We all know that in every language there are some words which are adopted from other languages, and this phenomenon represents a great opportunity for enriching the language. These words are called loan words and, most of the time, they have the same meaning in both languages. But there are some loan words which completely change meaning when they switch from one language to another. You will probably be very surprised to know that some Italian words that you use in English have a totally different meaning in Italian. And it will also be interesting for you to learn about some English words that are used in Italian with a very different meaning.
Let’s have a look at the most common ones.
Not many people know that bimbo is actually the Italian word for baby boy. It’s basically a synonym of the more common word bambino. In English it refers to an attractive but empty-headed young woman. So for an Italian speaker, it would make more sense to use the word bimba in this case, which is the feminine equivalent for bimbo.
In Italy we don’t throw confetti at parades and celebrations. We eat confetti. Yes, you heard me correctly! Actually, confetti in Italian are almonds with a hard sugar coating eaten usually at wedding ceremonies. It’s far too expensive to throw them!
If you are on holidays in Italy and you order a pepperoni pizza, don’t blame the waiter if he brings a pizza with peppers on it and no meat. Pepperoni pizza is actually called Diavola in Italy. Peperoni means peppers (with only one p!).
You might be surprised to hear that babies drink latte in Italy. Oh yes! And that’s not because Italian mammas are crazy, but because latte in Italian means milk and not a coffee made with hot milk. We call that caffellatte.
We all know this word, and we all know the song by Little Richard. But what does it mean in Italian? Well…I’d say nothing! It’s not an ice cream or a confection containing small pieces of candied or fresh fruits, nor a preserve of chopped mixed fruits and not even a fruity flavour! In Italian tutti means all and frutti means fruit, but without any article between the words this expression has no meaning at all.
Let’s now learn some English words which are used with a distorted meaning in Italian.
In Italy girls buy bodies in a clothes shop and they wear them. No, it’s not some strange macabre practice! A body in Italian is actually a leotard.
Both in English and Italian golf is a sport, but in Italy we also buy a golf in a clothes shop. Strange people these Italians! Well, maybe, but a golf is simply a cardigan.
In Italy girls love men with tights. I know that many people think that Italian men are effeminate, but that’s probably because you don’t know that a tight in Italy is a morning suit.
When I was younger I loved playing with my flipper. No, I didn’t play with any dolphin or whale. A flipper in Italian is just a pinball machine.
It may sound weird for you to hear that in Italy we park our car in a box. I know that you are probably thinking that we all have very small Fiat Cinquecentos, but it’s not like that. In Italian, a box is a garage.
So, after learning these words, be very careful when you use them in the original language or else you run the risk of an unpleasant misunderstanding!
Article written by Claudia Deidda, terminology trainee at TermCoord.