Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Romancin' Rosetta Stone

You have to love those "Romance Languages."

I love to listen to the French and Spanish peoples speaking broken English. It can be quite a challenge trying to carry on a conversation with them. Sometimes it can be somewhat perplexing to convey a particular thought, especially if there is no equivalent word in the other language.

It was by design that I omitted the third Romance Language, Italian, from the previous paragraph. The reason for that is that I have far more experience dealing with people from Italy. My wife of thirty-six years is of Italian lineage, though she born in the States. (She's also half Irish, but that's another story.)

Imagine if you will, a hillbilly hick from the hills of West Virginia being invited to share an Easter Sunday feast in Boston with the family of a girl he'd been dating for only about three months. Picture this nervous hillbilly sitting down to break bread with the family. He is being suspiciously studied by the girl's father and mother, her two older brothers and their wives, as well as her six nieces and nephews.
During the introductions you can probably see the look of surprise on the father's face when his "Buon Giorno" is responded to with a hearty twang of "Howdy Y'all!" You can probably hear the reactionary giggles from around the table too.

That was my first encounter with my future wife's family. I wasn't certain then if I was being interrogated or if they were just fascinated by my then thick drawl. Looking back on that Easter of 1969, I did provide them with a humorous ending to the meal, and I would be reminded of it for many years after the fact.

Her mother asked me, "How did you like the meal?" As innocent and as natural as can be I replied, "Y'all folks sure make some mighty fine victuals up heyah!"
The family spoke English but would speak Italian at times, maybe so I wouldn't know what they were saying? I had, however, taken a Latin course and as such could pick out a few words here and there. In time I studied Italian on my own to the point I could at least read a some of it. I never learned to speak Italian, but I was able to communicate a little.

I'm now going to turn this post over to my Blogger alter ego, Cletus Clyde. You see, it appears that good ol' boy done went and learnt some "Aye-talian."
Howdy, folks. Yup, it's true. Bein' edumacated and all, I figgered it wuz nigh time I learnt me some foreign talkin'. It jest so happens they wuz an Aye-talian feller a visitin' some folks over in the next holler.

So I skedaddled over yonder to see iffin I might learn some Aye-talian talkin' from him. It took me till I wuz seventeen to get through the sixth grade but I didn't learn no furrin language. Hells bells, I a'ready knowed me some Aye-talian words like spaghetti, and Joe DiMaggio, and Mario Andretti and chow.

But I always heared tell that Aye-talian was s'posed to be one of them romancin' languages. Well, I tried usin' the words I knowed on some them girls 'round these parts, but they didn't appear to think they wuz so romantical.

Anyways, I found that Aye-talian feller and commenced to talkin' with him. His name wuz Giuseppe Gillespie. When I said his last name didn't sound Aye-talian like, he said his mother was Aye-talian and his father was a Gillespie from Ohio.

He said his Aye-talian talkin' wasn't none too good, but he said he knew of a surefire way that I could learn to speak it iffin I was so inclined. I ain't none too sure how lyin' down could help one speak Aye-talian, but I said I would hear him out.

He said to me, he said, "You wanna learn Aye-talian talkin'? Then you gotta get Rosetta Stone." I wuz amazed and I said back to him, I said, "That's all they is to it?" He said, "Yup. That's all it takes."

I bought him a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon and lickety-split I wuz on my way through the hollers and over the hills to the next ridge. It jest so happens they's a purty gal over yonder by the name of Rosetta Stone.

All my buddies told me that she wuz an uppity gal and that she ain't been none too receptive to most of the fellers what made passes at her. Well, all I wuz a wantin' was to learn some Aye-talian from her. I figgered iffin I wuz a good 'nuf learner, then mebbe I could use some of those romantical words on her and make her receptive to me.

Purty soon I wuz a wrasslin' with her on the ground out back of her pappy's barn. She wuz a-kickin' and a-swearin' up a storm even though I wuz a whisperin' words like spumoni and pepperoni pizza in her ears.

It wuz jest 'bout the same time that she wuz a-stoppin' fightin' so much that her Paw grabs me by the scruff of the neck and my bib overalls. He then throwed me down the hillside into a dried up crick. I looked up and he wuz a jumpin' up 'n down and a shoutin'. So figgerin' he was trying to say goodbye in Aye-talian, I waved to him and shouted, "A-river Dirty," that's Aye-talian for goodbye.
So Cletus, that's how you come to learn to speak Italian. You used Rosetta Stone. Why not tell the readers about your Italian trip?
Sure thing. I didn't really go to Italy. I only had a hunnert dollars and they wanted a considerable sum more than that iffin I wanted to go to Italy. So I took a bus ride over to Huntington. They's some Aye-talians what all live in one part of town called Little Italy.

I checked into a fancy hotel. Damn expensive place too. It cost me a sawbuck a night to stay there! Anyways, after I got all settled in, I decided I'd best check out their eatin' place and get me some breakfast. That place musta been one of them tourist traps! Gosh-a-mighty, they musta thought I wuz made outta money. They wanted two dollars for three eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast and coffee!

◊ So I practiced talkin' Aye-talian and told the waitress, "I wanna two pieces a toast." But then she showed up with a plate and only one piece of toast.
◊ I said to her, "I wanna two piece."
◊ She said to me, "Then go to the toilet."
◊ I said to her, "NO, you no understand. I wanna two piece onna plate."
◊ She got real mad and said, "You better not piece onna plate, you son-ama-bitch!"

◊ Well, I had to do without breakfast and decided to go to my room and take a nap. But when I got up there, they wuz no sheet on my bed. So I called up the manager.
◊ I said to him "I wanna sheet."
◊ "Then go to the toilet," he answered.
◊ "No," I said, "You no understand. I wanna sheet onna bed."
◊ He musta been mad too coz he said, "You better not sheet onna bed you son-ama-bitch."

◊ It was late in the afternoon when I started getting hungry again. So I went back down to that same eatin' place to get some lunch.
◊ When the waitress set the table she put down a spoon and a knife next to the plate. But she forgot the fork.
◊ So I said to her, "I wanna fock."
◊ And she shrugged her shoulders and said, "Everybody wanna fock."
◊ I sad, "No, you know understand. I wanna fock onna table."
◊ I tell you, it seems like everybody at that hotel was mad about somethin' cos she said, "You better not fock onna table, you son-ama-bitch."

◊ Well that was about all I could take of Aye-talian hospitality. So I went up stairs and gathered my stuff and threw it in my suitcase.
◊ When I got to the front desk to check out there wuz no one there. So I rung the bell.
◊ The man came out and said to me, "Peace on you."
◊ It was me who was mad by then and I said, "Peace on you, you son-ama-bitch!"
Yes, you have to love those Romance Languages - especially Appalachian!



Skunkfeathers said...

When the Rosetta I knowd got stoned, she spoke really funny...

Jack K. said...

The appropriate comment for sech a fine posting is:



OldHorsetailSnake said...

Well I be peaced onna table. Sonnybitches.

kenju said...

You sure you didn't say "vittles?"

Mr. kenju is 1/4 Italian and 3/4 Irish.

Hale McKay said...


Oh I said "vittles" because I knew that was how victuals was pronounced.

Hale McKay said...


Son-ama-bitch - my sentiments exactly.

Hale McKay said...


Pieced off is better thana pieced on - no?

Hale McKay said...


You suppose that's the same Rosetta from the hills that Cletus learnt Aye-talian from?