In our two years, we've done themes of words from French, German, Greek, Latin, Russian and Yiddish, some of the more than once.
Why not Italian? Largely because although many English words are traceable back to Italian, the vast majority fall into one of three narrow groups: food terms, artistic terms (especially music; secondarily painting), and terms that came from Italian via French and are French in flavor.
But this week we will hono(u)r Italy.
irredentist – one who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but now subject to a foreign government. (irredenta: such territory).
[The root term was irredenta, an Italian coinage from the phrase Italia irredenta, "unredeemed Italy".]
Question: How does irredentism differ from revanchism?
– Michael Richardson, Will S-E Asian States Be Forced to Take Sides?, Singapore Straits Times, Aug. 18, 2004
I am sure our thread-leader has gathered many wonderful contributions from Italian, the mother tongue of Dante.
But I place a marker right up front, on the finest word they have given us: sprezzatura meaning effortless grace, casual achievement.
dolce vita – a lifestyle of appreciating and savoring the pleasures of life.
[Italian: dolce sweet + vita life. Typically in the phrase la dolce vita)]
I have composed this definition, for I believe MW and AHD misdefine the word. In essence they say it means "an indolent and self-indulgent way of life". I'd say the term stresses enjoyment, without implying (as they think) any puritanical judgment that enjoyment is somehow "wrong".
Consider how the word is used, and form your own opinion. A link will give you the chance to enjoy the article from which the last quote is taken.
– Michael J. Gelb, Discover Your Genius: How to Think Like History's Ten Most Revolutionary Minds
The New York City Police Department is preparing to mobilize a new tool to prevent chaos during the Republican National Convention - a fleet of sleek, stylish Italian scooters. Along with giving officers a taste of "la dolce vita," the scooters will allow the police far more mobility as they seek to control the protests or get to trouble spots.
– Mary Spicuzza, Calling All Scooters? Officers Will Patrol With a Putt-Putt-Putt, New York Times, August 27, 2004
Italian men end up staying at home with their parents well into their 30s. "I just don't see the point of leaving my parents' home," said Luca Orsenigo. [H]e is not ready to give up his dolce vita, yet. "Right now I am single, so why would I give up traveling, my bike, the car, the clothes to waste money on rent?"
. . .His mother doesn’t seem to share his view.
– Claudio Lavanga, What is keeping Italian men at home? Experts warn of population fall as most prefer mamma's cooking, NBC News, Aug. 20, 2004 (edited)
Permit me to differ, wordcrafter. I take a vaguely negative connotation.
There is a long way, in terms of hardiness, from the Roman "Dulce et decorum est..." to the Italian "Dolce far niente."
Do you think "la dolce vita" came from Italian or from Hollywood?
The earliest reference I find is to the movie by Fellini (1960).
As a footnote from IMDB.com:
"Asked how he got the idea for the film, Fellini replied that one year the fashions made the women in Rome look like big flowers. Several extremely exaggerated costumes here and there in the film (such as two women guests' cloaks in the sequence of the party at the castle) point back to this original inspiration."
Also from IMDB:
"The film contributed the term "paparazzi" to the language. The term derives from Marcello's (Mastroianni) photographer friend Paparazzo."
Thank you for the eponym, Robert!
inamorata, inamorato – a woman (inamorata) or man (inamorato) with whom one is in love or has an intimate relationship.
[So says AHD. I'd say the word stresses the sex, not the love. An inamorata is a mistress; one would not use either term to refer to a spouse.]
– Annabel Crabb, Festival of the boot, The Age (Australia), August 1, 2004
“Is he a presentable sort of person?” the aunt inquired. "Presentable?—oh, very well. You wouldn’t see any difference," Captain Crawley answered. "Do let’s have him when you begin to see a few people; and his whatyecallem—his—inamorata —eh, Miss Sharp; that's what you call it—comes."
– William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, ch. XIV
Could I say that I like Annabel Crabb's piece - for all its journalistic style. Does she write for anything else does anyone know?
Anne Fadiman, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader ... a little book of bookish essays by an avowed book-lover, daughter of the encyclopedic US anthologist and editor Clifton Fadiman. Much charm and quite a few chuckles (Thog appreciated the quoted Richmond Times-Dispatch description of Camilla Parker-Bowles as Prince Charles's power mower), but the author seems terribly determined to admit only to ultra-respectable or fashionably eccentric literary loves.
Is a power mower like an inamorata?
A pair of words whose meanings contrast but whose etymologies pose like problems.
peccadillo – a small sin or fault
punctilio – 1. a fine point of etiquette 2. precise observance of formalities
But do these words come from Italian? The authorities' etymologies cite both Italian and Spanish.¹ But the first English citations are 1591 and 1596 respectively, and I'd say those dates very strongly argue that the source was not Spanish. The English of the 1590s had very recently defeated the Spanish Armada, and I doubt they felt kindly to the Spanish or to their words.
– Andrew C. McCarthy, Vietnam & Authenticity, National Review, August 25, 2004
In the early 1970s, American feminists came up with the shocking proposition that "sexual harassment" of women workers was not a "private peccadillo," but a significant obstacle to women's achievement of equality for which employers should be held liable. By 1977, it was a recognized claim.
