For the last four years I’ve had a love/hate relationship with la bella lingua Italiana. What’s to hate, you ask? Well, the grammar. What’s to love? So, so much more. Today’s guest blogger, Jessica of Why Go Italy is sharing some of her favorite Italian words as part of a meme she helped start at Italofile.
Earlier this year I wrote a guest post for Melanie of Italofile about some of my favorite Italian words. As is turns out, that post has been quite popular. So Melanie challenged other Italy bloggers to come up with their favorite Italian words to create something of a series of posts that would be both fun and potentially useful to people trying to learn the language.
Melanie said I didn’t have to play, since I’d already written about my favorite Italian words, but what she didn’t know is that I had enough trouble narrowing my original list to five that I’m quite happy to have a chance to add to it! And, just to make the whole thing even more appropriate, I’m doing so with another guest post.
Here, then, is another list of five favorite Italian words.
This may be one of the most useful and user-friendly words in the entire Italian language. I consider it the verbal equivalent of a shrug, but it’s a more all-purpose word than you might think. I tried to explain it to an American friend who said he thought our “meh” was about the same thing, but I disagree. “Boh” can be used in the same way “meh” can, in that “eh, who cares, we’ll just have to see” kind of way. But it can also mean “I’ve no idea what to think about that,” or “your guess is as good as mine,” or “there’s no point in trying to make any sense of it.” It’s often accompanied by an actual shrug and a slight frowny-face gesture, and this physical manifestation of “boh” is all you need to convey “boh” without even opening your mouth.
This is one of those words that I just like because of the way it sounds, regardless of how useful – or, in this case, useless – a word actually is. “Scoiattolo” is the Italian word for squirrel, and for some reason I enjoy saying it. I haven’t gotten to the point yet that I make up excuses to use the word “squirrel” in Italian sentences, but I would totally support anyone else who did that. Although I will confess that if I saw the word “scoiattolo” on a menu in Italy I’d be awfully glad I knew what it meant so I could think twice about ordering it.
I have a photographer friend who lives in the Friuli region of Italy. Alessandro’s English is impeccable (much better than my Italian), and because he’s Friulano he also speaks the Friulano language. He’s constantly throwing Friulano into our Skype chats, so despite the fact that I’m still struggling to learn Italian there are a few Friulano words that have made their way into my brain, too. While “fanciulla” isn’t Friulano, it is a word I know only thanks to Ale. He often greets me on Skype with, “Ciao, fanciulla!” which is roughly the equivalent of “Hey, young lady!” but without the grandfatherly connotations. I do think it’s a sort of old-fashioned word, and I’ve never heard anyone else use it, but I love the way it sounds and I love that Ale has made it a sort of nickname for me.
While we’re in the northeastern region of Italy, why not stop and have a drink? You’re looking at the word “spritz” and thinking, “That’s not Italian.” And you’re right. But it’s become an Italian thing. “Spritz” is from spritzer, or seltzer water, and in some regions of Italy it’s the name for a cocktail. A spritz typically consists of prosecco (or other sparkly white wine), seltzer/sparkly water, and bitters such as Aperol or Campari, often with a slice of orange thrown in. The bitters give the drink a fantastic bright orange or red color, and it’s an excellent aperitivo drink – especially in warmer weather. You’ll find spritz particularly popular in the Veneto and other parts of northeastern Italy.
When I first learned this word, I was excited to find out that onomatopoeia existed in Italian, too – even when they don’t necessarily mean it to. The word “chiacchierare” is the verb “to chat” or “to gossip,” and it’s sometimes used to describe what’s happening when you see a group of old women sitting on a bench in the piazza. But when you say the word itself, chiacchierare, you realize that it sounds vaguely like chickens clucking. Which is, I imagine, what people who aren’t privy to a particular conversation think it amounts to. Boh, they’re just jealous…
Thanks, Jess. Be sure to come back next week for my follow up to Jessica’s post and Melanie’s meme when I list my favorite five Italian words.
About the Author:
Jessica Spiegel begin_of_the_skype_highlighting end_of_the_skype_highlighting is the Italy expert at BootsnAll, and the woman behind BootsnAll’s Italy travel guide: WhyGo Italy. She’s happy to answer all kinds of Italy travel questions, from how to find cheap airfare to Italy to whether to buy an Italy rail pass to how to spend two weeks in Italy.
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