Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Can I Have EYE-talian Dressing On That Salad?

As the young folks would text....ROFLMAO. (For those who don't speak text, it's "Rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off".) That was my initial reaction to the ad that's just started running on local TV for Festa Italia this weekend. It runs about every 10 minutes on the local news and morning shows, so it's hard to miss. OK, I really didn't roll around on the floor, but I did laugh out loud the first time I saw it.

Miss Festa Italia 2009, flanked by a couple other Italians, invites us to Festa EYE-talia. EYE-talia. That's long "i" EYE-talia. Says it not once, but twice.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why the two Italians on either side of the young beauty queen didn't mention to her that since it's not pronounced EYE-taly, you don't say EYE-talian. It was one of my late father-in-law's greatest pet peeves....along with the people who pronounced his name "MARY-oh". Mario Zarantonello was Italian through-and-through, and had naught but disdain for those who said "EYE-talian" or called him "MARY-oh".

Mario and his wife ran an Italian restaurant on the south side of Chicago, a place where their daughter, my wife, was the "salad girl". It was a family enterprise all the way, and while I've never asked my wife what a "salad girl" does in a family Italian restaurant, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with making and serving salads. Presumably with "EYE-talian" dressing - NOT.

It's one thing for some regular Irish schmoe like me to say "EYE-talian", but quite another for a young lady who purports to be Italian mispronouncing it on an ad for a festival honoring her heritage. Probably half the folks who go to the fest this weekend say "EYE-talian" and don't think a thing about it. Not that big a deal, I suppose, if you're of descent other than Italian.

After all, about half the folks on radio and TV, who are supposed to be professional communicators, still say "EYE-rack" and "EYE-ran" when doing stories about the middle east, and even those who know enough to say "eh-ron" call the people who live there "eye-RAIN-ee-uns".

But I'm pretty sure if my father-in-law hadn't gone to his eternal reward, and saw the ad, he'd be on the phone to the Italian Workmen's Club, suggesting strongly that they re-do the ad.


  1. Haven't you heard it's unpatriotic to use furrin' pronunciations? Just ask the wing-nuts who refuse to put the accent on the last syllable of Sonia Sotomayor's name.

    My grandfather fought (and endured three days in a recently-liberated Italian town where the only provisions left were locally-made red wine and the chocolate bars the GIs brought with them) for the right of that beauty queen to mis-prounounce Italian.

  2. Makes you wonder why so many people say EYE-raq...

  3. My step dad was Italian (both his parents immigrated from Italy to New York in 1950). He always said EYE-talian. He lived in many areas in the US (including the South where maybe he picked it up?). I picked it up from him since he raised me and I wasn't around other Italians but him and never thought twice about saying EYE-talian until I read something on metafilter saying it was a racial slur. He was always proud of his heritage and loved being Italian. I don't have much of a point to this but I just wanted to point out that there are some Italians who pronounce the word EYE-talian.

    I am now debating whether to correct my pronunciation to the "correct" form of Italian. I loved my step dad dearly and he is the one I picked it up from. He passed away three years ago and it almost feels wrong to change the way I say it even though it is "wrong" I guess or "ignorant".

  4. I don't know why people (Americans mostly...which includes me!)do not make an effort to pronounce thing properly!

    all I know is that when somebody says: eye rack and Eye ran instead of Ehraq and ehran all that they are reaferming in me is either their lack of education or (Which is mostly the case!)They are suffering from "higher brain function" deficiency.

  5. You do realize Iraq is pronounced "eh-rack" by Iraqis, and that just because some British people say "eh-rock" doesn't make it right? I'm constantly entertained by the liberal/conservative argument over eh-rock/eye-rack, when they're *both* wrong.

    Note: depending on your dialect it might be more like ih-rack.