I laughed out loud at the dinner table last week over something funny my Italian suocero said. Well, you may think the fact that I refer to him as my father-in-law and he calls me his nuora, when my impending marriage to his first-born is still (thank the heavens) seven months away, is amusing enough for a whole ‘nuther post. And, you’d be right. But, the oddities don’t end there.
The whole engagement period is just plain strano. First of all, Italians don’t really have this step in the dating process. They meet, they date, one of them says “let’s get married”, and they start planning. There is no real distinction between mia ragazza and mia fidanzata. While “fidanzata” seems like it would be the logical substitution for the English (or French) “fiance’,” both words in Italian really just mean girlfriend. There are six ways to say the word “the,” but not even one word to describe the person you are going to marry…say, tomorrow!
But, speaking of discriminating words, let’s talk about the kids! Well, the nieces and nephews, that is. One of my English students has been telling me for the last month her “nephew” wants to take lessons. Imagine my surprise to discover a college-age lass eager to learn our mother-tongue with her boyfriend, no less. Realizing this is a common mistake Italians make, confusing the words for niece and nephew, and remembering I always have difficulty understanding the difference when they speak – I investigate! It seems there is no difference. Your table has a gender, but your niece or nephew – nah. Nipote, along for describing a niece or nephew, is also the word for granddaughter, grandson, and grandchild. Mamma mia! No wonder I stay so confused.
All of these little lingual quirks make for some pretty interesting mistakes. Luckily, to my knowledge at least, there isn’t an embarrassing blunder associated with these words, as opposed to say, FICO, click here for my mistake, or PENNE, click here for my other mistake, or even ANNI, last time you get to laugh at me!
But, it keeps me interesting, right? And, as they say tell me here all the time…piano, piano!