DLaM and the Deathly Tobacco
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Learning Italian is a bit of a hit and miss affair with me. I have neither the time nor the inclination to sit down with books and learn by rote, so I tend to pick up words and phrases from my students. I’m therefore excellent at asking questions which start, ‘che significa …?’ or ‘come si dice …?’, and can also reel off a great long list of the names of foods, shops and domestic animals. Actually holding a meaningful conversation with an adult Italian, however, I struggle with. Alex has offered to give me informal lessons, which will be hugely useful. However, there are limits to his knowledge, as I discovered yesterday.
Last night, for some reason, I became curious about the translation of ‘fioretta’. Fioretta al cacao is the cheapest version of chocolate-hazelnut spread that you can buy here. A grade up is nocciola al cacao, and then at the top end of the market there is Nutella. The word for hazelnut is ‘nocciola’, so nocciola al cacao is obvious in its translation. However, the fioretta al cacao that I eat is still just as hazelnutty and chocolatey as Nutella, so why does it not claim nocciola in its name? Alex didn’t know the meaning of ‘fioretta’ either, so he turned to the dictionary. First he tried the children’s version, which came up, hilariously, with ‘a small sacrifice’ as a translation. However, the adult dictionary came up with an even better explanation: ‘an act of mortification’. Brilliant! Only in Italy could one mortify oneself with a small chocolate sacrifice before 9am every morning.
On a roll, we turned to one of our favourite games: translating written Italian literally. This is usually played with the labels on bottles of wine, which may or may not account for the fact that we find it so sidesplittingly funny. This particular bottle was an absolute gem: É un rosso potente e diplomatico, ricco di sole e sapidità; naso complessa di prugna, more, cuoio, con note che tendono al tabacco morbido. A complex pruney nose and notes of deathly tobacco? Genius! I also love the fact that, despite it being potent, it is essentially tactful. What more does one want from a €1.75 bottle of local wine than the fact that it will kick you in the head but retire discreetly afterwards?