The Italian Almanac

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golden tapir award

Italian News - February 19

Students of Italian may have an easier time using Italian newspapers to improve their understanding of the language thanks to the latest flood of neologisms from English. Italian journalists have coined 5,000 new words over the last five years, many of them come from English, according to a new book from the National Research Center (CNR).

Should an Italian casually offer, "Andiamo a drinkare una cosa al bar?" Chances are an English speaker with a minimal grasp of Italian will understand that a few cocktails are in the offing. And a pompous acquaintance going on about "glocalismo" or how he just bought shares in a "public utility" will be relatively easy to follow.

There is, however, a flip side to this trend - some of the new terms not based on English are incomprehensible to those outside Italy. A few examples? Describing that new coworker as a "cococo" isnít a put-down, but just shorthand for the much-debated continuous collaboration contract. And what about celebrity labeled "attapirato?" Nothing tragic - theyíve been given the golden tapir award for some kind of dubious behavior from the countryís most-watched satirical show "Strip the News."

Not all Italians are enthusiastic about this hybrid language. Protests over the mix of Ital-English donít come from the Accademia della Crusca, Europeís oldest linguistic watchdog which has been notably silent about the growing number of foreign words in everyday Italian, but a group of Italian politicians and, yes, notable journalists who donít like the way things are going. In a petition sent to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, signers take umbrage with the transformation of the labor ministry ("ministero del lavoro") now known as "ministero del Welfare" and the names of state TV Raiís channels (Rai Educational, Rai News, etc.)