By Melissa Cannavo-Marino and Sara
Did I ever tell you I was born in Italy? Mamma gave me a home when I was just a puppy and I lived with her in Frosinone in the region of Lazio for many years. Mamma and nonna and nonno spoke to me in Italian and that was my first language. So it was very confusing to me when I first visited our family in Sicily. I couldn’t understand much of what they were saying! Thank goodness I had mamma to translate for me.
On our first night in Sicily mamma’s cugino said, “Amunninni (aa-moo-nin-nee) a fare ‘na camminata.” Mamma agreed but I didn’t move. I had no idea what he was saying! Then mamma repeated in Italian.
“Sara, andiamo a fare una passegiata.” Then I realized it was the same thing just in a different language. Everyone in the piazza stopped and called me bedda (bay-da) and mamma explained that was Sicilian for bella (beautiful).
I did catch the word gelato (ice cream) as we walked by the local bar and I certainly knew what that meant. Fermai (fer-my) (I stopped) to make sure I got some to enjoy and then mamma said “veni ca (ven-e ka)
(Sara.) (come here Sara). “Zia Mela is waiting for us to go visit our other relatives.” I never realized mamma also spoke Sicilian!
That was when it got really crazy because there were so many people speaking Sicilian that mamma didn’t have time to translate for me. At that point it didn’t matter. I was just happy that Zia Mela had made pasta for me and that I had ice cream for dessert.
When we returned a casa (home) I cuddled with mamma in bed and she started to read some Sicilian proverbs to me. “You’ll have to learn some Sicilian, Sara. After all we will be spending a lot of time here.” It was a good way to learn because first she said them in Italian and then in Sicilian. So even though it was summer I listened and learned and finally could understand almost everything that was said to me! Here are a few proverbs that I really enjoyed!
Italian: La mattinata fa la giornata.
Sicilian: La matinata fa la jurnata.
Translation: How you start the morning will set the tone for the rest of the day.
Italian: Chi è giovinotto non è poveretto.
Sicilian: Cu’ è picciutteddu nun è puvireddu.
Translation: He who is young is not poor.
Italian: Chi lascia la via vecchia per la nuova, i guai che non va cerchando, in essa trova.
Sicilian: Cui lassa la via vecchia pri la nova, li guai ch’un va circannu, ddà li trova.
Translation: He who leaves the old road for the new, will find troubles he was not looking for.
(We might say the grass is always greener on the other side.)
Italian: Ogni cane è leone alla sua casa. Sicilian: Ogni cani è liuni a sò casa.
Translation: Each dog is the lion of his house. We might say our dog is the master of the house like the lion is the king of the jungle. In my house io sono la principessa! (I am the princess!)