TBT: Word to Il Duce

So this one caught me by surprise.

Apparently . . . in 1929, the fascist government in Italy banned all foreign words.

Like . . . if you wanted to have a glass of red wine after work, you no longer could try the Bordeaux . . . you had to open a bottle of the Barola.

If you went to a movie, it was no longer il film, you now went to la pellicola, and afterwards you would go out and have a coda di gallo at the bottigliera instead of having cocktails at the bar.

Sounds a little terrifying.

Texting must take a very long time in Italian.

Though . . . I must admit . . . walking up to a pretty girl and saying slightly of the cuff

"Coda di gallo para bottigliera?"

Is a much better opening line than say . . . "Drinks at a bar?"

Italians must get laid a lot.

True story: in the 1200's, pretty much anything that was published was published in latin. Nobody spoke latin, it was just the universal way to write things.

Unless you lived east of the Mediterranean, and if you were, thanks for the system of letters and numbers.

East Asian pictograms would make typing this a total bitch.

Then Dante comes along (yes . . . that Dante) and begins for the first time to write in the vernacular of Tuscany and Rome and with his long epic poems and essays, he pretty much single handily gave the world the Italian language.

In fact . . . in France . . . they still nickname Italian "La Langue de Dante"

That's awful sweet of them.

If you think it's crazy that one man could give us language . . . think about this . . . Chaucer gave us English through almost exactly the same method . . . and a few hundred years later Shakespeare gave us an additional 1,700 new words and almost uncountable phrases that are still in modern use.

Wanna hear a statistic? Shakespeare used about 16,000 different words in total . . . by a little cheating with the maths . . . means around one out of every ten words he wrote . . . he made up.

And not unlike a text string between me and my wife . . . a lot of those invented words were pretty dirty.

I'll just leave that there.

Anyway . . . back to Il Duce (Or The Duke) if you wanna be a real jerk and Americanize his title, he comes into power in 1922 and promises to get the trains running on time.

Or so the story goes.

But timeliness is not a particularly fundamental Italian thing like it is here in the US.

They're never late for two things . . . meals and soccer.

Or il pasto e futbol.


Everything else, well . . . my absolute most favorite phrase in any language:

Que me frega, que tu fie?

Which translates precisely as "Why should what you do be important to me?"

But really means: Fuck if I care.

Now that doesn't mean Italians are by any means lazy, uncooperative, or in anyway blasé about all the stuff we take seriously, but . . . you know . . . they'll get to it when they get to it.

Not a particularly malleable group for a Fascist government.

But they tried anyway . . . god bless 'em.

And in 1929, with I'm sure a lot of patriotic fervor, they did their best to remove all foreign words from La Lingue de Dante and make it a crime to write their thoughts out on a typewriter instead of la machinna de scrivere.

That's my wife's favorite word to say in Italian . . . la machinna de scrivere.

Is it getting hot in here?

Anyway, the ban obviously didn't have a chance after WWII, American culture is just too damn pervasive . . . sorry about that, rest of the world . . . it's a little infuriating . . . I know . . . but if it makes you feel any better . . . we don't have a National Language . . . we keep making stuff up all the time.

What globalization is going to mean to the rest of the world's languages is anybody's guess.

There are some parts of Europe where people speak several languages fluently, which in a perfect world, would be the way to go . . . but I really super doubt it . . . and so does everyone else who has ever really thought about . . . so I can see the nationalistic need to ban foreign words just for the sake of saving a culture.

Which indeed . . . do need saving.

But we'll get to it when we get to it.

1 comment: