory dinner with in-laws is at level 8, etc. One of my friends, a woman, regularly uses the expression “che palle” (palle means literally balls and we’re not talking sports here) which means “that sucks”.

Below is a video that I found that goes through some of the gestures. A swipe of your fingers below your chin is one I’m quite familiar with which mean “non me ne frega” or you could add “un cazzo” at the end. It means I don’t care and with the addition it means “I don’t give a shit”.

Oh yes, one other one. “figa” depends on context. It can mean a real hottie referring to a woman or in others “pussy”.

Ah, the joys of learning another language.

 

 

  • Share/Bookmark

Now THAT’s a cemetery!

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Cemeteries are different in Italy in a number of ways. Certainly they are more dense, usually because they are older and also because they are smaller. Same number of people, smaller area of land = density. They also are often quite beautiful. There is a class of cemeteries called “cimiteri monumentali” monumental cemeteries. Often full of sculpture, often done by reasonably famous artists. One of the top 5 of these is the Cimitero Certosa in Bologna. It’s a bit outside the city center and was founded in 1801 at the site of what had been a monastery of the order “Certosa” which in english that would be the Carthusian order of monks which still means nothing to me but with the help of Google I found that it is an order of monks founded in France in 1084. So there.

The entrance (at least one of them)

It is certainly interesting wandering around the cemetery. I’m always astounded to the monuments to the dead. Not just gravestones but what to me seem like major works of art plunked down over the bones of the long departed.

Who knows who is buried here. I think it’s a monument for parigiani (partisans) who battled the nazis in the second world war.

Majestic cemetery

Lots of folks here. Is the statue for everyone or just a really important person?

More modest final resting niches

Now let’s see, where exactly is Great Uncle Franco?

 

  • Share/Bookmark

So where is the friggin asparagus?

Friday, May 4th, 2018

I talked to Claudia, a former Italian teacher and still friend, after I got here. She had become increasingly dissatisfied with teaching for various reasons and has recently changed jobs. At the time she was very busy and said that may we could get together in a couple of weeks. She contacted me on about that schedule and asked if I’d like to go to Mesola for a Fiera di Asparago – an asparagus fair. Sounded good to me. They have these fairs, often called sagras, often in Italy but I’d never gone to one.

Poster for the fiera

Mesola is a small town sort of in the middle of nowhere. In the big plain of the river Po. I think of it kind of like the central valley in California in that it is very flat and fertile and they grow huge amounts of all kinds of stuff there. I joked that it could be a Fiera delle Zanzare (mosquitos). One another visit there I saw (and was bitten by) lots of mosquitoes.  There is a lot of water around.

Claudia now has a car so she picked me up at my house and we drove to Mesola picking up her friend Daria on the way.

The route to Mesola

There were a couple of big tents. I mean BIG. Big enough to have tables inside to seat over a hundred people. The second thing that I noticed was that there were zero bathroom facilities. In a similar event in California there would be a row of porta-potties. Of course those who were residents were not far from home. Like I said it was a small town. But what about the out of towners? But Claudia and I went to a bar nearby, bought a glass of prosecco each and used the facilities.  Since Claudia grew up there until college age and her mother still lives there she was always running into people that she knew. That is both the advantage and disadvantage of a small town I guess.

Yes, fried fish. Claudia’s mother is on the right and Daria is on the left.

So the tents were for lunch. So what was served? Fish. I had spaghetti with clams followed by fried fish, then a little regional desert made of grape “stuff” (heck I don’t know exactly) mixed with flour. Tasty but not exactly breathtaking. Then a little plate with 4 or 5 baked deserts that were very good and of course water and wine with the meal and coffee afterward. But NO bloody asparagus. Strange.

 

 

  • Share/Bookmark

Californians, here they come.

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

A good friend of mine unfortunately moved to Los Angeles. Well, I’m sure it’s good for him since he grew up there but it does mean that already sporadic meetings will be even more so. I did hear from him not long before I came to Italy in early April. Some long time good friends of his were planning a trip to Italy including a stop in Bologna and he asked if I could advise them or even show them around. I was delighted to have the opportunity to show off a city that I love.

Mel and Ellen with the twin towers in the background

I arrived here on Thursday and met Ellen and Mel at their hotel in the very center on Saturday. We walked around for a bit through the quadrilateral where there are great little food markets and generally give of the medieval vibe of the city. Then into the Bibilioteca Salaborsa (the central library) including a little tour through the etruscan and roman excavations inside.  At one point Ellen and I lost Mel. Ellen was wearing a yellow jacket and Mel was following and at some point started following someone else in a similar jacket. After that I kept a close eye on him to make sure that he didn’t stray too far. It certainly helps if everyone has a cell phone.

Ellen’s lunch at Sfoglia Rina. Great Bolognese food at very moderate prices.

We had lunch on Sunday and then ate dinner together on Monday before they left for Venice on Tuesday.

 

Seafood antipasto

Spaghetti with clams

A risotto

A semfreddo – dessert halfway between a mouse and ice cream.

So if you plan to come to Bologna let me know – leave a comment on any blog post. If I’m here I’d be happy to show you around.

  • Share/Bookmark