And now a word from our (confused) sponsor…

1 11 2009

1970s US Ad for the Alfa Romero [sic]

“Here’s a Man’s Car”

The beautiful thing is not only that the car’s name is mispronounced every time, but the voiceover gets it wrong even when the screen shows the Alfa Romeo badge. The near front-end collision in the finale also adds a touch of style.





Hardware shop theatre

18 02 2009

Home of the teatro stabile di ferramenta

Home of the teatro stabile di ferramenta

Or, how buying a door latch in Italy becomes a public spectacle when you’re foreign

 

 

 

One of the things I’ve realized after a number of years in Italy is that I have no anonymity. Even when I lived in the big city I was the object of the curiosity of apartment porters, local shopkeepers, and neighbours. They may not have responded to my greetings but they knew (or tried to know) everything about me. Now that we live in a small village, I have acquired a certain amount of local celebrity.

The extent of my visibility became clear when I made my first visit to the nearby negozio di ferramenta (hardware shop). On orders to purchase a new door latch mechanism, I entered stage right on to the set of a comedy:

Foreign man enters holding an antiquated door latch.

Foreigner: I need a replacement for this.

Hardware man turns to crowd of onlookers sitting around the counter, all grateful for a bit of excitement.

Hardware man (in dialect): This is the man from Canada who lives on the next street over. Ha, ha, ha!

Pause.

Hardware man (In standard Italian, very slowly and loudly as if talking to an obtuse small child): Meester – Meester – Meeesteer! THIS – IS – A – VERY – OLD – DOOR – LATCH – YOU – NEED – A – NEW – ONE! [In English] Veeeree Olde!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee. It’s old. It’s old. Poor guy has an old door latch.

Foreigner: Yes, I know. That’s why I’m here.

Hardware man (in dialect): He must want a new one. Poor guy!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee. He wants a new one. Poor guy.

Hardware man (In standard Italian, very slowly and loudly as if talking to an obtuse small child): They – Don’t – Make – These – Anymore – Meester! You – need – a – different – one!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee.

Hardware man rummages about storeroom and comes up with one exactly the same but with a slightly different latch shape.

Hardware man (triumphantly): This – is – a – NEW – ONE! They- Don’t – have – these – in – Hollywood – Meester!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee.





“Who’s been drinking my cappuccino?”

14 01 2009
goldilocks and the three coffee drinkers

goldilocks and the three coffee drinkers

Goldilocks and the Three Bears for Italian students of English

English may be a world language but that does not mean that everyone understands it. In Italy, there is a local version of the language which has little to do with the original. You can find psuedo-English words like “footing” (a substitute for jogging) and “transfert” (a taxi or bus ride from the airport). There are also many recycled expressions which have taken on different meanings here, such as “fashion victim” for very stylish people, “ticket” for hospital user fees, “mobbing” for workplace harassment, and – my favourite – “pullman” for intercity buses.

Even the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is not immune. My 3 year old daughter has a locally produced version of the tale in English and there are significant differences with the tale we know and love. Many of the memorable phrases such as “Who’s been sitting in my chair?” are gone, replaced by expressions like “I’m sure there is somebody else here”. However, the most startling change is the total absence of porridge from the volume. Instead, like all Italians, these 3 bears enjoy a hot (but not too hot) cappuccino in the morning. Mamma Bear even has the typical shiny aluminum moka caffeteria.

There are fewer changes in the tale of the Three Little Pigs, since the construction techniques of the first two is similar to that used by local apartment developers.