Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One Idiot At A Time

When I was a little girl, my Grandfather used to recite a saying in Italian that included the words "non parlate" (you don't speak) and "gallina" (hen).

Even though gallina means "hen," he always used the word "chicken" when translating it into English and in full, it roughly meant "don't talk until the chicken pees." Since chickens don't pee, he was essentially saying "keep your mouth shut, we don't want to hear from you."

When growing up, we learned a lot of Italian this way; by dissecting what the adults were saying when speaking it in front of us. They would often use Italian when they didn't want us to know what they were talking about or when wanting to curse or impart some sort of wisdom that they thought just sounded better than it did in English.

As far as their style of Italian, it was never the “formal” or "proper" Italian; they always used the local dialects from Bari or Naples, where the family comes from. Often, one side of the family wouldn't know what the other was saying and one word could cause a war if it didn’t come across right.

In instances like that, where a disagreement occurred or everyone started talking at once, my Grandfather would say, "One idiot at a time. I'll go first."

Going first is fine, I guess…

As long as you're not waiting for the chicken to pee before you begin speaking.


Katie McKenna said...

That is so funny...and what beautiful memories!!!

Real Live Lesbian said...

Ok...I'm simple. It never occurred to me that chickens don't pee. Ever. And I'm 41 and we had chickens growing up.