The Italian language is in danger!

In my early days in Brighton, I found some bad Italian displayed on the public street, and duly reported it to my audience in the post called La commissione libera. Over the time, things could only get worse, and they actually did! I can now prove, through the pictures I’m publishing here, that my beloved native language is being terribly mishandled all over the town.

I won’t mention the names of those wrongdoers, but Brightonians might recognize some of the places. Three of them claim to be Italian restaurants, by the way…

So here goes the list of shame…

1. “Fungi” instead of “Funghi”.
2. “Proscuito” and “Gorgonzolla” instead of “Prosciutto” and “Gorgonzola”.
3. “Specialita” instead of “Specialità”.
4. “Caffe” instead of Caffè”
5. “Mozarella” instead of “Mozzarella”.
6. “Spaguetti” and “Linguini” instead of “Spaghetti” and “Linguine”.
7. “Prosseco” instead of “Prosecco”.
8. Well, this one is a real mess! I counted 7 mistakes on just one side of the billboard! Let’s try and recap them all: “Proscuito” (look who’s here!), “Al Funghi”, “Bolgnese”, “Arrabbiatta”, “Alforno”, “Florentina” instead of “Prosciutto”, “Ai Funghi”, “Bolognese”, “Arrabbiata”, “Al Forno”, “Alla Fiorentina”.

Now, the question is: is it really so much troublesome to brush up on the spelling? Come on, you lazy bunch of people, it’s not! 🙂

By the way, I’m afraid I’m getting some sort of neurosis: it seems I can’t approach anything allegedly Italian without starting to shake… I need do something about this, and I will!

Jokes apart, the linguist in me urged to find an explanation for those mistakes. There’s quite a lot to say on each of them, but I’d rather not be too pedantic here… I’ll just drive your attention on an issue that’s always tricky for my English students: geminate consonants. This is because the English language doesn’t feature the “doubled” sound of consonants. In the examples above, we find a good variety of cases in which the writers were completely lost: they either “forgot” a consonant, or doubled it when unnecessary (hypercorrection?). The word “Prosseco” is a real gem: it contains both mistakes 🙂

One last remark on “fungi” instead of “funghi”. This is probably due to the fact that the word “fungi” in English actually exists, as one of the plural forms of “fungus”, the other being a more English sounding “funguses”. Still I’m sure none of you out there would ever order “fungi” at a restaurant (except for truffles, of course!). As you may know, most of them are inedible parasites…

EDIT:
After reading this post, a friend told me an interesting episode happened in London. He asked for a bruschetta (it was part of the menu), but the guy at the counter seemed not to understand. After a while he “corrected” my friend saying: “Ah, you mean bruscetta!”. That’s funny, because the proper Italian pronunciation is close to “brew – skate – tah”, but the guy thought it was “brew – shet – tah”, following the English usage. The moral of this story is: even when an Italian word is spelt correctly, the pronunciation may be wrong! By the way, my friend played dumb and sayed: “Yes, a bruscetta, please!”…

EDIT 2:
I’ve seen this jar of tomato sauce at “Infinity food”. I was wondering how can they claim it’s “authentic Italian” when they spelt “arrabbiata” wrong (there’s a “b” missing!) 🙂

PS Left click on any of the images above the text to start a gallery presentation. Right click on each and open in new tab/window to see them in full size.

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10 responses to “The Italian language is in danger!

  1. Hee hee…I get really cross about this sort of thing! Even in English, people don’t always write things correctly (don’t get me started on apostrophes)! Only yesterday I corrected my friend who said she was going to make some “bruscetta” and when I ask for a panino in cafes I get “oh you mean a panini”. Often listed on the menu as “Paninis” (or worse…Panini’s..grrrr). More please Gianfranco!

  2. Hi Nicole. Brilliant comment, thanks!
    The adaptation (and the plural) of foreign words is an issue in all languages!
    In Italian restaurants (in Italy, I mean) you often find the “Menù”, while the word is French and needs to be written “Menu” and pronounced “mɛnjuː” (we often say “mɛnuː”).
    People tend to go for the easiest option, therefore I’m afraid a battle against “paninis” would be a losing one, but maybe there’s still a slight chance to wipe “panini’s” from the face of the Earth 🙂

  3. Nicole, you were asking for more examples, by the way… Well, I took a picture in a pub, but it was of poor quality, so I didn’t post it here. There was a blackboard displaying all their pizzas, and one was called “Margarita”. Unfortunately, “Margarita” is a cocktail, not a pizza. You can maybe drink a Margarita, not eat it! According to the legend, the pizza was named “Margherita” (yes, that’s the right spelling!) after Margherita di Savoia, queen of Italy, in 1889. In Naples, of course…

    • That’s fantastic, Nicole! It’s nice to share an obsession: you feel a bit less mental 😉 By the way, if you don’t mind taking pictures and sending them to me (or just report where I can find those mistakes), I would love to publish them all in this post! I might end up opening a page to discuss them in depth…

  4. That’s shocking, Nicole! 😉 Anyway, we all make misspelling mistakes every now and again, especially since we’ve all become frenzy graphomaniacs thanks to the internet, with all its social networks and forums… Therefore, please cheer up and keep riding your horse! The problem is when spelling a name correctly is an essential part of your job, like on a restaurant billboard…

  5. I just thought you would like to know that I have embarked on a campaign here in the USA to get people to properly pronounce bruschetta. I insist on ordering it using the proper pronunciation and will tell the servers they are pronouncing it incorrectly. Unfortunately, it’s an uphill fight. Even my wife and children hope I will give up!

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