Italian Language Blog

Misleading Word of the Day 4. Posted by on Mar 27, 2009 in Italian Language

Today’s ‘Misleading Word of the Day’ is also a potentially embarrassing one: preservativo. In Italian preservativo doesn’t mean ‘preservative’, but ‘condom’!

You can imagine how this can lead to rather ‘awkward’ situations such as the following:

A shy young Italian couple were on honeymoon in Lucca. One evening they met a rather ‘gentile’ English couple in a well known local restaurant. The English couple were visiting Lucca as part of a cultural tour of Tuscany and, being able to speak a few words of  ‘Italian’, attempted to engage the young newly-weds in conversation. The young couple expressed their desire to visit England one day, and asked the English couple to tell them a bit about the British diet, especially the traditional home cooking. The English lady took up the subject with great enthusiasm and proceeded to explain, in her rather poor Italian, how she produced a lot of different home made jams, finishing proudly with the statement ‘e mai metto i preservativi nella mia marmellata!’ (and I never put condoms in my jam). After a stunned silence the young Italian girl finally managed to utter the words: ‘meno male!’ (thank goodness!).

If you want to say ‘preservatives’ in Italian I recommend that you use the word conservanti, and if you find yourself in the above situation what you need to say in order not to embarrass yourself is ‘e non metto mai i conservanti nella mia marmellata!’ (and I never put preservatives in my jam!).

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  1. Dixie Tucker:

    When my friend first taught ESL in Italy she made the mistake of using the word preservativo, for preserved fruit, in a conversation, in class, about a cake she had made. She noticed a student who always sat up front and had a special place for special notes. My friend thought she was an eager student. She was just recording all of my friend’s often hilarious misuse of some Italian words and phrases. She used another word, I don’t remember, but when assigning a test she would say “I will not fart on you.” in Italiano. much hilarity in class, maybe that is why she married one of her students.

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