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."