One of my favorite aspects of the Italian language are the endings ‘ino’, ‘one’, and ‘accio’. You can change the nature of a word just by adding one of those three endings. ‘Ino’ (pronounced eee-no) makes the subject small, ’one’ (pronounced oh-nay) makes it big, and ‘accio’ (pronounced ah-choh) makes it bad. So a door, ‘una porta’, can be small or big (porticina, portone). A ‘parola’ (word) can become a swear word or a rude word by adding ‘accia’. ‘Parolaccia’. And a pimple can be a ‘brufolo’, a ‘brufolino’, a ‘brufolaccio’ or a ‘brufolone’. I find the ‘accio’ particularly useful. If you want to tell someone you’ve had a bad day, you just add ‘accio’ to the Italian word for day. So ‘giornata’ becomes a ‘giornataccia’.
My friend Jessica once had a minor confrontation with her mother-in-law over her son’s use of the endings to suit his purposes. The word for peas in Italian (piselli) is very similar to the word for penis (pisello). One day, when her son was four, her family was having lunch at her in-laws’, where they were served piselli (peas). To Jessica’s mother-in-law’s great dismay, her grandson Pietro began chanting, “Piselli, piselli, piselli. I have a pisellino, but my daddy has a pisellone.” (translated “Penises, penises, penises. I have a little one, but my Daddy has a big one.”)
Jessica’s mother-in-law marched into the bedroom where Jessica was changing her daughter’s diaper and repeated the phrase. “Where has he learned these words? Did you teach him these?” she asked. “No,” Jessica answered, trying hard to keep a straight face. “Did he learn them at school? Did other children teach him to speak like that?” she continued.
“No, I think his father must have taught him that one,” she answered, smirking. The offended mother-in-law marched off to the living room to find Jessica’s husband. A few minutes later Jessica could hear her husband’s raised voice down the hall. “MAMMA, PER FAVORE, LASCIAMI IN PACE! (Mamma, please, leave me in peace!)
A little aside here, I just went to my local fruit and vegetable stand to take a picture of some peas to illustrate this blog post. The husband-wife team running the stand was very amused that the ‘Americana’ didn’t know that pea season begins in March and is well over by October. I had to reveal to them that this ‘Americana’ was raised on frozen peas. Oh, horrors. To make me feel better after surviving this childhood trauma, they sold me some delicious, fresh white peaches that are still in season in southern Italy in October.
I like to use the endings when dealing with my children. Sometimes one can be ‘monello’ (brat), sometimes one is just ‘monellino’ (little brat) and, when it gets bad, one is a ‘monellone’ (big brat), and even worse ‘monellaccio’ (horrible brat).
My Italian television colleagues have even adapted the endings for TV use. When we need a little soundbite for a news story, we say a ‘soundbitino’. When we have had problems with a satellite feed, we call it a ‘feedaccio’. If we have to do a little news story on something, it becomes a ‘storyellina’. If a news story gets a lot of attention and our effort is considered good it becomes, as my boss said about our Knox verdict coverage, a ‘successone’.
Post in: Italiano
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.