It’s all Greek to me

(image by Kate Bailward)

My name is Katja, and living in Italy has turned me into a pretentious twat.

Back in my teenage years, reading all the big travel memoirs (you know the kind of thing – Londoner creative-type becomes bored of London, moves to ruined cottage in France/Spain/Italy, lives an unaccustomed simple life, encounters oh-so-hilarious difficulties along the way, ends up falling in love with the place),  I always hated the writers who casually sprinkled their text with foreign words.  I imagined the writer feeling superior when first deciding to use that word.  Oh, look at me – I know words that you don’t know!  But don’t feel bad – it’s just that you’re not as well-travelled and erudite and clever as I am!   Ha ha ha!

Of course, now that I am that smug Londoner-turned-Expat, I find myself littering foreign words all over the place, as if this were perfectly normal.  I’ll let you into a secret, however: my Italian is abysmal.  I mean, really.  This is one way of practising without being laughed out of court.  You know those double letters that you see all the time in Italian words?  Well, they’re enunciated.  Penne, if only a single ‘n’ is pronounced, apparently means penis.  (At least, I think that’s what he was trying to tell me through his blushes.  Yeah, THAT was embarrassing.)  Luckily for you, though, you only see the written word and aren’t subjected to my horrible accent.  I’m sparing you all, really.  Honest.

Writing the words down also means that I can check the meanings before committing myself to paper.  Except that I don’t bother, half the time.  Not clever, and resulting in hasty edits a week later, having learnt the actual phrase rather than just something I’ve unintentionally made up by adding an Italian ending to a French word.  Sometimes this does work, but more not than often, unfortunately.

Having written all of this down, of course, my dirty little secret is out: not only am I a pretentious twat, but a language doofus.  Sshh, though – it’s just fra noi, yeh?

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About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
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5 Responses to It’s all Greek to me

  1. yarb says:

    Early in Paul Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express there's a very amusing bit where he inveighs against travel writers using italicised foreign words instead of perfectly good English ones. E.g., 'Outside the bodega an old campesino sat sullenly under his sombrero…' etc. The more you think about it the more annoying it is.

  2. Belle_Lulu says:

    Not that moi has jamais fait le meme tu comprends!

  3. Katja says:

    Yarb: I shall have to look that one up. Another one to add to the suitcase.

    Lulu: bien sur, luv!

  4. Sarah says:

    Double bloody letters.

    15 years of really, really trying to hear the difference and produce it on demand, but once again I saluted half the town with

    "Happy New Anus !"

  5. Katja says:

    Nooooo!

    *falls over laughing*

    Oh, that's priceless.

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