Did you know that Italian has homonyms just like in English?
Many of you have probably forgotten by now the definition of a homonym. I will bring you back to second grade’s class with Sister Claire deLourdes. A homonym is a word that is spelled the same yet has a different meaning. Example: Ruler means both a measuring tool and a head of state.
Like Sister Claire deLourdes would start any lesson, let’s begin in alphabetical order with la bella lingua.
Borsa (purse). Giulia compra la borsa a Firenze. Borsa (stock exchange). Investire in borsa puo’ essere molto rischioso.
Costa (cost). La borsa costa 50 euro. Costa (coast). La Costa Smeralda e’ in Sardegna.
Dai (give). Tu dai il caffe’ a Marco. Dai (come on, hurry). Mario, il treno parte subito. Dai!
Lingua (language). La lingua piu’ bella del mondo e’ l’italiano. Lingua (tongue). Il serpente ha una lunga lingua.
Palazzo (palace). Il palazzo di Re e’ antico. Palazzo ( apartment building). Il palazzo ha 8 appartamenti.
Pepe (pepper). Passa il pepe per favore. Pepe (Nickname for Giuseppe). Pepe, vieni qui.
Piano (floor). Mario vive sul terzo piano. Piano (plan, design). Il mio piano sara’ pronto domani.
Ponte (bridge). Il Ponte Vecchio e’ a Firenze. Ponte (long weekend). Finalmente, abbiamo un ponte che inizia domani.
Prego (you are welcome). Gianni pass il sale e il pepe. Grazie dice Gianni. Mario dice prego. Prego (I pray). Prego per te ogni giorno.
Riso (rice). Si usa riso per fare il risotto. Riso (laugh.) Tutti hanno riso durante il film.
Rosa (pink). Il Gazzetto dello Sport e’ rosa. Rosa (rose). Il rosa e’ un bel fiore.
Oops, Sister notices that we still have 15 more minutes before the the bell rings for lunch. She will now explain onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is the use or creation of a word that phonetically imitates or resembles or suggests the sound that describes it.
Sister says “I will now play Old Macdonald in Italian and we will see how Italian children make animal sounds.” She plays the song and the children list the sounds in English and Italian. Please see below.
Una vacca (cow) muu/moo
Un gallo (rooster) chichiree/cockle doodle doo
Una gallina (hen) coo/coo
Un uccello (bird) (Trrrruuuu/chirp chirp
Un gatto (cat) miao/meow
Un cane (dog) baubau / bow wow
Una pecora (lamb) Beee/Baaa
Sister seems very pleased as the children successfully completed the assignment for onomatopoeia.
It is now five minutes before noon and she releases the children for recess. I am sure all of you who are reading this tedious lesson on grammar also want to be relieved. Time for recess. Adesso lo sa.
Lou Thomas was born and raised in Philadelphia, in a family with origins in Abruzzo. He is a Temple graduate who has been teaching Italian for 20 years at all levels. He attained a master’s degree in teaching Italian from Rutgers University. The sounds of Vivaldi and Jovanotti fill his classroom. His favorite quote is “Il vino e’ la poesia della terra.”