CULTURE AND TOURISM ON-LINE MAGAZINE
- FEBRUARY 2018 -
HOME - Bridge Italy - Books - An excursion into the Salentine dialect … Mai pe iabbu
Books
An excursion into the Salentine dialect … Mai pe iabbu The analysis of some expressions in the dialect of Salento revealing its stereotypes, beliefs and prejudices, with comments by prominent figures in Piero Manni’s readable collection, Mai pe iabbu. I vocaboli e le espressioni intraducibili del Salento (‘Mai pe iabbu’. Salento’s untranslatable words and expressions) by Alberto Sobrero
SHARE Facebook Twitter

For once, Piero Manni forgets he’s a publisher and offers us an unusual, intriguing collection of “untranslatable words and expressions from Salento”. The usual nostalgic collection of dialect words that are no longer used, some might say. No: this is a purely cultural endeavor, and the intent is linguistic and anthropological rather than predictably nostalgic.

The 41 entries are enough to let us reconstruct, at least in part, “the wealth, the opulence of a language shaped, developed and adapted to the territory and the culture tied to it, containing adequate information and knowledge for us to relate to the territory and the community” (to quote from the introduction).

These are, therefore, ‘untranslatable’ words and concepts. Why? Obviously because they are specific to a territory and a culture that named every object that bit by bit came into its possession – we are well informed about these words and their history – but specific also to feelings, attitudes, particular sensations, viewpoints on analyzing reality, specific customs, stereotypes, beliefs and prejudices. On these aspects, our knowledge is poor and sketchy (it is easier to study the different forms of an object than the names given to a state of mind), due also to a strictly linguistic and anthropological factor. Translating means transferring from one language system into another, but a great deal is inevitably lost in translation, especially when the two language systems are the product of very different histories and cultures. This is true of Salentinian, historically and anthropologically far removed from Tuscan-Italian. So it happens that for many dialect words and expressions there cannot be a word-for-word translation: to convey the meaning of a word, one has to use paraphrase or circumlocution but also examples of different uses in different contexts, and illustrate how the meanings differ from the basic sense. Otherwise, a good deal of the meaning – often the most typical part – is lost.

Piero Manni does just this, giving a detailed definition of every item, often with a careful etymology, accompanied by various examples of different contexts of use (in a sort of column entitled ‘how to use it’) and, for 13 entries, by short ‘comments by prominent figures’.

In this slim but very enjoyable volume, there is an alphabetical list of:

- verbs whose meaning has been expanded, starting from actions and situations of practical Salentine culture and extending to states of mind: for instance ncutugnare, shifting from ‘repeatedly shake’ – with an etymological reference to the quince (cotogna) – to ‘feel anger without being able to vent it’, ‘to become sad’; bbampare: from ‘burn’ to ‘blush’;

- nouns referring to customs deeply rooted in the territory: crianza ‘the last serving of a shared dish, which nobody takes due to a form of courtesy’, sobbrataula ‘the last course of a meal: raw vegetables, lupins, almonds, sunflower seeds’, actually a pretext for indulging in “a conversation that, with changes in intensity and tone, becomes a story, summoning up far-off, well-known figures, and piecing together family memories” (as Antonio Prete points out), squariare, which means not only ‘muck around’ but also “let time wash over you, let yourself go in tall tales, digressions, flights of fancy, going off on tangents, in the charm of idleness” (Antonio Errico);

- circumlocutions expressing typical attitudes, precious fragments of a philosophy of life: fazza Ddiu (fatalism), menamé (exhortation), mai pe iabbu (forestalling and covering one’s back), nu tte sia pe cumandu (diplomatic understatement), pe facce llavata (appearance and hypocrisy).

Following this line one might be able to reconstruct ‘the shared feeling’ of the culture of Salento, or at least of what was once the culture of Salento. A nice prospect.

The fastidious researcher might complain about what’s missing and find reasons to be unsatisfied (the sources and expressions and their localization are never stated; the ‘comments by prominent figures’ are sometimes fascinating and acute, and sometimes not: for instance it is a shame that for the expression that gives the book its title, the final comment is the shortest). However, here I prefer to underline how enjoyable the book is and how many stimulating points it presents.

It is not only Salentine speakers who will find it involving, interesting and thought-provoking, but also linguists and anthropologists.

