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La Parolaccia – Bad language

Our little one has added several slightly more colourful words to his already quite extensive vocabulary.

The trouble is they are ‘parolacce’ or bad words. Dissuading him from using them is proving just about impossible as he seems to get some perverse pleasure from there use and loves winding us up. Little monster.  The odd thing is that what is considered bad language in Italian is quite wide ranging.

‘Stupido’ or stupid in English, is categorized as a ‘parolaccia’ in Italian, although I do not regard ‘stupid’ as being bad language or even being mildly offensive in British English. Try explaining this to a four year old. As you may imagine, it is not easy. Incidentally, ‘idiota’ or idiot in English, which is, again, not really considered particularly strong in British English, has been assigned ‘parolaccia’ status by the Italian language. Whereas ‘cretino’ (cretin) is probably as offensive in Italian as it is in English, I believe, even if it is considered rather archaic in the UK . It is rather confusing, is it not? I will admit to knowing about ‘idiota’ before my son came on the scene, but I did not think ‘stupido’ fell into the same category. I was wrong.

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It is probably true to say that bad language can be given various levels of strength in Italian. ‘Stupido’ is probably a, let’s say, grade three word, whereas ‘cretino’ is grade two and, then there are the more obscene expressions which could be grade one words. As you might have gathered, a grade one word is potentially the most offensive.

I suppose the moral to this little story is that you do need to be rather careful when translating certain words, in that what may be considered as being a mild swear word in your own language, when directly translated, could turn out to be two or three times more offensive in another language. You have been warned, and this type of information is not to be found in dictionaries, although good texts about different culture do sometimes point out such differences, hence my knowledge of the strength of idiot in Italian, by the way. Alas, I cannot remember the text from which I gleaned this peal of wisdom.

Funny thing language.

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