Tuesday, January 1, 2008

(Missing) word of the week: hangover

Part of a continuing series of words that exist in English but not in Italian. And a timely one, too: hangover. Indeed, there is no word in Italian for hangover or its related verb form.

So, how would an Italian speak of this (all-too-) common feature of the English-speaking world? He or she would have to use a periphrasis, that is, a descriptive phrase that makes up for the lack of a single word. They would say, for example, "I don't feel good because I drank too much last night" or "I have a terrible headache because I drank two bottles of Brunello."

As often occurs when a word is not present in a language, there is an underlying reason. In this case, the fact that the patterns of drinking and drunkenness differ greatly between Italy and America and other English-speaking countries. Troublesome or dangerous inebriation is relatively rare in Italy, and this has always been one of their strong points. Although this, too, is changing for the worse, especially among the young.