We Have Been Influenced! Posted by Geoff 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).
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 …
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