This week, I started an Italian language course which has really been helping me settle in. My pidgin Italian is starting to develop some structure (for ‘structure’ read ‘actual verbs instead of grunts where verbs should be’) and I’m a lot more confident in dealing with people now that I have a better idea of what they’re saying.
Something I’m discovering is just how much you can learn a lot about a country from its insults. For example, one of the worst insults you can throw at someone in Italian is Cornuto, which means “cuckold”. You’ll hear this a lot in football games, Arbitore Cornuto! (“The Referee is a Cuckold!”). The other major insults include “ugly” and “homosexual”. There are loads of other, smaller ones, but these three – ‘cuckold’, ‘ugly’, ‘homosexual’ – are the ones that are likely to send an Italian into a rage and are usually saved for when someone has really pissed you off.
Maybe it’s the armchair psychologist in me, but I think this says a lot about the insecurities of Italian people.
Similarly, you can also learn a lot about a country from its advertisements. From what I’ve seen here, most ads seem to revolve around crime. For the most part, the ‘crimes’ are innocent enough. Like the TV ad that has a woman driver pleading with male driver to let her take his parking spot. She shows him her broken shoes, puts on her best puppy-dog face and the guy lets her in. Once she’s parked, she gets out of the car in – wouldn’t you know it? – perfect shoes.
But they’re not all so cute and cheerful. Adidas recently launched a shoe that has interchangeable gel pads in the soles. These come in all sorts of designs and aren’t really taking off here. The print ad shows a guy hiding from the police while quickly swapping his gel pads for ones of a different design.
And of course, there’s the other major source of advertising inspiration: sex. At worst, back home, these hover around the ‘saucy’ end of the scale. Here, they’re positively explicit. Here’s an example:
It’s for a water park in Rome, but it took me ages to realise there was a water park in the picture too. The caption says “Slide with me” although, to me, it will always say “Come to aquapiper and you’ll get to have sex with me!”
(My favourite part of the ad is the “Bambini Gratis!” down the bottom, because the rest of the ad doesn’t make it look like somewhere I’d want to bring a child.)