These words actually took a surprising amount of effort to find. Usually, I would think my awareness was keen enough to pick up on these cues and curiosities of varying meanings and cross-cultural conflicts within every-day semantics. Instead, I think I was pretty preoccupied with social-cross-cultural conflicts being experienced, and so looking for these words took more concentration and focus in looking for cognates. Once I began looking, however, they were everywhere. It just takes a little more to catch them, and you realize that a lot of information you inadvertently suck in every day is taken for granted until you don’t understand them. Also: a lot of the cultural background plays a huge part in the nuances between similar words.
1. “Sono eccito” ==>“I am [turned on]”
I wasn’t looking for this expression specifically, but I asked Andrea, my Italian teacher, how to say “I am excited”. Directly translated, the meaning of the phrase has a culturally sexual implication. This also happens in the Spanish language. Here is an interesting example of what isn’t “lost in translation”, but rather, what is unknowingly said…
2. “Il fumetti” ==> Comics
As it stands, the phrase seems like a derivative of the action “to smoke”, or “fumare”. The entire exercise where the class is supposed to ask each other what activities or hobbies they like/enjoy or do not like/enjoy, everyone believed that the phrase meant “to smoke” or “cigarettes”. However, Andrea explained to us how the association came about: the word bubbles and thought bubbles of comic book writing are parallel to the idea of cigarette smoke coming out of one’s mouth. This sort of shows how much and often Italians may smoke…
3. “Libreria” ==> Bookcase
Naturally, I thought this meant library. With a second thought, I thought it meant bookstore. Upon looking this up, the direct translation means “bookcase”. The terms for library, on the other hand, is the same in Spanish: “biblioteca”.
4. “Gialle” ==> yellow
During Italian class, the descriptions used with the term “gialle” had me thinking it meant “giant”. I was very wrong; in fact, it means yellow. The term was also used to describe mystery novels as a genre.
5. “fabbricati” ==> manufactured
Originally, I automatically associated this word with “fabric”; but it makes sense it means manufactured, or fabricated. Interesting that this word would be used, because of how relatively obscure “fabricated” is for us, at least in terms of everyday, colloquial language.
6. “confezioni” ==> confection
This word reminded me of “confession”, but confection makes sense too. Although, it was referring to the units of biscotti that came in a singular box—so I’m still not sure how this works, but I’m guessing they are referring to the actual biscotti as confection (as a type of food), rather than just biscotti.
7. “cristal” ==> glass
Doesn’t everything sound better in Italian? Including glass? Incidentally, “crystal” is “cristallo” in Italian. Whether or not crystal becomes a derivative of glass (in the sense of Italian technology) would be interesting to find out…
8. “abiti” ==> suits/dresses
I actually thought this term was derived from the Italian verb “to live”, or “abitare”, but instead it’s a noun defining dresses. In the case of suits, I’m guessing dress-suits.
9. “merceria” ==>haberdashery
This term had a surprising definition. Looking at the context, I assumed that the term meant “merchandise”, and was going to contrast it with the similar appearance to “mercury”, but it was more difficult to extrapolate the precise meaning. The original definition of haberdashery means “men’s outfitters”, but applied to other signs—i.e. “intimo-merceria”, it has a more precise meaning of “boutique”.
10. “fiasco” ==> flask
This surprised me because the sign was actually in broken English. They even misspelled bottle as “bootle”; so I was taking another gamble that they didn’t really mean fiasco. So fiasco means flask, rather than the a chaotic occurrence; the sign clarified that it could clear security for carry-on luggage.
11. “piano” ==> slowly
This disconnect is pretty obvious. The translation from the English word for the musical instrument to the adverb actually shows up in reading music. The meaning is slightly different though; in the musical context, piano, or pianissimo means softly, while forte or fortissimo demarcates where one is to play loudly or with more force.
12. “laboratorio” ==> laboratory/office/workshop
While this word actually aligns with a predictable definition, the cultural nuance lies in its versatility as a term. When we use the word “laboratory” in English, it usually means a very specific scientific work-place, for chemical experiments. However, it seems like the Italian word can be applied to any work-place of artistic trade- i.e. antique crafts.