During my travels in Italy and my attempt to master the language, certain words became favorites. I remember the word because of the way it sounds, the way it rolls off the tongue in the singsong nature of Italian. Maybe it was a nickname someone special called me. The word produced an image in my head so different than the same word does in English.
Whatever the reason, these words and their meanings stick with me. Today they are like postcards. When I utter them, an image of a city, a meal, a friend, an exact moment in time, in Italy, appears in my mind. Their meaning never escapes me because of the images to which they are attached.
Melanie at Italofile had a great idea to help spread the love of Italy and the Italian language throughout the blogosphere. Five Favorite Italian Words, a post on her site, was such a hit that she asked others who blog about Italy to join in on spreading the love. If you blog and want to join in on the meme, Melanie has some great suggestions here.
You don’t need a blog to spread the word, though. You can leave your five favorite Italian words (or your 1,2 or 3 favorites) in the comments section below and then pass this link on to your Italian-loving friends.
I'm giving you 10 of my favorites (five food words and five non-food).
My five favorite food words in Italian:
It’s a much kinder gentler sounding name for lard. When I say strutto, I think of Sicilian pastries and cooking with Mariella. Lard is such a harsh word, of course people don't want it in their pastries. But, strutto...doesn’t strutto culo sound so much cuter than lard a**?
It means yolk, as in egg yolk (tuorlo di uovo). It reminds me of the English word, twirl, which is what I usually do with yolks; twirl (or whisk) them into sugar. I think of tiramisu and how i tuorli in Italy are such a deep orange instead of the sickly pale yellow tuorli so common in the U.S.
The pizzamaker. Flour all over his apron, hands and arms. I see him stretching the dough into a round, topping it, and sliding it off the peel into the wood burning oven. On my bucket list: being a pizzaiolo in Napoli and a gelato scooper anywhere in Italy. (Yes, I have high ambitions.)
Priest chokers/stranglers. It’s actually a type of pasta that resembles the neckwear of priests. I laugh and think of strangling (strozzando) priests whenever I eat this pasta.
As in a GELATO! Americans liken it to chocolate chip, but the chocolate is actually dropped in strips, or rags, onto the gelato. Stracci (strah-chee) is the Italian word for rags. As you say stracciatella, the word flows and stretches out like the stracci of chocolate stretches across the milky gelato. With each lick, the gelato melts in your mouth before you snap the first chunk of dark chocolate between your teeth.
My five favorite non-food words in Italian:
Principe azzurro (preen-chee-pay ah-tsoo-roh)
Literally it’s translated blue prince, it’s the English version of Prince Charming, or ideal man. Prince charming brings no image to my mind. Principe azzurro sounds so, well, blue, but also literal and poetic at the same time. I picture this dark curly-haired prince dressed in blue tights, blue-velvet Renaissance garb with those puffy sleeves, sword at his side, black boots, and piercingly blue eyes to match his outfit. He's standing in a Byzantine window of Venice or exiting an Italian castle.
It means root. If you’re using radici (roots) in reference to a person, the meaning changes to settling down, or putting down roots. My Italian relatives always tell me, “Devi fare radici.” You must make (put down) roots. They don’t understand why I keep coming back to Europe, and especially Italy. Instead I should settle down and find my principe azzurro e fare bambini. When I say radici, in my mind I become a grapevine in Sicily, Piedmont or Tuscany, and can thrive only there where my roots will flourish deep into its motherland. My fruit will taste bitter and acidic in any other terra.
Unfortunately, Americans don’t have any word for this, and I think we should have a sciopero (a strike) to protest. Ferragosto is August 15, a Catholic holiday to celebrate the Virgin Mary’s assumption into heaven. More importantly (Ooops, some priests may want to strozza Kathy, right now) it’s the official beginning to Italy’s August holiday. Almost all Italians take a holiday in August, many for more than 15 days. Ferragosto symbolizes summer, vacation, the beach, enjoying life. Any other questions why I want to fare radici in Italy?
It’s someone who is sly, clever, and cunning. As Alex says, it can be used as a compliment or pejoratively to describe someone who uses cunningness to promote one's self-interest at the expense of others. But, I think one can be furbo in a good way, too. Why stand in a line of undecided people when you know exactly what you want? Fai un furbo, pass those fools (mostly tourists anyway) and go straight to the cashier!
A naughty kid or a mischievous adult. I love this word mainly because this is the term J found for me, and it’s an accurate description of me both as a child and adult. I was explaining to him that I joke around a lot, usually in a mischievous and sometimes naughty manner. Spanish is his first language, so he checked with his Italian roommates. The next day he came back with birichina, and the nickname stuck.
What are your favorite Italian words? Why are they your favorites?
Five Favorite Italian Words (at Italofile)
Five Favorite Italian Words - The Sequel (at Italofile)
Cinque Parole Preferite (by Melissa at Diario di Una Studentezza Matta)
Caspita! Only Five Words? (by Barbara at Il Mio Tesoro)