Tag Archives: Language

A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – Freddo/Freddissimo (adj. cold/freezing)

Freddo (Freddissimo)

adj. cold, glacial, frigid
adj. fig. dead, lifeless
adj. fig. detached, aloof, impassive, rational
n.   cold, cold weather

from Word Reference

Freddo

For previous installments of Italian Word of the Week, click here.

Adesso, fa freddissimo!–Right now, it’s freezing! (You can find an explanation of how freddo changed to freddissimo in my previous post.)

The reason I chose freddo this week is obvious. Il Regno di Ghiaccio (The Reign of Ice, i.e. the Italian title of the Disney movie Frozen) is an apt description of the current weather. The roads are iced over, frostbite is a few minutes of exposure away, and my car is making weird noises. D.C. doesn’t have it as bad as the rest of the country, but it was cold enough for me to dig out my gloves, scarf and hat from storage.

One of the first things one learns in Italian class is that (as with the case in French), one “has” cold as opposed to one “is” cold. In other words, ho freddo literally translates to “I have cold” but is the Italian equivalent of saying “I am cold.” Additionally, the weather “does” freezing as opposed to “is” freezing–(Il tempo) fa freddissimo. The idiomatic equivalent of fa freddissimo is fa un freddo cane, which, as far as I can tell, literally translates to (the weather) makes a frozen dog.

And since I get lethargic and sleepy whenever it’s cold out, this is all the effort I can muster for today. But calma e sangue freddo! (Keep calm and don’t panic–lit. calm yourself and keep your blood cold). My next Italian Word of the Week will hit the interwebs next Thursday.

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my post, please leave a comment.  

Advertisements

A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – [Buon] Anno ([Good] n. year)!

Happy New YearAnno

n. year

from Word Reference

For previous installments of Italian Word of the Week, click here.

Buon anno, tutti! (Happy New Year, everyone!–translation not literal) This week’s word came up a day early since it is the New Year. I’m going to put myself on a limb here and say buon anno is the Italian equivalent of “Happy New Year”. The only source I have to back this up are dubbed episodes of How I Met Your Mother (which are hilarious, by the way), so please feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken. Literally, the New Year is il capodanno (m. s.), and New Year’s Eve is la notte di capodanno (f.s.).

Anno (n. year) is a word that has given me much grief because I instinctively say per anno instead of all’anno whenever I refer to recurring events. In English, one says “X happens twice per year”, which somehow causes per (for) to tumble out of my mouth instead of the correct all’. I’m pretty sure I get corrected on this error at least 3 times a day while classes are in session.

Some useful phrases related to this word are ogni anno (every year, annually), l’anno scorso (last year), l’anno prossimo (next year), tutto l’anno (all year, year-round), and qualche anno fa (a few years ago). Of course, the romance writer in me zero’d in on the psychological term crisi del settimo anno (seven-year itch).

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my post, please leave a comment. This is a learning process for me as well. 

A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – Lupo (n. wolf)

Lupo

n. wolf

from Word Reference

For previous installments of Italian Word of the Week, click here.

You might be wondering why I picked a straightforward noun–an animal of all things–as this week’s Italian word. Honestly, I did it because it provides the perfect segway for me to plug my new release, Delicious Delay. No, said book is not a shifter romance (though I do have one bouncing around in my head, threatening to break free). However, in case anyone out there is wondering, the Italian words for “werewolf” are licantropo and lupo mannaro (yes, I have a vampire edition of this post planned for the not too distant future).

It’s always a relief for students to find idioms that exist in both English and Italian. Gridare al lupo (id. to cry wolf; to raise a false alarm), lupo vestito da agnello (id. wolf in sheep’s clothing) and chi si pecora fa, il lupo se la mangia (id. those who make themselves sheep will be eaten by the wolf) are great examples. 

And here comes the segway. Italians (or so my teacher told me) are superstitious. As such, they would rarely say “Buona fortuna.” Instead, they prefer to use “In bocca al lupo” (lit. in the mouth of the wolf) whenever they want to wish anyone good luck, to which the person would respond “Crepi il lupo” (lit. the wolf dies). Since my new book releases tomorrow, I’m need quite a bit of luck, so I’ll go ahead and say this a few more times to myself.

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my post, please leave a comment. This is a learning process for me as well. 

A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – Bellissimo (a, i, e)

Bellissimo (Bellissima, Bellissimi & Bellissime)

adj. very beautiful, all-beautiful, swell

from Word Reference

For previous installments of Italian Word of the Week, click here. For an explanation of how adjectives that end in “o” change depending on context, take a look at my previous post on “Caro“.

As with last time, we start with a mini grammar lesson.

  • Italian adjectives can be modified with suffixes (that’s a fancy way to say “endings”) to express different levels of emphasis. “-issimo” is the Italian absolute superlative, which basically means it is used to show that a certain quality is expressed to a highest degree possible. In this case, Bello (adj. beautiful) is modified to become Bellissimo, which is often translated to “very beautiful.” However, it is probably closer to “the most beautiful humanly possible.”
  • Cultural Note: That said, the Italian language seems to favor the dramatic (try watching Grey’s Anatomy dubbed in Italian–it’s very interesting). Therefore, it seems bellissimo is used somewhat capriciously.
  • Side Note: Remember I went over “Caro” last week? You guessed right–“Carissimo” is “very expensive, dear, precious, etc.”

