Paisans

What’s the point of having a blog if you don’t complain about things you find mildly irritating? Like people who pronounce mozzarella mozzrell, dropping the ‘a’ at the end.

I had thought this was largely done by Italian Americans who wish to emsphasize their street cred: mozzarell, manicott, biscott, prosciutt, and so on. The vowel at the end is dropped — but is┬áthis affectation or authenticity? Turns out, it’s complicated. This from a 2004 New York Times story:

In some parts of Italy, the dropping of final vowels is common. Restaurantgoers and food shoppers in the United States ended up imitating southern and northern dialects, where speakers often do not speak their endings.

So, like many things, it depends on your neighborhood — but dropping the ending is not universally more Italian than pronouncing it.

Me? I’ll never do it, simply because when I say the words that way I feel like an idiot.

8 responses to “Paisans

  1. Everyone wants to be Alex Trebek when it comes to pronunciations.
    I get that some people are trying to be ‘authentic’ in their pronunciations and I guess I can’t fault them for it but I can let it annoy me. Like when the o in mozzarella is pronounced oo – that bothers me more than the a or lack thereof at the end.

    I watched Julie and Julia recently and while I had a boat load of issues with the Julie portion of the film, the second worst annoying thing (after the sound of everyone chewing with their mouths open which I live-tweeted during my viewing) was Julie’s constant use of bouef instead of beef when whining about beef bourguignon. I get it, it’s pronounced bouef in France but when Amy Adams said it repeatedly I just wanted to slam a 2×4 in her face. I normally don’t have this kind of anger but I absolutely despised that character so much.

    • I encourage my readers to use this space to vent their rage.

      Having said that, I’m generally in favor of using American pronunciations, this being ‘Merica and all, but even that can be unclear. For example, how do you pronounce praline?

  2. At La Mela on Mulberry St., the waiters always have to deal with tourists going ‘EyeTalianO’ on them, and it’s fun to watch. Guy from Kansas, Nebraska, or some flyover state tries to go ‘Trebekian’ with their pronunciations, whereupon the waiter will take a deep breath, look up at the ceiling, look back down at aforementioned tourist and just say “What the f*** do you want to eat?”. Since everyone else in the place laughs, the tourist laughs too, and everyone gets what they want to eat.

    Scallopini Francaise is worth the trip. Practice pronunciation on the train.

    • I’m sort of in favor of using the English names on menus. If we could convince them to do this all over the world, so much the better.

      The ultimate was in Romania, where after an exhausting flight and long drive we’re desperate for a meal. It was Easter eve and all the restaurants I’d found in my trip planner were closed. Finally we located a dark and smokey little joint that was as deserted as the rest of town. Nobody spoke a word of English except for “cow.” By pointing and gesturing , we were able to determine which menu items were cow and which were not.

  3. Seeing as how there are several hundred regional dialects in Italy proper, you can feel free to truncate. Truncating in the incorrect manner will get you all kinds of funny looks when you’re there, but overall I find Italians fairly easygoing when it comes to folks butchering their language. As with most places, the locals are pleased when anyone makes the effort to learn even a smidgen of their language, and it makes communicating even the simplest of ideas a hell of a lot easier.

    • You must write a ‘Rob’s Tips and Tricks for Navigating Europe’ book. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to visit Romania, much less eat there, and all of your travel pix are great. The pictures of Ireland were amazing.

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