Sunday, February 5, 2012

Vegetables and Genitalia in The Italian Language

Languages sometimes are very funny. We had Italian friends from Naples staying over during the weekend, and I took advantage to become more acquainted with bad words and politically-incorrect Italian idioms.

You might think why a lady like me should have such necessities, as foul language is certainly misconstrued and would level me with the uneducated ones, also degrading my entire family and friends up to the fourth generation! After all, polite New England ladies know what's best. Ok, enough of the Jane Austin parade.

Even if we were to live the 19 hundreds all over again, I'd be counting among the irreverent ones, because I find bad words to be just hilarious! They are funny, liberating, witty, and Italian has about 7 million of them! Gosh I wish I were born in Italy, commanding the language like those ten-year-olds across my house. When I hear them say some "parolaccia", which means "bad word", I always jot down whatever I can understand, then ask my children or look it up on the Internet, hoping Google will correct my bad spelling.

Idioms are the funniest and I find that the top of the chart is taken by words that describe female and male genitalia. There is a whole wide variety of about 60 words for the male sex organ and around 90 for the female one! At least, this is what Benigni says, and I tend to trust him. It must be said that he astounds the majority of Italians, who can nevertheless manage more than 30 idioms for each sex.

I will not list the strong words here, but just those that refer to vegetables and cute animals. Why vegetables and cute animals? I have my theory. Somehow, associating vegetables and cute fauna with sex organs has made it easier for Catholic Italians to talk about them in colloquial terms, without having to use uncomfortable scientific words. On the other side, strongly sexually charged words may not be proper, especially for children, therefore little animals and veggies came to the rescue.

All in all, a little cute sparrow cannot remind of sex. The female sex is called "Passera", or "Passerina" or "Passerottina" for kids, which means little sparrow. Just as a little pea pod cannot be associated to nothing else than the baby male organ, "Pisellino". However, growing up he will have his pea pod replaced by a cucumber. That is what the adult male sex is called, a "Cetriolo"! But females growing up leave the fauna world for the flora, and their "Passerina" gets replaced by a "Patata", or potato. But female babies can have a "Patatina", or a small potato.

Cucumbers and birds have little in common, but somehow adult male genitalia are also called "Uccelli" or birds. Maybe as a reminder that one day they all came from a "Passera". Which reminds me that Italians also call that a "Gattina" or kitty, something English speaking folks are more familiar with.

Somehow birds and female genitalia are related in Italy, since another word for the adult sex is "Tacchina" or hen. But I might have to take that back, since it is also often referred to as a female mouse, or "Topa".

Male organs are more in tune with fruit and vegetables. The "Banana", same as in English, is another synonym for the "Cetriolo". But again comes an animal to make me take back what I just said, since men also have the "Pesce", or fish. Care to mention some species? You may call it an "Anguilla" or eel. Which reminds me of a snake, indeed "Serpe" is another name. Nevertheless, fava beans are in the game too, albeit with the entire pod, giving males a "Fava".

My Neapolitan friends also told me that it can be called a Babà which is a typical pastry from Naples (see picture). And to end on a sweet note for females too, I'll add the last cute name. "Fragolina" or strawberry, my favorite.

There are many more, of course; hundreds, if you also add regional variations and recent additions, but I guess this will give you a good insight. Beware of these words when you are speaking Italian or are in Italy.

Never complain out loud at the restaurant when your boyfriend eats your strawberry sitting on the piece of cake!

2 commenti:

Glad it sorted the desired effect! I always crack up when I hear funny Italian words!


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