Italian is a great language. Dead easy to pronounce in that, with a very few exceptions, it sticks to the rules. On the other hand there are lots of very similar sounding words which have completely different meanings.
Take the humble doughnut (although Italian doughnuts are anything but humble….. not dry, not greasy, not artificial, just plain scrumptious and SO many varieties! The custard is my favourite. Velvety heaven!)
Anyway, to get back to the language!
The word for doughnut varies from North to South in Italy but in Umbria it is ‘bombelino’ so you can imagine that it is easy to hear this incorrectly and ask for a ‘bombela’.
Unfortunately you won’t be very successful in a Pasticeria because a ‘bombela’ is a cylinder and usually a ‘bombela di gas!’
It’s strange how wrong words stick. It seems like once you’ve said or heard the wrong word, it keeps popping up! Take our annual Festa. My husband was extolling its virtues a few years ago to an Italian friend who found it rather strange that our barbers had their own festa …. ‘Festa dei barbieri’. Actually, they don’t! He should have said Festa dei Barbari. The festa of the barbarians and definitely NOT the barbers! Now I have to be SO careful because, despite the fact that I walk past a poster showing ‘barbari’ several times a day, I just want to say ‘barbieri’!
A few other goofs!
There is a little village near us called Macerata. We asked directions to ‘Macerato’ which turned out to be the local sewage plant!
(macerato …… macerated!)
Pizza! I’ve seen a few surprised tourists when presented with their ‘Peperoni Pizza’ on finding that it didn’t contain any salami! Peperoni in Italian are bell peppers, not pepperoni in the US which is hot salami.
To finish with, another ‘foodie’.
For pasta lovers especially those who like ‘penne’. What you need to remember is that in Italian every letter needs to be sounded. So to say ‘penne’ you need to divide it into two syllables and say “pen-ne” thus pronouncing both parts of the double consonant. What happens if you don’t. Well, by saying “Pene” you will be referring to a vital part of the male anatomy!