Sicilian saying of the day: gossiping

A pirnici canta tri voti io iornu e sempri a danno so The partridge sings three times a day and always to his own disadvantage. Another beautiful natural image, this time of a wild bird widely hunted throughout Sicily and seen as a metaphor for the unattractive habit of malicious human gossip. Any suggestions for…

Conversations with Elio Vittorini and his critics

Elio Vittorini’s Conversations in Sicily has been on my reading list for a while and I was delighted to find the original english translation in the Amazon Kindle store compete with an introduction from Ernest Hemingway so I immediately snapped it up. However for some unknown reason it was never delivered and after several emails…

Sicilian saying of the day: the humble jackass

  U sceccu porta sempri u barduni A donkey always carries the load. Yet another folk saying to do with the humble donkey, a symbol of hard work and stubbornness. Simply put, a jackass will always be an ass. Hummmm, a leopard doesn’t change its spots, simply doesn’t have the same directness does it!?!? For…

Sicilian saying of the day: Bad habits

  U sceccu chi si mancia a fichera u viziu si lu lava quannu mori. The donkey who eats figs is only rid of the habit when he dies. The humble donkey used to be the work animal of choice in Sicily, able to carry heavy loads and negotiate the mountain terrain common on the…

Tongue tied in Italy

It is always a challenge for non native speakers of any language to learn and assimilate into a new country but Italy has its own particular surprises reserved for struggling expats.    Before moving to Italy permanently I thought I was quite savvy with my Italian. After all I had almost majored in Italian, lived…

Sicilian’s flare for uttering profanities

When I was a child I had an Uncle who was terribly capricious, a real joker (he still is until this day) and he took great pleasure in teaching my brother and I all the colourful Italian swear words possible.  My Uncle thought it was all terribly funny and hoped we’d use them in front…

Picking up a Sicilian vocabulary

Lately I’ve noticed a new development with my language skills. I think I’m going native. Many missionaries from past centuries wrote of how after years of living with a foreign culture and language they have felt like a constant outsider until the day when they realise their tongue has somehow assimilate elements of the local…

Literary Islands: Giovanni Verga

  Most language students who study Italian at university level are familiar with Giovanni Verga as his short stories in the simple realist style are a perfect introduction to Italian Literature as they are easy for first year students to follow. Verga’s short tale Cavalleria Rusticana was made into an opera libretto which together with…