Italy win... and its language is also a Euro success
Ok, I admit it. I had to use Google to find out how to appropriately congratulate the winners of Euro 2020. The fact is, we should all know a bit more Italian. It is, after all, the source of many English words.
Made in Italy
Even stupido people like me appreciate that ‘pizza’ and ‘pasta’ were made in Italy. It's because such words are so baked into English, we barely give them a second thought.
The fact is Italy has been pretty generous to us over the years, with words if not penalty shoot-outs!
So, let's forget about what happened last night for a moment to look, first of all, at some of the words we share.
Quintessentially Italian - the original Fiat 500
Photo: Jonathan Bean/ Unsplash
Volcano Supporters of both Euro 2020 finalists agree that a volcano is a big pointy rock that erupts occasionally. But, here’s the thing. While we use the same singular version as Italians, we do not use the same plural. I know: weird, right? While English people would call a group of volatile mountains ‘volcanoes’, Italians would call them volcani.
In fact, they do this quite a bit. Many Italian words ending with an ‘o’ are singular: their plural pals end with an ‘i’. Words like:
So, the plural versions of these words are: ‘gelati’, 'motti' and ‘soprani’. Because the ‘i’ already exists in ‘scenario’, Italians simply snip off the final ‘o’ to create the plural, ‘scenari’.
We can also flip this idea around. Even though it probably hurts your already sore head just to see these singular nouns, we use their plural counterparts without a second thought:
So, that’s: one bit of paper to toss over a bride; one example of illicit wall art; a solo celeb photographer; and a single strand of skinny pasta. The far more familiar plurals are, of course: confetti, graffiti, paparazzi and spaghetti.
Speaking of which, we are particularly fond of Italian food. As well as the pizza and pasta mentioned earlier, many of us would be happy to get our tongues around at least some of the following:
Which, again, are so familiar we don't necessarily think of them as Italian.
A Ferrari in obligatory red
Photo: Joshua Koblin/ Unsplash
Clearly, Italians love to round off their words with a vowel. We've already seen plenty of 'i' and 'o' examples. 'A' is another regular final letter:
While we share the words mentioned so far, it's quite easy to see how Italian has influenced specifically English words. For example, note the relationships between: scenario/ scene; influenza/ influence; extravaganza/ extravagance.
Word of God
Holy moly! Did you realise ‘diva’ is literally ‘goddess’ in Latin? Latin is, of course, the source of Italian. While we regularly use its close cousin ‘divine’ to describe something we really love, secular people like me have to remind ourselves that ‘divine’ and ‘divinity’ are related to ‘God’ and ‘Godlike’.
‘Terracotta’ is a reddish-brown clay (think earthenware). And we can see that the following have been moulded from it: ‘terra firma’ (firm land), ‘territory’, 'subterranean' (underground) and ‘terrain’. That’s because ‘terra’ is literally ‘earth’.
Last but not least
Yes, finale is as Italian as a rosso Ferrari. You hardly need me to point out finale’s relationship to the end of things, like blogs on Italian, for example, as well as ‘FIN’, which appears at the end of many French films.
We shouldn’t be too surprised by the influence of Italian on our language. It is a legacy from the dominant Roman Empire that stomped across Europe and beyond back in the day.
So, while Italy may only just have won Euro 2020, it is also fair to say that Italian has ruled over Europe for 20 centuries or so.
Thanks for reading.
Get in touch if you want any help with your wordy stuff.