Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MY Lexicon -- Part One

A few months ago (actually, it was nearly a year ago) I posted about the Waters Lexicon. And then I posted an addendum to the Waters Lexicon. Now I think it's only fair that I poke fun at my own collection of bizarre local and family words and phrases that Todd is forced to hear on a regular basis.

I just realized that there are SO many things that I say that I'm going to have to do this in 2 parts: one "Italian" words/phrases and two being English words/phrases. Poor Todd.

As you all know by now, I am an Italian chick from South Philly. A lot of the things I say have been handed down to me from my parents and grandparents and are loosely based on some regional dialect (or bastardization) of Italian. My family has roots in both Naples and Abruzzi. And boy are there differences in the way Napoletanos pronounce words compared to Abbruzzese. Anyway, I will do my best to find the real word(s) in Italian for the things in my lexicon. However, I fear most of what you see will be odd, phonetic spellings of mostly made-up words.

Incidentally, I thought I'd add that my maiden name, Frese, means "end mill." LAME.


PART ONE: Words from Italian (I think). Also, a note about "pronunciation:" The pronunciations that I give for the words are how I grew up hearing them and learning how to repeat them. Try to roll your "r" wherever possible. Any real Italian-speaking persons who read this will probably be appalled and bleeding from the eyes and ears.

In no particular order:

1. Skeeve. (pronounced...well...you know). The pen-ultimate word used by all Italians on the East coast. Actually, I think pretty much everyone, everywhere has seen, heard, or used this word by now. Derived (I think) from the Italian word "schifo," which means disgust.
v. To feel ill, uncomfortable, disgusted. "Grossed-out." For example: I cannot eat at that restaurant. I skeeve their dirty tables (often dirty AND picciagatti, see below).

(adj.) Example: I hate guys with skeevy, long fingernails.
Skeevatz (n. or adj.) A person or thing that is the complete embodiment of skeeve. Extremely skeevy or skeeve inducing.
Example as a noun: So my 4th grade teacher would pick her nose in front of the class, like a total skeevatz.
Example as an adjective: There is no way I am sitting THERE, after that sick kid with all his skeevatz germs just got up.

2. Mariouli (pronounced mah-ti-OOL). I think this is from Italian, but not sure if it's dialect (it probably is). Even though this is plural already (has an "i" on the end), if you are referring to more than one, then put an s on the end.
n. No-goods, swindlers, bad-egg types. Think Lando Calrissian. I call my cats mariouli. Example: Never trust an electrician, plumber, or a roofer. They are all marioulis.

3. Piag-culo (pronounced pee-ahn-gool). Derived from "piaga," and "culo." Piaga means "pain in the ass." Culo means "ass." So, technically, one would really only need to say "piaga." n. Pain in the ass. Example: Oh this student is driving me crazy! He's a total piag-culo!

4. Scumbati (pronounced scoom-bah-dee). I have no idea where this comes from. It was a word uttered nearly daily in my household by my mom and grandmom. My mom swears it's a word, but I can't find it anywhere.
v. To be embarrassed, put-out, inconvenienced, nervous, anxious, rushed, etc.; often all at the same time. Usually, a person who is a piag-culo will cause one to scumbati. Example: I hate it when Aunt Rose comes over. I have to scumbati to get the house ready for her. Another example: Why do you always make me scumbati when we go to the movies? Just find a seat and SIT DOWN.

5. Picciagatti (pronounced pitch-uh-GOD). Derived from the Italian word "appiccicoso," which means sticky.
adj. sticky and/or crusty. Example: Come here and let me wipe your face! It's all picciagatti after eating that cotton candy!

6. Fracassare (pronounced Frah-gahss-a-DEE). Fully conjugated version of "fracasso," which means hullabaloo.
n. A big to-do. Lots of fanfare; a big production, usually in the negative. Example: I didn't enjoy going to my nephew's Confirmation party. It was a whole lot of fracassare. Sometimes, this word was also truncated to just "frag."

7. La Fan (pronounced Lah-Fahn). Definitely dialect. This has become a favorite phrase of Todd's!
n. A state of being where you need fresh air or you feel hot, tired, and/or out of sorts. Example: Oh, I feel so la fan; can you open the window?

8. Ligiti (pronounced lih-jih-dee). Most likely from "li" and "giri," which means "the rounds."
v. To digest one's food. Example: I think I'll take a walk after dinner to help me ligiti.

