Rome Travel Guide

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let's "Chattare" Redux

In my "Let's 'chattare'" post, of March 29, I wanted to put in more about "show girls" and Berlusconi. There are so many English language words used whenever the media writes about the Italian Prime Minister and his escapades with scantily-clad young (often too young) women.

But I only made a brief mention of "show girl" because I found myself tripping up over "veline" (and sometimes I have seen "velini" - which seems like it should be masculine plural) and "showgirls". I couldn't figure out the difference - though obviously one word is Italian and one is American (I won't even deign to say "English"). So, I asked our Roman friend and linguist, Massimo. I love his answer and repeat it with his permission:

"I will do the best I can to clarify this subtle and unfortunate neologism: the singular of "veline" is "velina" and usually it is a girl (not many "velini" around - TV biz is a sexist world). It's a girl usually very attractive but not always (or necessarily) talented. A "showgirl" is a sort of umbrella term to mean a young woman that either hosts a show, or can dance and/or sing (rarely decently enough). There is NO way, in my opinion, that these persons can reach their "artistic" goals w/o hitting TV producers' (or politicians') beds or sofas first.

"Today, we tend to define "veline" as all the girls who "want to be on TV" and attend various shows w/o being particularly talented. But after all, hasn't one of them become a minister of the Italian government?

"The word "velina" re-entered our everyday vocabulary a few years ago, with a TV program called "Striscia la notizia" (a semi-serious TV news, which is still going strong). Scantily clad skating girls would bring the news to the anchors written on a thin sheet of paper: a "velina". "Carta velina" is the kind of paper that we used for carbon copies in the pre-PC era.

"During the Fascist ventennio (decades), "veline" were the copies of the official version of the news that circulated in the Department of Propaganda - and that's the origin of the word: according to the screenwriters of the program that was supposed to be ironic and funny."

I told you he was a linguist! And just today Bill and I were listening to a somewhat dated Italian news report on Berlusconi's problems last year with the scantily clad and maybe underage, and likely paid... prost... well, make that again young women. And in the newscast were English words imported into the Italian, such as "mission", "scup" (as in "scoop"), "gossip", "topmanager", "first lady"... to mention a few!


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