We Have Been Influenced! Posted by on Jan 2, 2017 in Italian Language

The Christmas and New Year period have been a complete blank for us this year because siamo stati tutti e due influenzati (we’ve both had the flu).

Influenza, like so many Latin words that we take for granted in the English language, actually has a very interesting etymology. In order to discover why English speakers use the Italian word influenza to describe an extremely unpleasant and potentially fatal illness we need to travel back to Italy in the 1700’s.

In April 1743, an article from ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine’ (London, England) reported: a Sort of Plague has broke out in Rome, which destroys Abundance of their People, and they call it the Influenza.
In fact, roughly 80,000 people suffered from influenza during the 1743 epidemic in Rome, and it is reported that as many as 500 were buried in a single day.
But the term influenza has been used in Italy since at least the 1500’s to refer to diseases such as influenza di febbre scarlattina (scarlet fever).

Why influenza?

The Latin word influere means ‘to flow into’, from in (in, into, on, upon) and fluere (to flow). Influenza was originally used as an astrological term signifying a “streaming ethereal power from the stars when in certain positions, acting upon character or destiny of men”.
This “streaming ethereal power”, also described as an ethereal fluid from the stars was believed to be the cause of many illnesses or unpleasant happenings.
After the Roman ‘plague’ of 1743, the Italian term ‘influenza’ began to make its way into the English language, being formally adopted by the College of Physicians in 1782.

When we talk about having the flu in Italian we use either of the following expression:

avere l’influenza = to have the flu
ho l’influenza = I’ve got the flu
lui/lei ha l’influenza = he/she has got the flu
abbiamo l’influenza = we’ve got flu

essere influenzato/a/i/e = to have the flu
sono influenzato/a = I’ve got the flu
lui/lei è influenzato/a = he/she has got the flu
siamo influenzati = we’ve got the flu

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to blow my nose … yet again …

Image via GIPHY.

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  1. Andrei:

    Salve Geoff
    Vi auguro il buon Capodanno e spero che vi ristabiliate pronto
    Saluti da Andrei

  2. Christine:

    Mi dispiace molto che avete avuto l’influenza. Sono studentessa di Italiano e questa email e potrebbe essere riempito con errori !! Adesso, la lingua di Italiano come di l’insalata di grammaticale – very confusing, a lot to keep track of! I am determined.

    Spero che vi senta meglio! Amo blog di Geoff e Serena e questa ha aiutato immensamente! Grazie mille!

    Vi auguro il meglio in assoluto nel 2017.
    I don’t know much about you or Serena and can’t find any bio. Would love to know if you are both Italian, live in Italy, You know, = the usual human interest questions if I can be bold here. Ciao!!

    • Geoff:

      @Christine Grazie Christine, vediamo di sistemare delle biografie nel prossimo futuro. Tanti auguri da noi due. 🙂

  3. Ann:

    Very bad luck, Geoff and Serena. Wish you a speedy recovery and – finalmente – felice anno nuovo!

  4. Ann Ashburn:

    Mi place il tuo blog gracie

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