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Is bene well?

Just because I don’t speak much Italian (there’s no point when nobody makes the effort to understand you), it doesn’t mean I don’t understand it. What gets me is that most dialogues are so cliched.

If you went to school in the seventies or before then you probably remember the old language-teaching text books we used to have. The content was so heavily-structured that it was almost impossible to read with a straight face, never mind believe in or learn from. For example, our old French book began with:

“Bonjour, Pierre”, dit Adolphe.

“Bonjour, Adolphe”, dit Pierre.

“Bonjour Pierre et Adolphe”, dit Claude.

“Bonjour Claude”, dit Adolphe.

“Bonjour Claude”, dit Pierre.

But no-one really talks like that, or do they? Well, they do here although it’s more like:

“Ciao, va bene?”

“Ciao, si, va bene. E tu?”

But who the hell is Bennie?

Everything is ‘va bene’. The guy we bought our first Italian house through is a ‘va bene’ addict. I’m not going to say his name but if you know this part of the world, think ‘Shakin’ Stevens’. Anyway, he (not Shakey, that is) can’t say a sentence without ‘Va bene’ in it.

I don’t care what people may say, the reality of it is that the Italian language is impoverished the way it is spoken. On a more serious note, we had terrible problems specifying the concrete for our swimming pool. We needed it to be a particular grade – ie over 300kg of cement per cubic metre of concrete but how can you do that when the word for both concrete and cement is ‘cemento’? What does it mean when you say you want 300kg of cemento per cubic metre of cemento? Absolutely nothing!

… and then we wanted it laid on mesh. Mesh is ‘rete’ but then so again is ‘fence’ and ‘grid’ and probably a dozen other things, too.

The most commonly used word for ‘to paint’ in the house sense is ‘imbiancare’ which literally means to whitewash. Hmmm.

Prunes, plums, greengages etc are all called ‘prugni’. ‘Cetrioli’ (cucumbers, which manage to be both floppy and woody here)  are ‘cetriolini’ when they adopt the totally different identity of gherkins.

I can’t stand the way every phone call begins with ‘Pronto?’ meaning ‘Ready?’. I can’t help hearing the English, “Oy, you. Are you listening to me?” instead. No-one says ‘Ciao’ – just ‘Pronto’. Ciao itself means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, by the way.

But what gets me most of all is that there must be a dozen or more words for pasta when it’s all the same thing, anyway!

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