18 April 2010

Professors and prostitutes...

I am reading “Blooming English” published by Cambridge University Press in 2004, subtitled “Observations on the roots, cultivation and hybrids of the English Language.” Pondering this densely rich, entertaining book while studying Italian makes me half-crazy (the other half, of course, remains absolutely sane).

Australian linguist Kate Burridge exposes the hidden under the obvious – we know that children miss-hear things, but why do they do it? Why are there no “white spaces” between words we speak as there are between words we write (and how do we figure out what those spoken words mean)?

Take all of this interesting complexity (and I’m only referring to the first 27 pages of this book) and relate it to another language... say, Italian. Then the truly perplexing questions arise.

For example... English uses expressive infixing to intensify some words, and there are rules about this. “Fanfuckingtastic” is a common intensification of “fantastic.” You don’t infix words of fewer than three syllables. The infixes themselves have to have more than one syllable.

So... are there expressive infixes in Italian?

What is the longest word in Italian? Is there an equivalent to floccinaucinihilipilificationalization?

Do Italians use certain endings (or beginnings) to create new words? Is there “hearism” and “tasteism” and “Gatorade” and “limeade” and other ades? Pcdom, fandom, moviedom, parentdom? Do Italians diarize, prioritize, burglarize? Acutalize? Prayerize? Picturize?

Do Italians play Scrabble? And if so, are there problems when someone lays down “typer” instead of “typist”? Is there an Italian equivalent to “er” as in comer, studier, presider, cycler, supposer, stealer, groaner (one who groans; and a dialect term for a whistling buoy; and a joke that makes one groan in agony)?

All of these observations on English do or do not have their equivalents in Italian, and I’d like to know more about this. Help!

Do Italians have favorite words, words that please them; and the opposite, words they dislike intensely? English speakers like “serendipity” and dislike “toothbrush.”

Howabout nonce words: words that are created and forgotten pretty much on the spot. Examples in English: “foreploy” (any misrepresentation or outright lie about yourself that leads to sex) and “bagonize” (to wait at the luggage carousel for a suitcase that takes its time appearing when you are in a hurry). In Italian?

Mondegreens – oronyms – misheard words and phrases – are common in English. “Gladly the cross-eyed bear” for “Gladly the cross I bear” and disarranged phrases, as the famous one “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” for “eats shoots and leaves”... “I scream” instead of “ice cream;” “The stuffy nose can lead to problems” for “the stuff he knows can lead to problems.”
Or playful mistakes such as “Be Alert – We need more lerts!”
Do things like these exist in Italian?

And Pig Latin? After all, Latin began in Italy long before there was an Italy.

Does Italian have the equivalent of an exaltation of larks, a conjugation of linguists, a shelf of librarians, a gaggle of geese?

Four Oxford dons see a group of prostitutes. “A jam of tarts!” A flourish of strumpets!” An essay of Trollope’s” and “An anthology of prose!”

Four Italian professors from Padua see the same group of prostitutes. What do they mutter?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please let me hear from you. It is easy to post your thoughts here. Due to spammers, I now am moderating the comments. If you are a human, you are in, but you may have to wait a few hours until I OK your pending comment. Thank you!