It seems we have a way with words

Sunshine Coast Daily - - NEWS | OPINION - ANN RICKARD ann.rickard@sc­news.com.au

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.

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