My Italian Word of the Week - Scusa (n.) and Scusare (v.)

Häagen-Dazs® - Gelato - Sea Salt Caramel

Häagen-Dazs® - Gelato - Sea Salt Caramel

Scusa (n.)

n. an apology
n. a pardon/forgiveness
n. an excuse
n. a defense, justification

Scusare (v.)

v. to excuse, to pardon
Conjugation: Italian Verbs

definitions Corriere.it ; WordReference.com

Welcome to this week's installment of IWOW.

If you're like me and get most of your TV entertainment through Hulu, you've experienced the commercial-loop effect. By this I mean having the same exact commercial play over and over again, so much so that you've seen it 4 times over the course of a single episode. I also go on Grey's Anatomy binges, which is how I cope with post-submission nail-biting. Perhaps because of the viewer demographic, the looped advertisements I've had to watch were for Haagen-Dazs' relatively new Gelato line. Luckily for me, this commercial is entirely in Italian.

Before I break down the short clip below, let me quickly go over one of the most useful noun-verb sets in Italian: Scusa (n. an apology or excuse) and Scusare (v. to excuse or pardon).

What you will probably hear most often is the phrases Scusa, Scusami, Mi Scusi, or Scusate, all of which translate to "Pardon me," "Excuse me," or "Forgive me" in English. You would say this when you're bumping into people as you try to squeeze off a bus, or if you've just hangrily snapped at your husband and needed to say sorry.  (Hangry=hungry+angry. Yes, it's a made up word)

Now don't let the "a"s and "i"s fool you. At first glance, you would think that Scusa/Scusami is formal and Mi Scusi is informal because you've been taught to recognize the former as the Lei conjugation of scusare and the latter as the Tu conjugation. It's actually the other way around in this case because (wait for it...) we're in the imperative tense (i.e. you're "ordering" the person to forgive you). This tense has it's own conjugation scheme (that is very similar to the subjunctive), and thus Scusa/Scusami is actually informal and Mi Scusi is formal. You could, however, avoid this entire conundrum of you're speaking to more than one person and opt for Scusate, the Voi (second person plural) form.

I loathe the imperative because it has weird rules (such as using the infinitive for negative statements), so I prefer to avoid it when I can. As such, I prefer the longer but less confusing route: Devo chiederti scusa (informal) or Devo chiederLe scusa (formal), which translates to "I must ask your pardon." This checks two boxes: (a) I'm not technically giving an order, and (b) I get to use the present tense of dovere (must, to be required to), which I'm more comfortable with. 

Which brings us to the Haagan-Daz Gelato commercial. The English subtitles give you a gist of the conversation, but I'm going to break it down line by line and give you a more literal translation so you can see how the moving parts all come together. It's super short, so we'll go through the entire clip.

Husband: Ciao Amore. -- Hello Love.
Wife: Me ne vado! -- I'm leaving!
Husband: Di nuovo?-- Again?

Okay, the first and third lines are obvious, but the second probably isn't. The wife is using the compound verb andarsene. These verbi pronominali are the bane of many an Italian student's existence because they just don't translate well to English. Basically, while andare means to go (and is a very irregularly conjugated verb already), andarsene (andare + se + ne) means to leave. Se and ne are pronouns, and the se part changes depending on the subject. Me ne vado is the first person present tense conjugation of this verb.

Wife: Si di nuovo.-- Yes, again.
Wife: Vado a cercare qualcun in grado di amare qualcun altro oltre se stesso -- I'm going to search for someone (who is) able to love someone else in addition to himself.

As you can see, vado is simply to go (and do something), as opposed to me ne vado, which means to leave. By the way, in grado di is a really useful chunk of language. Adesso, non sono in grado di palare Italiano bene means "Right now, I'm not able to speak Italian well." I find it much easier to use essere (to be) + in grado di (able) than potere (can, to be able to). Amare means to love, qualcun(o) means someone, altro means else, oltre means in addition to, and se stesso means oneself/himself. 

Husband: Vai a ta mama! -- Go to your mother!
Husband: E l'unica pazza che ti supporta -- (She) is the only insane woman that puts up with you.

Vai is the second person imperative (and present tense) conjugation of andare, so vai a ta mama obviously means "Go to your mother." L'unico/l'unica means "the only." Pazza is being used as a noun in this case to mean insane woman (although it can also be used as an adjective). The verb supportare literally means to prop up or to sustain, but it's used figuratively to mean "to put up with."

Wife: E finita. -- It's finished!
Husband: E a ora -- It's at (that) time.
Wife: Addio -- Farewell
Husband: Finalmente -- Finally.

Okay, so you can probably tell the translators took a wee bit of artistic license. Finito/finita means to be finished or done. Ora means time, so e a ora means "it's at (that) time," but figuratively means "about time!" Addio you should already know, and finalmente means finally or at last (I think they went with "good riddance" to add drama). And now we get to the Word of the Week. 

Wife: Scusami. -- Forgive me. 
Husband: Amore mio -- My love. 
Wife: Perche non mi chiedi scusa? -- Why aren't you asking forgiveness? 
Husband: Ma perche non chiederti scusa? -- But why don't I ask your forgiveness?
Wife: .... -- (All I hear is gibberish, sorry)

Since I went over scusami and chiedere scusa earlier, this should be easy. Amore mio is "my love" and is used as a term of endearment. Perche means why. Non mi chiedi scusa breaks down to "you not ask forgiveness to me," which doesn't literally translate. Mi  is a (to) + me (me). While a literally means "to," it's used in a lot of instances where an English speaker might use "from," as is the case here. In English, we say "ask for something from someone," but in Italian, it's chiedere qualcosa a qualcuno. In the next sentence, the husband's being sarcastic--as in, "Why don't I ask your forgiveness?". Then the wife screams something I don't understand.

Ciao, tutti! Ci si vede il giovedì prossimo. (Good-bye all! See you again next Thursday.)

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my posts, please leave a comment.

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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

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