So obviously, bellissima (f.) can be used to describe a woman. To see the Italian hand gesture equivalent of Una bellissima donna! (What a very beautiful woman!), you can take a look at Berlusconi’s first encounter with Michelle Obama (since sarcasm doesn’t translate well in text form–THIS IS AN INAPPROPRIATE GESTURE!). However, when talking about men, there seems to be a preference for the unmodified adjective (i.e. a hunk = un bell’uomo, un bell ragazzo).

That said, bellissimo can be used to describe a whole host of other things. Most common among them seems to be food (Questa pasta è bellissima!) and the weather. Occasionally, it is also used to mean “good”, but I haven’t quite mastered when and when not to use it in this fashion, so I won’t elaborate.

That’s it for this week!

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my post, please leave a comment. This is a learning process for me as well. 

A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – Caro (a, i, e)

Caro (and Cara, Cari, Care)

adj. beloved, dear, dearest, darling, sweetheart, precious
     good, kind, expensive, pricey 
n. a loved one, loved ones (fig. family)

from Word Reference

For previous installments of Italian Word of the Week, click here.

Since this is only my second IWoW post, I’ll start by very briefly and superficially going over two grammar points.

  • Adjectives that end in “o” (ex. caro), change endings depending on the noun it modifies. As such, caro (masculine singular) turns into cara if the subject/object is feminine singular, cari if it’s masculine plural, and care if it’s feminine plural.
  • Nouns that end in “o” also change when they become plural. Instead of adding an “s,” as in the case of English, Italians change the “o” to an “i”. In other words, caro (n. loved one) becomes cari (n. loved ones).

Basta (that’s enough) with grammar. So why do I think caro is cool?

First off, most romance readers have come across the expression “Cara mia” (my dear) at some point. For one, Lisa Marie Rice wrote quite a number of romances set in Italy and/or with Italian male leads. Of course, the “mia” (my, feminine singular) is just for emphasis–cara can be used on it’s own to express “dear, darling, sweetheart” as well. Oddly enough, what comes first to my mind when I hear cara mia is Gollum’s ravings over “my precious” from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. After all, “precious, mine” would be the most literal translation of cara mia.

I stumbled upon the use of caro/cari as a noun during my Disney Study Sessions, during which I watch youtube clips of Italian-dubbed soundtracks (that counts as work right?). In Mulan‘s Riflesso (aka. Reflections…yes, it’s a Christina Aguilera song), there’s this line that took me forever to figure out: 

se io facessi ciò che vorrei, i miei cari perderei

which roughly translates to “If I do as I’d like, I’d lose my loved ones (fig. family).” The line forced me to look the word up–until I did, I had no idea caro/cari could be used as a noun.

Of course, the usage of caro/cara a new Italian student would most likely learn is in reference to an “expensive” object. Since caro literally means “precious”, it’s very frequently used to describe the monetary value of items. Just to keep non-native speakers on their toes, however, poco (adv. few) caro = affordable.

By the way, a useful tourist-Italian phrase to know would be “No, grazie. è troppo caro,”  which means “No, thank you. (it’s) too expensive.”  And thus concludes this post. If you have any cool Italian words you’d like me to look up, just leave a comment pointing me in the right direction.

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my post, please leave a comment. This is a learning process for me as well. 

A Romance Writer Learns Italian – My Word of the Week – Dolce

Dolce

adj. sweet, mild, gentle, nice, pleasant, dear, charming, 
fig.-- easy, gradual, soft 
n. sweetness, dessert, cake, sweet, candy, sweets

from Word Reference

As many of you are aware, I started an intensive Italian course this September. Since then, learning this language has consumed my life. Because the class is designed for American government workers (and not necessarily their spouses), I’ve been taught numerous words I doubt will ever be of use (ex. il garante per la cauzione di criminali – bail bondsman…Crossing my fingers I will never need this one). So what’s a poor romance writer to do in order to counteract the abject boredom?

I quickly got into the habit of looking up and focusing on words I think are cool (and there are lots). Which brings me to my new (hopefully) regularly-scheduled blog post:

My (Italian) Word of the Week

For this week, I’ve chosen a word that is very near and dear to my heart: Dolce.

Let’s start with the most recognizable use of dolce (n., dessert). Dolce can be both singular or plural, and encompasses the entire family of sweet things (cake, candy, gelato, etc.). It also translates to “sweet (adj.)” when used in reference to an edible item, as well as “sweet, nice, pleasant, dear, charming (adj.)” when used to describe a person (as in the case of English, thank goodness!).

One can have a dolce (gentle, gradual adj.) slope, which makes some degree of sense, and, oddly enough, “fresh water” is translated as  l’acqua dolce, for no reason I can think of.

So lets get into its more creative uses (which is where the fun begins). Most people have probably heard of la dolce vita (n., good life). On the flip-side, there is la dolce morte (n., mercy killing , euthanasia). Surprisingly, Italians also use casa dolce casa (idiom. home sweet home). I also stumbled upon an idiomatic expression I have not been able to grasp : Il naufragar m’è dulce in questo mare (idiom. being shipwrecked is sweet to me in this sea)…I still don’t get it.

Of course, the romantic in me couldn’t help but notice la dolce metà (n. fig., girlfriend) which literally means “the sweet half.” One of my instructors also let slip that he once went to the beach “con la dulce compagnia”, which he later explained is a polite way of saying “with his girlfriend.”

Well, that’s all I have for this week. If you’re interested in Italian, stay tuned for the next installment.

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my post, please leave a comment. This is a learning process for me as well.