 

Mai pe iabbu. I vocaboli e le espressioni intraducibili del Salento (ed. Piero Manni), Manni, 2015, 96 pp. 12 euro

More articles
Culture   Eugenio Barba On Life and Theatrical Thought and Practice Culture   Mark Bradford and Wade Guyton Million dollar American art that’s taking Italy by storm Culture   “Poverty is sexist” The young ambassadors of ONE in Paris against extreme poverty Culture   The middle-eastern origin of blown glass, the pride of Venice Culture   “You don’t know the South” 
The culture of the South relaunched in Otranto Culture   Those Southern women who express the world Culture   Andy Warhol The immortal guru of Pop Art Culture   “Angels and saints in Chicago and Baltimora” Cultural exchanges between the University of Bari and the US Culture   Those farm women, thrilled at their first sight of the sea… Culture   My Puglia as seen from the UN Culture   Forty young Italians with ONE for the fight against world hunger Culture   “American Dreamers” The new dream of eleven American artists on show in Florence Culture   The Fulbright Project? An extraordinary opportunity for a cultural exchange
Books   Not even love transforms the Stock Exchange of destinies Books   And the dream of conquest turned into a mirage of the desert Books   Joseph’s Gargano Books   The tragedy of Mattmark A book so as not to forget Books   Journey through the gardens of Italy Books   When poetry investigates “time” Books   Amidst the storms of life it’s the strength of a loving heart that wins Books   That valley in the Gargano so rich in history that must not be forgotten Books   Grottaglie and its pottery through the life of the benefactor Vincenzo Calò Books   Eighty years of joyful culture Books   Sergeant Romano’s siege like in a movie Books   The magnificent eighty Books   San Marco in Lamis seen from its bell-tower Books   A great love for splendid Castro Books   Better not come home... Letters between Italy and America during the first World War Books   Story of a poet between Puglia and America Books   Worked to death under the sun of Puglia Books   When forgotten objects tell a life story Books   Masserie of Puglia Journey amidst Beauty Books   The moral revival of the South can start from its “best” Books   Life, anyway! Books   Rainbow of women Books   Amidst the mountains of Val d’Aosta …in pursuit of the culprit Books   …Once upon a time there was the past Writing about it to preserve the memory Books   Disorder and experimentation in the museum-houses of Ignazio Apolloni Books   Salento stories …in search of lost time Books   Pietro Marti, the great standard-bearer of Salento culture Books   Even tycoons cry Books   If a “whale” island appears one night out of nowhere… Books   From his ancestral Calabria to Roma Precious memories of a lifetime Books   The importance of rediscovering “fraternity” Books   In the wax museum to seek the dream of a better world Books   Naples “Kissed by God and raped by Man” Books   Once upon a time there was the padre-padrone Books   Second World War The drama of the fallen Books   On the Savannah lagoons …to heal Books   The meaning of the 20th century in the saga of the Stille family Books   In Fellini’s La dolce vita the germs of today’s Italy Basilicata   Craco The “second life” of a ghost town Po Delta   The Po Delta park Natural beauty and history Bari   “Cieli americani” in Bari Verona   Verona Shakespeare celebrated its beauty without ever having seen it Courmayeur   Courmayeur All the charm of the low season Ferrara   You can still dream in Ferrara Ferrara   “Action!” Amongst Ferrara’s myriad sets Music   Porretta Soul Festival The Italian Woodstock of black American music Matera   Pasolini-Matera Fifty years ago the first Gospel in the Sassi Naples   “Wood Stone and Friends” Jimmie Durham’s magic vitalism at the MADRE Naples   Art miracles at Vigna San Martino Naples   The Hermann Nitsch Museum From horror to awareness Bologna   Do you want to be FICO? In Bologna you can Bologna   Bologna “The Learned”, “The Fat”, “The Red” Bologna   At the MAMbo Arte Povera on display Polignano   From Brooklyn to Polignano Twelve artists out to conquer Europe Movies   With The Revenant DiCaprio rises again and aims for the Oscar Movies   Quo Vado? When the southern redneck turns politically correct Movies   When the cinema returns to the future Best of Italy   Andria Pietro Zito’s vegetable garden This is where his prize-winning dishes originate Best of Italy   The best Milanese panettone is… Salentine San Marino   “From Hopper to Warhol” on the gentle hills of San Marino San Marino   San Marino Historic appeal amidst breathtaking panoramas Turin   Reggia di Venaria Reale A treasure rediscovered Turin   The Egyptian Museum of Turin The immortal appeal of the Pharaohs Turin   “For President” Photogenic qualities will win the elections Padua   So much… In the city of the three “withouts” Milan   EXPO 2015 Not just food Milan   The oneiric inspirations of Joan Jonas Milan   “Autunno americano” Milan celebrates the States Milan   MILAN The metropolis is still “to drink” (…and “to eat”) Rome   “Empire State” New York is still the epicenter of art Venice   The immortal charm of the 
“Queen of the Sea” Venice   So many “Illumi/nations” with the Biennale d’Arte Rovigo   History and Art In the capital of the Polesine Rovigo   “Divisionism, the light of what is modern” 200 works on show in Rovigo