It seems we have a way with words
WITH the season changing in Europe, it will soon be time for us to head back home.
It has been a very hot summer in Europe, with temperatures averaging 38 degrees. But weather does not matter much when you are on a journey of discovery.
In Italy, we must have said “grazie” a thousand or more times, mostly to wait-staff. Every time a pizza has been put in front of us, we have grinned like children and called “grazie, grazie mille”.
As many times as we have said “grazie” we have received a “prego” back.
Prego has become my favourite word du jour, one I would love to bring back and spread through our own community.
It is a multi-purpose word, a snappy and efficient word that can mean so many different things. It is said countless times every minute of every day by everyone all over Italy, from the man hidden behind the curtain of hanging hams in the local deli, to the woman selling peaches at the market, to the clerk frustrating you at the post office with his labour-intensive paperwork.
A “prego” can say “you’re welcome”, it can also say “come in” or “please go ahead” or “don’t mention it” or “how can I help you?” or “I’m happy to see you” or “please sit down” or “after you” or “excuse me” or “pardon?” or “say that again” or “help yourself”.
Add a few excited gestures to your “prego”, such as slapping your hand to your forehead and you have many more meanings including “pee off”. (Obviously I’ve phrased that more politely.)
Think of the amount of time we would all save if we said “prego” instead of “you are welcome”. One word instead of three could save us years.
Another Italian word I like very much – although it can never come close to my much-loved “prego” – is “allora”.
I think it means “hang on a minute, I’m thinking of what to say” since many Italians start their sentence with an “allora”.
But it could also mean “pee off you ignorant Australian” because every time I ask a question in my appalling Italian, the person in front of me gives me a long look and says “allora” before switching efficiently to English and answering me.
But word envy is petty, especially when you consider we have our own efficient word in Australia, and one that, like “prego”, could save us years of time: “g’day”.
How snappy and efficient is that compared to “buon giono” or “buona sera” or “buona notte”?
While Italians have three different words of greeting depending on the time of day, our one snappy “g’day” can be used morning, noon and night.
I may see if I can introduce “g’day” into the community here in the short time I have left in lovely Italy.