Ninna Nanna Posted by Serena on Oct 25, 2013 in Culture
A few days ago I wrote a ‘sleepy’ post … which I hope you managed to stay awake long enough to read! Here’s another word that we use for going to sleep/bed when we’re talking to children, la nanna. Let’s look at a couple of typical examples of how it’s used:
forza, è ora di andare a nanna = come on, it’s time to go to sleep
facciamo la nanna = let’s go to sleep
or simply: a nanna! = to bed! … said in commanding tone of voice.
When we were children, the 8 o’clock evening news on TV was always followed by Carosello, a series of adverts lasting a total of about 15 minutes (I’ll probably do a post about it!). Most of them were designed to appeal to children, even when they advertised products for adults. Allora, going back to the word nanna, I’m sure that most children of my generation will remember their parents telling them: “Dopo Carosello tutti a nanna!” = “After Carosello everybody off to bed!”
The word ninna nanna (or less commonly ninnananna) means lullaby, and it’s a combination of the word nanna with its synonym ninna, which comes from the verb ninnare, meaning to lull a child to sleep. The most popular ninna nanna is undoubtedly “Ninna nanna, ninna oh”, of which there are many variations. The common element in all of these is the presence of characters belonging to the imaginary world of childhood, in particular l’uomo nero (the black man), a menacing character used to scare children, and la Befana, the old witch who brings presents to children on the sixth of January. You can find out more about these characters by clicking on the following links: l’uomo nero and la befana
Click on the image below to hear a very relaxing version of “Ninna nanna, ninna oh”
And here is the version that my mother used to sing to us:
Ninna nanna, ninna oh,
questo bimbo a chi lo do?
Se lo do all’uomo nero,
me lo tiene un anno intero.
Se lo do alla Befana,
me lo tiene una settimana.
Se lo do a Gesù Bambino,
me lo tiene un attimino.
Se lo do alla sua mamma,
gli fa fare tanta nanna.
Ninna nanna, ninna oh,
to whom do I give this child?
If I give him to the black man,
he will keep him for me for a whole year.
If I give him to the Befana,
she will keep him for me for a week.
If I give him to Baby Jesus,
he will keep him for me for just a moment.
If I give him to his mummy,
she will make him sleep deeply.
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