Not many Italians speak good English. But nearly all of them are fluent in “Italianglo” – the random insertion of English words into their sentences. And it’s about time someone put a stop to it, a leading Italian academic has claimed.
With the weekend approaching, Italians will declare they are in the mood for a “relax” at the local “wellness” (health spa). Less salubrious ones might sneak off to the local “sexy shop”, after they’ve done “lo shopping” with their wives.
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using willy-nilly.
Ms Testa’s motivation stems less from French-style language chauvinism than her objection to the lack of logic and accuracy, and also the ugliness, with which “meeting”, “flop”, “location”, “sexy” and “stop”, are used – when there are good or better Italian alternatives.
“This is not a crusade against English,” she said. “To speak English or any other language well, in addition to speaking Italian, is a useful and wonderful thing. But it is not always necessary.”
She conceded that certain words were so well known, Old English-specific or without close Italian equivalents, as to merit frequent use in Italian, with “sport”, “rock”, “browser” and “smog” as examples.
But the constant use of “flop”, “fashion” and “baby” – the last in phrases from “baby gang” for juvenile delinquents to “baby squillo” for underage prostitutes – made no sense when equivalents existed in Italian. The Italian press is much to blame. Even the Corriere della Sera, traditionally Italy’s stately newspaper of record, is ever-more inclined to print the latest news on “le top” (top models) or evidence of uncivilised behaviour or violence in the “Far West” (read “Wild West”) in crime-ridden parts of Rome or Milan.
Last November, even the ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi had a go when he launched into a long declaration of innocence when his tax-fraud conviction (for which he is about to serve community service) was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
He used the English for “United States” and “finance” and constantly referred to “Mr Gordon” and “Mr Chan”, prompting a chorus of derision on Twitter.
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