9. Ciuccione (pronounced Chew-CHONE). Derived from the Italian "ciucino," which means "ass." Basically, if you put the "own" sound on the end of many words in Italian, you change it to mean BIG or extra.
n. Big ass, as in to be asinine; a big dumbass. Example: I waited 45 minutes for him; then he finally showed up like a big ciuccione, with no explanation. Not to be confused with culone (basically pronounced like cologne), which would actually be a big ass, as in a physically big butt. Example: I couldn't get a seat on the bus this morning. This woman with a culone the size of a sofa took up 3 seats.

10. Mamoccio (pronounced mah-MOACH). Again, I have no idea where this is from. It's a funny word to say.
n. A doll, puppet, toy, stuffed-animal. Usually slightly derogatory. Example: Put that mamoccio away; I don't want to play anymore.

11. Bancone (pronounced bahn-GOHN). I was shocked to find out that this actually is a real word. It means "lunch counter," or "counter with a wooden flat surface." We never used it as "lunch counter."
n. Sale rack or a clearance table of goods; often with a negative connotation. Example: You like this shirt? That's funny because I got it on a bancone for like $2.

12. Puttana (pronounced poo-TAHN). I think everyone knows this word by now.
n. Whore, slut. Example: You CANNOT wear that skirt. I didn't raise you to be a puttana!

13. Cazzo (pronounced CAHTZ). n. Shit, damn, fuck! Most commonly uttered as "che cazzo?" (pronounced kay-cahtz?) Basically meaning What the fuck? Also I've been known to say incazzato (pronounced in-caht-zahd), which essentially means "pissed off." My family also would say the phrase "Got them twisted." Example: Of course the cat bit you; you stepped on his paw and he got all incazzato!
I've also been heard to say
Cazzotille (pronounced kahtz-ah-DEAL) (also Junkatille) rather frequently, which is:
n. A little souvenir, or knick-knack; a "little something." Example: I picked up this magnet for you when I went to Niagara Falls. It's just a little cazzotille.

14. Imbottito (pronounced im-buh-TEED). Hey! Another real word! This one really means "overstuffed," as in upholstery. Our usage was close...
adj. Stuffed, or encrusted. Example: I need to use some nasal spray. My nose is all imbottito.

15. Macaragna (pronounced mah-gah-RAHN-yah). Ok. I THINK the first part of the word is from the Italian word "amaca," which means "hammock;" and also in Italian, "ragna" is a "spider." So...the "hammock of a spider," or:
n. cobwebs, spiderwebs, dust, dirt. Example: For Christ's sake, clean that lampshade; it's covered in macaragna! (Funny story: When the Macarena
song/dance came out, it spread like wildfire. My grandmom was watching TV one day and heard the song and said, "Che cazzo? They made a song about macaragna? PU."

16. Sporcaccione (pronounced spork-a-CHONE). Derived from the word "sporco," which means dirty or unclean. "Sporcaccione" can also mean disgusting. "Vecchio sporcaccione" means a dirty old man. (Again, notice the "own" sound at the end.)
n. A very messy, dirty, unclean person or thing. Example: Hey! Sporcaccione! Clean your room; it looks like a zazzeri (see below for zazzeri)!

17. Zazzeri (pronounced ZAT-zer-ee). Not sure what this is from. I have a feeling that this might have been a person's last name. A very commonly used word when I was a kid. Other words in this lexicon often used in conjunction with zazzeri: skeeve, picciagatti, magaragna.
n. a disaster area or pigsty. A messy, unkempt, unclean place. Example: I hate it when you go over her house to play. It's a zazzeri in there. I skeeve.

18. Stunare (pronounced stew-NOD) No clue. Also used regularly!
n. or adj. a person or state-of-being that is confused, muddled, forgetful. Also used to mean dizzy, off-balance, mentally foggy. Example: I'm so stunare that I forgot to turn the iron off again!

19. Sfacciato (pronuonced sfa-CHODD). In Italian, sfacciato means "cheeky, brazen, blatant, brash." I grew up with it meaning...
adj. Aloof, uncommunicative, stoic. Example: I don't know how to talk to him, he's so sfacciato all the time."

