Italian language: New Italian, or maybe English?
- WTI Magazine #111 Jan 19, 2019
New year, new section! Since just like any other language, Italian is alive, I decided that it was time to talk about its developments, its neologisms, its life! As technology progresses, new objects enter our lives and a language has to find new words for them, new adjectives, new verbs. So I decided to discuss them with you, to keep you updated, to give you the “full” Italian experience.
And what a better way to start than with new words that come directly from English? The perfect bridge between the cultures, hybrids that could sound a little funny, but nowadays are actually used. Ready? Let’s start.
Some of the most common new Italian words with a strong English imprint come from social media. Let’s start from Facebook. What do you do when you share a post? Postare. Coming directly from “to post,” just by adding the Italian verb ending –are. And there you have it: postare. Well, and let’s say you post a photo and you want to tag a friend. What do you do? Tagghi. Again, from the verb “to tag” plus the –are ending to indicate it’s a verb, you have taggare. And if you like that post? You’ll say: “Well, if “to post” is postare and “to tag” is taggare, it must be likare.” Not exactly! Italians are tricky, just when you think you got it we change the rules. This time it’s mettere il like.
Moving on to the next social media, English created the neologism “to twit” from Twitter, so what did Italian do? It took the English neologism and created a neologism from it! “To twit” become twittare. And if you are using, for example Tinder, or some other kind of online dating app, where you meet with people you like, the verb matchare comes very handy. It can both mean “to match” with someone or even “to meet” due to the weird thought process according to which “a match” (like a game for example) in Italian is incontro which is the noun of the verb incontrare which in English is “to meet”. Therefore, matchare can sometimes be used as “to meet someone from a matching site/app.”
From social media let’s go over the Internet and computers: where the new words based on English are many, but let’s look at some words that are probably the most used ones now. When you do a Google search, in English you can say you “google” something, right? Well, now in Italian you can use the verb googlare to express it too. Then you have the “download” and “upload” family which clearly become downloadare and uploadare in their newer form or fare il download and fare l’upload in their older forms. And maybe in order to uploadare something you need “to scan” it. So what to you do? Scannerizzare is the verb you were looking for or even fare lo scan. And if you have “to photoshop” – an English neologism as well – the file? Obviously, you’ll have to photoscioppare or fotoscioppare the image. In particular, fotoscioppato/photoscioppato as and adjective – that is “photoshopepd” – is pretty popular now among younger people. Lastly, if you happen “to hyperlink” a word or something in a website you will linkare in Italian. Notice that in most of these adaptations the spelling is the same or very similar to the English spelling and the new words are not “re-written” according to the Italian spelling rules.
But new Italian words from English are commonly used in everyday life as well. As you probably know from our last trip to the Bel Paese, smoking is still a pretty big thing in Italy. However, people are trying to quit or to move on to “healthier” ways of smoking by using electronic cigarettes and vape pens. From vapes, English created “to vape,” Italian created svapare. I’m teaching you this word only to say NON SVAPATE! – “do not vape.” It’s not any healthier than cigarettes. Anyhow, moving on to the next everyday word we have spoilerare which is used to indicate when someone tells a detail that “spoils” the movie, TV series, book, or anything really. How can people like that exist? Like when someone tells you to watch Titanic because the ending scene when Leo dies is really excruciating. Oh, oops! I’ve just spolerato that movie for you. Well, you should have already seen it anyway.
Coming directly from the business world, schedulare – “to schedule” – and custumizzare – “to customize” – are now expressions used more or less frequently. Like many of the neologisms listed before, they can easily become adjectives, schedulato and customizzato, and they can often be used in what I like to call Itanglish in sentences like: Ho appena schedulato un meeting – “I’ve just scheduled a meeting.” This sentence can “work”, but sometimes people use English words in Italian but give a different meaning or not using them in the same way as English does. Don’t worry we’ll talk about it in the future!
Hopefully, you English speakers can find Italian a little easier knowing the we “stole” some of your words and Italianized them!