Parliamo L’Italiese Posted by Serena on Jun 9, 2009 in Italian Language
Whether we like it or not, la bella lingua has absorbed a fairly substantial vocabulary from the English language. The language of sport and entertainment in Italy, for example, has long been influenced by English: ‘Il Jazz’ for example, was already in use back in the 1920s. During the fascist years under Mussolini there was an unsuccessful attempt to ‘purify’ the Italian language, and to replace ‘Il Jazz’ with an Italian interpretation: ‘Il Giazzo’. In general though, we Italians seem to prefer to adopt rather than adapt the words we need, and hence we commonly use such terms as il rock, la star, lo sport, il fitness, la mountain bike, il tennis, and so on. Fortunately perhaps, the name of our national sport, il calcio (football), has avoided Anglicization, as has that other great sporting passion il ciclismo (cycling). Il golf is an interesting case because until recently it was not a popular sport in Italy. The word il golf however has been around a while in our language, and generally denotes not the sport itself but a cardigan or jumper (deriving from the English golfing wear).
Another interesting use of an English word is la spider, which is not, as you may think, an insect, but a convertible sports car. Why? because the name comes from the spider shaped framework of the hood, and we probably use the word spider instead of ragno because it sounds more ‘cool’ or exotic.
This is certainly the case with many ‘lifestyle’ words that have recently become trendy in popular Italian culture. In the world of fashion for example everyone seems to be after ‘il look’. I’m looking at the front of one of my Italian dressmaking magazines called Boutique, and here are some of the eye-catching headlines I find on the front page (English words highlighted in blue): DRAPPEGI SEXY; SUMMER STYLE – LOOK CITTA’, MARE, O COUNTRY; PER LUI, UNO STILE SURF UNISEX, well you get the idea.
Another ‘lifestyle’ area invaded by trendy English words is ‘il fitness’. One that always makes me laugh is ‘il wellness’ which is our version of the term ‘wellbeing’ for which we already have the very nice, but terribly unfashionable word, benessere. Some Italian friends of ours recently asked us about one of the latest ‘English’ terms that has crept in: ‘full immersion’ as in sono andato a un full immersion weekend di fitness. “You’ve lived in England, what exactly does it mean?” they asked. “Boh!”, was my reply, neither me nor my English husband had ever heard anything like it, perhaps it has arrived from America, It didn’t involved scuba diving by any chance?
Recently, with the advent of the computer and particularly the internet, we have had a huge influx of English words and terminology. In computing for example we use: il computer, il monitor (although we also use lo schermo – the screen), il mouse, clicca (an Italianized version of click), on-line, and so on, however we also use the Italian words tastiera (keyboard), stampante (printer), and casse acustiche (speakers)….. as you can see a real pasticcione (big messy mixture)!
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