Thursday, June 9, 2011

Word of the week- anatroccolo

I'll fess up. Sometimes I retrofit my posts because I see something irresistible and I find a way to relate it to Italy or the Italian language. It's surprisingly easy.

This is such a case. Our sports-crazy town, Boston, has seen fit to clothe the mama duck and her baby ducklings that reside permanently in the Public Garden downtown. They've put little Bruins (hockey) capes on them, the poor things. Not the best timing, as today will be 97 degrees with about 70 percent humidity. If they were real, they'd rip off their fancy duds and throw themselves into the little lake nearby, the one with the swan boats.

"Duck" is anatra and "duckling" is anatroccolo. Hans Christian Andersen's famous story is known as Il brutto anatroccolo in Italian. Don't go thinking that this represents a pattern, and you can just append -occolo to animals' names and get the name of their young. No, it's more complicated than that. You need to study the words case by case. For example, cucciolo, which can mean puppy, can also apply to other species e.g. bear cubs, but not all species. Learn them one by one. But be assured they're all adorable.