– Kathleen Peratis, ONLY HUMAN: No Ifs, Ands Or Butts, The Forward, August 6, 2004
This principle will be put to the test with the arrest warrants issued against Ahmed and Salem Chalabi Sunday. The Iraqi people and the world alike will see this as a political move, which is why the Iraqi interim government must strive to deal with this sensitive matter with all the punctilio, diligence and decorum that the law deserves.
– Lebanon Daily Star, Chalabi cases will quickly test Iraq's legal system, August 10, 2004
¹Thus, for 'peccadillo' OED lists both Sp. pecadillo and It. peccadiglio, "small sin"; for 'punctilio' it lists both It. punctiglio and Sp. puntillo, "small point". Other authorities or similar, though some give only Spanish for 'punctilio'.
. . .Regarding 'punctilio': a few decades later the word punctuality, which previously had a different meaning, came to mean "exact promptness".This message has been edited. Last edited by: wordcrafter,
peccadillo - One of my favorite words!
When I was in Italy last September, I thought the Italian would be a breeze, since I know a little Spanish and all. Not the case! My fellow Europeans, with no particular knowledge of Spanish, had a much better time with the language, partly because they are so used to communicating in other languages, I think.
sotto voce – in soft tones, so as not to be overheard; in an undertone
[Italian, "under voice"]
Our first quote's rhyme shows you how this term is pronounced. The poem is tells the old fairy tale of a frog who is really an enchanted prince. Our frog-prince has found a maid to free him the spell, but he has not yet seen the maid – and does not know that she is exceedingly ugly.
If you'll promise that you'll wed me, / I'll at once become a prince;
For a fairy old and vicious / An enchantment round me spun!"
Then he looked up, unsuspicious, / And he saw what he had won,
And in terms of said reproach he
Made some comments, sotto voce.
(Which the publishers have bidden me to shun!)
– Guy Wetmore Carryl, Grimm Tales Made Gay (1902)
More than 300 rapes have taken place in Delhi this year. Things have come to a stage where even the police admit, albeit sotto voce, that they have a limited role to play in dealing with the crime.
– Sachin Parashar, Times of India, August 23, 2004
Today's word literally means "from the other side of the mountain". It is used in three senses: it can mean Italy's cold dry northern wind from "the other side" of the Alps", or can have its literal meaning, or can mean "a foreigner". We illustrate all three.
The sense of "foreigner" seems to be mildly pejorative. Thus in the Oxford Edition of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749), where the text reads 'tramontane' the editors' explanatory note says, "barbarian, originally used by Italians for foreigners 'dwelling beyond the mountains'."
– Helen Stevenson, Instructions for Visitors: Life and Love in a French Town
[At the end of the American Revolution, France] was prepared to consent to a long term uti possidetis; a diminutive United States would have existed, but Great Britain almost certainly would have retained Maine, northern Vermont, the Carolinas, Georgia, the tramontane West, and portions of New York, including New York City.
– John Ferling, John Adams: A Life
She had lived in many places – in Seattle, Texas, Germany (a stepfather in the military) – so that her speech was full of tramontane expressions like "y'all" and "fixin to git."
– William Finnegan, Cold New World : Growing Up in Harder Country
What does uti possidetis mean, in that last quote? Tune in tomorrow, as we start our next theme.
quote:Literally as you (now) possess (it); from the wording of an interdict in Roman law enjoining both parties in a suit to maintain the status quo until the decision.
In international law, the basis or principle of a treaty which leaves belligerents mutually in possession of what they have acquired by their arms during the war.
Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
I just spoke to my daughter's Italian professor and he claims that la dolce vita was first used by Fellini ironically to refer to indolent upper-class Italian society; it has become part of the Italian language with this meaning and connotation, not the sweet, soulful life or a lifestyle of appreciating and savoring the pleasures of life. He took particular offense at the application of the phrase to working- or middle-class Italians or to the concept that Europeans savor life more. "That's just not what it means" was his final word.
he claims that la dolce vita was first used by Fellini ironically to refer to the lives of indolent upper-class Italian society
I'm not sure, but I think the phrase la dolce vita existed before Fellini's movie. His use gave a new twist to its meaning(s). Now, paparazzi is a Fellini neologism: it's the name of the obnoxious photographer in La Dolce Vita.
That is how I understood the professor: that Fellini used an existing phrase ironically and that was adopted as the new meaning.
Imborsation - From Erin McKean's book "Weird and Wonderful Words." It is an Italian method of electing magistrates where the candidates' names are put in a bag, and the winners are dawn out. The lone citation from the OED has eight hundred names being put in the purse, but no mention of the number of magistrate-winners.
Now, that's an intriguing way to hold an election!
BTW, is there a word for drawing names out of a hat (or whatever) for winning contests?
I would have thought (if I'd thought about it) that the phrase pre-dated Fellini's film. But on checking, it seems that the film came out in 1960. The first usages of the phrase in the New York Times are in 1959, and they appear to be referring to advance screenings of the movie. [I don't have access to the full articles.]
The release dates for foreign films in America are oftentimes one year later than their release in their country of origin. This may be the case with La Dolce Vitas. It's possible that the articles about it are about the Cannes or some other film festival.