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Dialect Proverbs
Authority and subjects
A relationship without hope
Patre e patrone / sampe lore hann’avè ragione
[Father and master / they will always be right]
by Alberto Sobrero
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Bruno Maggio. China

      The father commands in the house, and the master commands outside the house. There is always a supreme authority that regulates the two dimensions of life: the private and the public. Two faces of the same coin, two masters that resemble each other like two drops of water. Life starts with the subjection to the father and continues with subjection to the master (a concept, that for a woman includes, of course, the husband-master).

      Society is distributed into two layers, that are attached only through a relationship of dominance, and the same thing happens in the family. Do not even think about changing it: it is risky to delude yourself into thinking that you can establish a different relationship between who is on top and who is underneath. To stress this concept, another proverb comes to mind, which expands upon it: Amore de patrune / amore de fiascune, which means Friendship with the master can only be formal.

      But there is more. I translated hannavè ragione with its future form: They will always be right, but the translation does not render well the significance of the verb. In the dialect of Capitanata, like Southern Italy in general, the grammatical construction avere + a + infinitive signifies the future, but also underlines the idea of necessity, and obligation: in Barese slang agghie a candà means I will sing but also I must sing; in the slang from Taranto ava veni means He will come, but also He must come. Future and necessity are fused together in one and the same verbal form.

      It is not by chance. The structure of the language – and its dialects – are ductile, malleable, and adapted to express visions of the world that from time to time characterize a civilization, an epoch, a society. If the “spirit of the language” coincides with the future and an expression of necessity, it means that the general feeling of the people is that what will happen tomorrow or after tomorrow is not decided by man but by necessity, fate, destiny (or with a different perspective, God). Society does not have its own blueprint, it cannot have one, and it mustn’t because every man must limit himself to respect that which has been decided by the supreme authority. The father. The master. It is a society without a future, and without a past.

      Our proverb, however, brings with it a double meaning that holds no hope: hierarchical relationships are very rigid; unalterable, and oppressed society cannot, and must not think of a different future, a better one: one will live in the future as one lives now, and one will show respect, because one must respect the will of he who commands. Always. The oppression will never end.

      Two verses, eight words, are sufficient for an entire fresco, a ruthless and resigned description of the human condition, fatalistic, that seems to renounce any possibility of hope for redemption.

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