Thursday, July 17, 2008

Il Corpo in plurale and conversations with Dante Alighieri - Italian in 10 Words a Day

In English, we don't label nouns as feminine or masculine. Sometimes, inanimate objects are referred to as him or a her like ships so I sometimes wonder how it is that some things are masculine and some are feminine in the Italian language. Yes, some words are obvious like girl and boy, man and woman but what about words like, il cuore which is masculine. The heart is the universal symbol of love. Being a woman, I am prejudiced but who loves more? A man or a woman. A mother or a father? A husband or a wife? My thoughts on this matter? I guess it just depends.

Sometimes I would like to have a conversation with Dante Alighieri and ask him, just what were you thinking? But, some things I have figured out in my own head conversations with Dante. The brain, that sexist pig, he made it masculine. But, he did make the head that holds the brain, la testa, feminine. Maybe it was out of some respect for women. Then there are all the irregular words for the body. Masculine nouns end in o if singular and i, if plural, in general. The definite articles are il for singular nouns and and i for plural nouns. Feminine nouns end in a, if singular, and e if plural, in general having definite articles of la for singular nouns and le for plural nouns.

Of course, there are exceptions. But with the body, Dante decided that, (if he is to blame) the hand, ending in o should be irregular and make the definite article, la not il. So the hand is feminine and masculine. Maybe that says something about how Dante felt about men and women. Maybe he wasn't the sexist pig I think he was sometimes. And the same is true for the word problem. Il problema. So, I think that Dante (if he was the one who chose) was pretty philosophical when standardizing the Italian language. But frankly, I think, Dante might have had some personal problems with women because shouldn't it really be la problemo? But, maybe, I should give him a break because the word for love, amore, is masculine and to me that makes him a romantic. Hence, his (il) problema. So here are the words for the day, a mix of feminine and masculine singular and plural body parts.

Singolare > Plurale
1. il braccio > le braccia - arm, arms
2. il dito > le dita - finger, fingers
3. il ginocchio > le ginocchia - knee, knees
4. la mano > le mani - hand, hands
5. l'orecchio > le orecchie - ear, ears
6. l'osso > le ossa - bone, bones
7. il labbro > le labbra - lip, lips
8. il corpo - the body
9. maniglie dell'amore - love handles (they usually come in pairs hence they are plural)
10. un abbraccio - a hug

2 comments:

Meg said...

but the sea, such a powerful, unstoppable force, is a woman. And the earth. The wind, male. It is kind of fascinating, and completely irrational, isn't it?

homebody at heart said...

Oh, it makes you wonder doesn't it? Maybe that is why after so many centuries, the Italians are still in love with Dante. He was complicated.