Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

Some expressions taken from “contadini” (farmers) often make us laugh with their extremely colorful dialectal expressions.

We consider ourselves proud champions of a cultured language that has nothing to do with the countryside. Realistically, not everyone knows that our marvelous Italian language, also called “volgare” because it was originally spoken by the less cultured, was slowly formed from an agricultural “Latin”.

Simplifying, Italian is a neo-Latin language that naturaly developed from the progressive disintegration of Latin because a more efficient means of communication was needed; direct and colloquial and with a stronger potential for “orality”.

In addition, Latin, differently from other classic languages like Greek or German, never presented a philosopic/speculative matrix (there weren’t terms which defined concepts), but was formed as a langauge thanks to the rapport among some technical dialects.

Among these, the importance of the language of agriculture (the principal economic resource of Ancient Rome) prevailed. Therefore, it isn’t incorrect to say that the Italian language was born in the fields, among the hard work, satisfactions, and accidents that working the land entails.

Like the “fiori” in the song of Fabrizio De Andre’, a famous Italian folk singer, the language that we speak daily, bloomed from the mud, from the rhythms of time touched by sun, rain, churchbells, the flight of birds, and from the life cycles of plants and trees.

The first great literary works in “volgare” were in the 1300’s, in a new language which was already spoken in Tuscany for some centuries: Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio, fathers of the Italian language, while maintaining a certain literary expressiveness, reached out to the agricultural world, to agrarian metaphors, to words which sing and gurgle about the farm culture.

“Il fiorentino”, Florentine dialect, is a living language which was normalized and codified starting in the 1500”s, thanks to the “questione della lingua” raised by the Venetian, Pietro Bembo, then by the Milanese Alessandro Manzoni in the 1800’s, and finally spread by the RAI TV in the 20th century.

“Il fiorentino” systematically inserted this classical legacy into the agricultural sector which characterized central Italy for almost 1000 years. In the social and cultural microcosm, this language, necessarily communicative and rarely written, was formed by exclamations, expressions and often curses typical of the farm worker.

They have arrived today as an integral part of the Italian language. In fact, these expressions of country life, originating in Latin and recovered by the Florentine “volgare”, have been camouflaged in our daily discourse more than one can imagine.

Francesco Sorelli – Il Bisarno Oltre la Sieve