New Words in Italian


I’m taking a break from teaching right now, but one of the things I used to have to explain to my students was how the Italian language is a “living language” – it’s still changing, because it’s still being spoken. All languages which are still being spoken are “living languages,” but when you speak one as your native tongue the changes happen gradually enough that you don’t notice them. For instance, those of us who use computer regularly now consider “Google” a verb – as in, “Why don’t you Google that to find out?” – although we can probably all remember a time when that word didn’t even exist. Living languages are exciting and frustrating for the same reason – they’re dynamic.

New-Words-in-Italian

An example of a new Italian word my Italian teacher taught our conversation group recently is “sherare” – it might not look like a word you know, but it’s pronounced “share-AH-ray.” Sound familiar now? Yes, there’s a word in Italian that means “to share,” but some Italians (obviously those with some knowledge of English) have co-opted the English word and just made it Italian. For those of you who speak Italian, it’s conjugated like any regular “-are” verb. Another note for anyone who hasn’t heard or used it, our Italian teacher’s sister, who still lives in Italy, was shocked and appalled that she’d use it instead of “condividere,” so be warned.

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“Sherare” is an example of a new word that isn’t tied to technology, but the world of hi-tech is actually where many new words are coming from these days. This article by Nicole Martinelli highlights some of them, including “downloadare” and “bannare.” (She also mentions the whole SMS abbreviation thing, which I wrote about the other day. I’m on a language kick lately, I guess.)

In my conversation group, it’s a common trick when one doesn’t know the Italian word for something to take a wild guess by adding a vaguely Italian-sounding ending to the English word. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – but the fact that it works at all, and that there are more and more English words being adopted by Italian speakers, means that perhaps we don’t have that far to go to being a world with one common language. What do you think?

Photo by: ImQQ!