Italian Language Blog

Misleading Word of the Day 5. Posted by on Mar 29, 2009 in Italian Language

The ‘Misleading Word of the Day’ for today is ‘mais’ (maize, or sweet corn) which we use to make ‘la polenta’, a savoury dish with the consistency of thick porridge. This word is misleading in a rather amusing way due to the Italian pronunciation which sounds just like ‘mice’! The following is a more-or–less true story.

A retired English couple were visiting Italy for the first time. In fact it was the first time that they had ever ventured outside the safety of the sacred shores of Great Britain into the unknown wilderness of ‘Continental Europe’. ‘But what on earth will we do for food?’ they wondered. Two large suitcases were duly filled with an emergency supply of Tea Bags, Baked Beans, Tomato Ketchup, Tinned Peas, Tins of Peeled Plum Tomatoes (like we don’t have tomatoes in Italy?), Digestive Biscuits, and so on. Shortly before their departure their next door neighbor, who was of Italian descent, insisted that, as they would be spending part of their holiday in Torino, they should visit her cousin Mariella who lived in that city. A week later, ensconced in their modest hotel in Torino, and having consumed a dangerous proportion of their food rations, the English couple were contacted by Mariella who invited them, in her halting English, to have lunch with her. ‘I prepare for you a thing very tradizionale of Italy, no?’ Well how could they refuse? And so it was that with great trepidation they sat down at Mariella’s table on which were placed large plates full of ‘Polenta con Ragu’ alla Bolognese’ (Polenta with a meat sauce). But what on earth was this latest ‘European atrocity’ with which they had been presented?

‘This looks very interesting’, said the Englishman, carefully enunciating his words and speaking with the slightly raised voice that the British use when dealing with imbeciles and foreigners,  ‘what is it?’

‘is mice’ (mais) replied the hostess proudly.

The horrified English couple were constrained to demonstrate their true British grit in the face of adversity as they bravely chewed their way through the meal. Of course being an Italian household they were implored to have a second and a third helping!

The following year they spent their holiday in Bognor Regis, Great Britain.

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  1. Nisha:

    Thanks for the explanation Serena.

  2. tomas vitagliano:

    mille grazi questa site godo moltissimo

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