By Nick Squires in Rome Last Updated: 5:31PM BST 09 Sep 2008

For years it was the French who worked themselves into a lather over their native tongue being infected by English.

Now it is their southern neighbours across the Alps who are wringing their hands at the growing incursion of Anglo-Saxon words and phrases into every day use.

From 'il weekend' to 'lo stress' and 'le leadership', Italians increasingly sprinkle their conversations with English terms, some of them comically mangled and bizarre sounding to a native English speaker.

'Baby parking', for example, is a strange conflation which means child care centre or nursery.
A 'baby gang', on the other hand, is a more sinister construct. It means a group of young criminals or hoodlums.

As with the French and their use of Franglais, Italians sometimes throw in English words to appear worldly and cosmopolitan, and at other times to describe things slightly alien to the Italian mindset, from 'il fitness' to 'il full immersion training'.

But now a cultural guardian of the Italian language is saying 'basta!' – enough.

The Dante Alighieri Society, a less strident equivalent of France's Academie Francaise which promotes Italian culture and language around the world, has called on Italians to reject Anglo-Saxon linguistic imports, 'Anglitaliano', and return to the true lingua italiana.

Over the last four months the society, named after the Florentine poet Dante, author of The Divine Comedy and regarded as the father of the Italian language, asked visitors to its website to nominate their least favourite Anglicisms.

The results judge the ugliest imports to be 'weekend', 'welfare' and 'OK', followed by 'briefing', 'mission', 'know how', 'shampoo' and 'cool'.

The worlds of business and politics contribute many of the alien words, from 'question time' to 'premier' and 'bipartisan'.

Other English words regularly used by Italians which escaped the ire of the society's correspondents include 'sexy', 'webmaster' and 'water', short for water closet or lavatory.
"Italians unite against il weekend", the society declared on its website. "In short, it is clear that Italians are calling for more respect and more protection for correct language."

Many Italians are unlikely to be swayed by such exhortations.

"I don't think it matters if we use English words," said Alessandra, 25, a secretary in a Rome travel agency. "It's part of globalisation. Often it's faster – like using 'il weekend' instead of 'fine settimana'."

But her boss, Maria, disagreed. "People think it's chic to use English words but I don't like it at all. I want to speak either Italian or English, not an Esperanto mix of the two. It's important to keep language clean."

Italians vote for ugliest English words

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

1 Comment
  1. I wonder if this desire (to which I am sympathetic) of maintaining the purity of a language is somewhat suspect. After all, what human language is clean? Dante's "dolce stil nuovo", though possessing a deep tenderness, is yet with all its body and force more an example of brilliant virility than purity. But what happens when a language loses its manhood?

    On the other hand on what authority will we distiguish within our vocabulary between the true-bred native and the invading barbarian. Perhaps we would rather die clinging to shrouded classical statuary than match ourselves with or against the yet ungrounded alien(or stroll our garden after he has scrawled obscenities in every blank and smashed our marble urns).

    I think one cannot defend a language in this way: by decrying the intrusions of what is alien to its genesis; instead to propose to oneself a subject matter through which to wrestle with one's language's inner life (where the native and the alien are in continual exchange) -- so that that voice and ancient texture, in which all of life is potentially present, may find its genesis once more.