Tuesday, October 25, 2016

We continue to blunder our way through the Italian language

After we had enjoyed a sumptuous home-cooked family meal in Sorrento, Lucy wanted to tell our hostess how much she had enjoyed the remarkable dinner. She hoped to say, “You are amazing” in Italian, and the first two words proved to be no problem—but not the word amazing. Many English and Italian words are similar, such as delicious and delizioso, elegant and elegante, but there is not an similarly equivalent word in Italian to amazing. Still Lucy had heard something that sounded like it, so she went ahead and said, “Tu sei ammazzata!” When the host looked confused, I quickly chimed in, “Vuol dire, tu sei fantastica.” That is, “She wants to say you are fantastic.” Ammazzare means to kill, so here is what Lucy had actually told the hostess: “You are killed.”

At least the mistakes we make here are spoken and thus fleeting. I read that General Electric merged with French company Plessy Telecommunications in 1988 and called the new partnership GPT—apparently without consulting the French-speaking partners. GPT sounds almost identical to the phrase “J’ai pété,” which means, “I farted.” The name change lasted less than a year but is still remembered.
Note: For more language mistakes, see New language blunders . . .

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