Learning Italian in Rome - Word of the Week: Profilattico (n. Condom)

I haven't updated this blog in a while (Mi dispiace). No excuses really.... Just haven't been feeling the urge to blog of late. I think it's the cold weather more than anything else. That said, I had an LOL (laugh out loud) moment this morning while checking my Google+ feed, courtesy of Tov e Dispies. This is going to be a quick and dirty post (pun-intended), but I thought I'd share the adult-ish humor.

P.S. Don't continue reading if you'd rather not know the Italian equivalent of the "F" word.

Link to Original Post

Link to Original Post

[Edited: After I ran this picture by my Italian teacher, I made a few adjustments. (p.s. She giggled each time I conjugated scopare... Apparently, I give off the prim and proper vibe. Appearances can be deceiving)]

Okay, first comes the scene-setter. 

Stazione centrale poco fa, un venditore: 

There are enough cognates here for you to guess what's going on, I think. Stazione centrale is what you think it is, i.e. "Central Station." In Italy, a city's main train and bus station (or if you're lucky, the subway/metro station as well) is technically called stazione centrale. Most have more specific names as well, such as Roma Termini. 

Poco fa means a little (poco) while ago (v. fare, "to do," 3rd person, present tense).

Un venditore is obviously a vendor/salesperson.

Tu compra un ombrelo. 

Okay, you're probably wondering if there are errors here. The answer is yes. Apparently, the post was also making fun common mistakes made by non-Italian speakers (something I completely missed until my teacher pointed it out). Amazingly, I caught the grammar mistake, but not the spelling. Alright, take a moment and read the sentence. What mistakes do you spot (hint: there are two)?

We'll start with the one I didn't catch. Ombrello (with two Ls) is the correct spelling for umbrella. A lot of non-native speakers (myself included), do not roll their tongues consistently when faced with the double L (we say om-bre-lo instead of om-brel-lo). Misspelling ombrello is the author's way of poking fun at this common mispronunciation.

I'm sort of proud of myself for getting this grammar mistake right. Compra is the third person/formal second person present tense conjugation of comprare (to buy). "You buy an umbrella" (informal) would translate to Tu compri un ombrello" (with an "i" instead of an "a"). Likewise, "Want to buy an umbrella?" would translate to (Tu) Compri un ombrello?

However, if the vendor is issuing an order (imperative), Compra un ombrello! would be grammatically correct (side Note: I HATE the imperative.) In this case, adding a subject (Tu) in front of the order is incorrect, making the statement of equivalent of "You buy umbrella!"

Ma c'è il sole.

Ma = But, ci/c' = there, è = is (v. essere, to be, 3rd person, present tense), il sole (the sun). One bane of an English' speaker's existence is the necessity of always putting articles before nouns. In Italian, the sentence is "But there is the sun" as opposed to "But there is sun," or "It's sunny."

Tu compra profilattico mentre scopa?

Okay, this highlights two common grammatical errors made by non-native Italian speakers (the majority of hawkers are immigrants). But remember, I speak English fluently, and I make grammatical errors while speaking all the time. (In Italian, I easily conjugate wrong about 50% of the time). 

That said, it's supposed to be Tu compri and not Tu compra (because it's a question, not an order). There's a missing article (they're like Gremlins), and scopare needs to be conjugated to the informal second person form. The correct version of this sentence is Tu compri un profillatico mentre scopi?

So what's un profilattico? It's pictured below.

Un Profilattico (Word of the Week) Condom Vending Machine, Rome, Italy.

Un Profilattico (Word of the Week)
Condom Vending Machine, Rome, Italy.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is a handy dandy condom vending machine, found on every street corner in Rome. Have a sexual emergency? Have no fear. The pharmacies and grocery stores might close at 8PM, but if you want cigarettes, condoms, or lottery tickets, you're covered.

Un profilattico/Un preservativo is a condom. If your Italian teacher starts giggling uncontrollably when you try to talk about preservatives in food, this would be why. 

Mentre = while/during.

Scopare is the verb "to sweep," used more commonly to indicate the act of sexual intercourse. (Yes,' tis the Italian F-word.)

To conclude, the entire gist of the conversation is thus: 


Tara Quan

Globetrotter, lover of languages, and romance author, Tara Quan has an addiction for crafting tales with a pinch of spice and a smidgen of kink. Inspired by her travels, she enjoys tossing her kick-ass heroines and alpha males into exotic contemporary locales, fantasy worlds, and post-apocalyptic futures. Visit Tara at www.taraquan.com