Thursday, September 22, 2011
... learning other languages is a good thing...
’ve never formally studied the Italian language, but from my music studies I know piano means quiet or soft and forte means loud. Put them together to create pianoforte, the original word for piano. Somewhere in a forest the forte ran away. It shouldn’t be confused with fortepiano. A forerunner to the modern piano. It also ran away.
From music to film we pick up certain words. I can still hear Roberto Benigni saying, “Principessa” in Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella). When Dean Martin sings in Italian I learnt, no, scratch that, there’s just the hangovers.
While we learn any language by listening, we gain insights by reading. This week it was a lesson in Italian. Graffiti is an Italian word and is plural. Whereas, graffito is the singular form. Anyone who knows Italian understands this distinction.
To write, “The graffiti was…” or “There was graffiti on” sounds right, but to someone who speaks Italian, knows that language, they might object.
I think if I wrote, “Kofi’s graffito was covered over,” readers would scramble for a dictionary. If I wrote, “My graffiti were covered over,” readers would feel unsettled.
What to do?
Find a new word like urban art.
What do you think?
Posted 2011/09/22 at 16h38ET in Words.