20. Moppine (pronounced mah-PEEN). A total dialect word. It's got to be some connection to mop. But I don't understand how or why.
n. Dishcloth, dishtowel, or cleaning rag. Example: Here, take this moppine and wipe the crumbs off the table.

21. Agita (pronounced AH-jih-da). Taken from the Italian, "
agitare," which means "to agitate." Great word. Said on a daily basis.
n. Hearburn, indigestion, acid-reflux, upset stomach. Basically any stomach or digestion problem. Example: Oh I shouldn't have eaten that 4th piece of pizza. Now I have the worst agita.

22. Americano
(pronounced mit-eh-GAHN). Used constantly. Todd is a total "Americano." Also? You really HAVE to pronounce this the way I indicated: mit-eh-GAHN. Really.
or adj. Basically anyone or anything non-Italian. Or something done in a non-Italian way. Example: UGH, only americanos drink milk with their dinner. Another example, this time as an adjective: MAYO ON A HOAGIE??? HOW AMERICANO!

23. Chiacchierone (pronounced kyah-kyah-RONE) Another real Italian word meaning "blow-hard, big talker, chatterbox, windbag, big mouth." And that's how we used it too.
Example: You're such a
chiacchierone; once you get starting talking, you never shut up.

24. Cattivo (pronounced kah-TEEVE) Italian for "bad, wicked, naughty." In my family, cattivo was often preceded by come (pronounced like "coma"), which means "how." I can still hear my grandmother now saying, "Come cattivo!" (How bad!) Probably about somebody's kid.
adj. Bad, nasty, naughty, ill-tempered, mean. Almost always in reference to a child. Example: Do not throw that food on the carpet again! Come cattivo you are!

Mannaggia (pronounced Mah-NAJ) Italian mild expression of frustration. There really is no direct translation for this. The closest thing would be "Darn!" or "Shoot!" or possibly "to Hell with it." I do recall my grandmother often saying, "Mannaggia il diavalo!" Which I think means something like, "Damn the devil!" But it's so great to just blurt out, "OH MAH-NAJ!" when you are angry and frustrated.

Ok soon to come: PART TWO!


Katie J said...

Wow, I've been wanting to learn a new language. Maybe I should learn Italian!

Gina said...

LOL! Also, I just noticed something: look how many of these words involve cleaning/cleanliness. My grandmom was obsessed with things having to be immaculately clean!

Anonymous said...

So when are you going to start offering the Berlitz Course To Gina-Speak? :)

Kim said...

Moppine has been in our family from my great-grandparents who immigrated here from Italy in the early 1900s. My grandmom (full-blooded Italian and my father would always make us wear a Moppine so we would not get food on our shirts. All it was was a dish towel she tucked into the front of our shirts. This word and tradition has been passed to my niece. We all know what a Mappine is used for, but we never knew what it literally is. Mop or rag seems like a logical description. I can still here my grandmom ask, "Do you need a moppine?"

Nancy said...

Thanks for the memories. One thing, though. "Real" Italian pronunciations are very different from the way we Italian Americans picked up the pronunciations. For example, "putana" (whore) is pronounced poo-TAHN-ah; "cazzo" (the "f" word) is pronounced KAH-tsoh; stonato (which we use as stoo-NAD, meaning "dopey"), actually means off-key or tone-deaf, and is pronounced stoh-NAH-toh. Words ending in -one are pronounce OH-neh at the end. So,the Italian pronunciation of Sylvester Stallone's last name is sta-LOH-neh, whereas words ending in -oni are pronounced OH-nee at the end. The Italian pronunciation for the last name of actor Ernest Borgnine would be bor-NYEE-neh (the -gn in Italian is pronouncedd as the -ny in the word "canyon". Also, as you know, a -ch in Italian is pronounced like a "k", as in the word chiuso (closed); yet a -ci, or -ce, are pronounced chee and cheh respectively. I loved the word we Italian Americans made up (which I've heard both Rosie O'Donald AND Katie Couric say on the air)--SKEEVE! I "skeeve" that! You are correct that it comes from schifo (pronounced skee-FOH). I have no idea where our word "moppine" (which Rachel Ray uses all the time) comes from, but it wouldn't come from "mop", because "mop" in Italian is "scopa." A hand towel is actually "asciugamano", which literally means to dry [a] hand, from "asciugare" (pronounced ah-shoo-GAHR-eh). "Moppine" will remain a mystery, but thanks for sharing your take on the other words!