By Tony Deyal
An English Lord armed with a Merkel shotgun and riding his best-thoroughbred hunting horse had very poor luck for the entire day. Then as he was going home in disgust he came upon a nude and voluptuous young lady lying naked on a beautiful magma quilt right in the middle of the track. She got up and asked seductively, “You with the fancy horse and big gun, what you up to?” He replied, “I’m looking for game.” Her response with a big smile and a stretch emphasising her beautiful body was, “Well I’m game.” So he shot her.
Fortunately for the British and their English Language, the government of Italy, while seeing the English language as an unfair game, has not shot them down but has decided instead to shut them and their language up. Italy’s prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, who has shown that she is definitely not game, is supporting the introduction of legislation that could see companies fined for using foreign languages in their official communications and documentations.
Italians who use English and other foreign words in official communications could face fines of up to €100,000 ($108,705) under new legislation introduced by her Brothers of Italy party. While the legislation encompasses all foreign languages, it is particularly geared at “Anglomania” or use of English words, which the draft states “demeans and mortifies” the Italian language, adding that it is even worse because the UK is no longer part of the European Union (EU).
The bill, which has yet to go up for parliamentary debate, requires anyone who holds an office in public administration to have “written and oral knowledge and mastery of the Italian language.” It also prohibits the use of English in official documentation, including “acronyms and names” of job roles in companies operating in the country. The decision to safeguard their language, especially from the English, in both word and deed is liked to an existing decision to protect the country’s cuisine especially,
I believe, from English jokes like, “My girlfriend is threatening to leave me because of my obsession with Italian food. I wouldn’t put it pasta.” Or, “What do you call a hooker that asks for payment in Italian food? A pasta-tute.” There is also, “Did you hear about the Englishman who died after eating in an Italian restaurant? He pasta way.” And worse, “Why don’t Italians have Barbecues? The spaghetti falls through the grill.”
Actually, the intention is to safeguard their nation’s heritage, especially to stop the British from messing up the name of one of their favourite and best-known appetisers, which consists of toasted bread topped with tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, garlic and fresh basil. It is spelt “bruschetta” and is supposed to be pronounced, “brusketta”.
Unfortunately, the Brits call it “bru-shetta” and for talking shett instead of skett, the Italians are making it a punishable offence- most likely by feeding you with Eggplant Parmesan which in Trinidad is known as melongene, aubergine, melongene and (by people of Indian descent) “baigan”. I hate it and during my entire life have let baigans be bygones. However, the Italians make it even worse by covering their eggplant with flour and breadcrumbs, fry it in oil, and then layer it with tons of mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
Fortunately, nothing happens in a hurry in Italy. Punctuality is not tight in social situations and, like our doctors, lawyers and police in the Caribbean, “on time” can mean at least 20, 30 or even 45 minutes or more late. Again like many of our people, lunch breaks can be as long as two hours. This is why it is said that Heaven is where the cooks are French, the police British, the mechanics German, the lovers are Italian and everything is organised by the Swiss.
Hell, however, is where the cooks are British, the police are American, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss and everything is organised by the Italians. Fortunately for all of us in the Caribbean where “ital” is vital and our official language is still English, and for me especially, there is nothing like it. If I ask you, “What word in the English Language is always spelled incorrectly?” The answer is, of course, “incorrectly.” If you tell me that the English Language is hard to learn I will say that you can do it through tough, thorough thought though.
There is the story of the Professor telling his University English class, “While two negatives can mean a positive, in the English language there are no two positives that connote a negative.” From one of the boys at the back of the class came the response, “Yeh. Right!” Actually, double negatives are a big no-no. English, for me, is fun and games. For instance, what word in the English language does the following: the first two letters signify a male, the first three letters mean a female, the first four letters denote somebody who is truly remarkable, while the entire word denote a great woman?
The answer is “Heroine”. What other language would have as both its shortest and longest sentence the two words, “I do”? Or its words, phrases, and punctuation end up in court? Well, they were there to be sentenced. What about when its past, present and future walk into a bar? I can tell you, it was tense.
So, for the rest of this article let’s have some fun with our language and enjoy its twists and turns. Did you hear about the man whose left side was cut off? He’s all right now. Or do you know when you get a bladder infection, you know urine trouble. Then there is the guy who said, “I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, then it dawned on me.”
What has also dawned on me is the number of people who have identified some of the things that make the English language so “offkey” or different. For example, “Our language is funny- a ‘fat chance’ and a ‘slim chance’ are the same thing.” Newspaper columnist, Doug Larson, said, “If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers” and also, “A catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur.” Other comments I like include, “Why do we have noses that run and feet that smell?” and Dorothy Parker’s, “The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘check enclosed’.”
Then the other famous Dorothy, the detective story writer Dorothy Sayers pointed out, “The English language has a deceptive air of simplicity; so have some little frocks; but they are both not the kind of thing you can run up in half an hour with a machine.” And from an unknown came, “What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef? Answer: feedback. Don’t forget that feedback is one of the essential elements of good communication.”
So, having enjoyed myself and hoping you had fun with me, I will do a twist on the famous American humourist, Robert Benchley, “Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I will say nothing more.”
*Tony Deyal was last seen quoting G.K. Chesterton: “The word ‘good’ has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”