Wicked Good Italian Dialects

A recent visit to my father’s hometown of Abbadia San Salvatore in Siena gave me interesting insight into the concept of dialect. Family had taken me to a local restaurant, and the cousins who’d since moved out of town ordered “una latina di Coca Cola” or a can of Coke. Those relatives who still resided in town similarly ordered Cokes, but pronounced it much differently, dropping the hard C sound entirely, instead asking for “O’a-Ola.” As any native Bostonian knows, dropping a letter (like an R) gives the English language a certain flair all its own, and certainly gives the listener an indication of your proud heritage.

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A map of Italian dialects (click on image for larger version – courtesy zingarate.com)

As a native of Buffalo, where the words “merry,” “Mary,” and “marry” are pronounced the same way, and where “pop” means “soda,” and the word “hot” and “cod” take on a nasally, back of the throat twang, it’s clear to me that my husband, Jamie, who hails from north of Boston, speaks differently. When he says the word “pattern,” I must rely on context to determine whether he’s saying “Patton,” “pattin’,” or “patent.” When I first met my husband’s mom at the Cape, she suggested, “Go put ya shahts on [for the beach],” I merely stared back at her, confounded. Jamie translated, “Gina, my mom’s asking you to change into your bathing suit,” so I smiled and nodded, and she and I have gotten along swimmingly since then. The same is likely true for many Bostonians and their extended families. Their backgrounds – whether they were born in Boston or in Italy, or whether residing in the North End or Braintree – determine their particular pronunciation, grammar, or vocabulary. But just like Nonna’s minestrone, it’s the variety of the flavors that makes the mixture so delightful!

The factors that typically influence the development of dialects in a region or country include: geographical location (people living in close proximity to each other, as well as people living in isolation from others); socio-economic conditions; complex colonial history; movement of ancestry; strong regional loyalties; and the cultural influence of nearby communities. In such regions or countries, a dialect that is commonly used in the media (as in entertainment and news programming,) may be very different from the dialect used in official government business, in schools curricula, and in everyday street language. For example, a Boston news anchor may articulate the English language differently than a meter reader in Quincy. Either way, they both get their points across, perhaps one more colorfully than the other.

There are two major groups of Italian dialects -Northern and Southern, divided by the Spezia-Remini line. The northern groups are either: a) based in Veneto and speak a Venetic dialect; or b) of the Gallo-Italic group that encompasses most of the rest of the region, and is influenced by Celtic speech. As for the rest of the boot, the most common Italian dialects include: Tuscan (most of Tuscany); Abruzzese, Pugliese, Umbrian (near Tuscany); Laziale, Central Marchigiano (in and around Rome); those common to the southern part of Italy (like Napolitano); or those indicative of the outermost regions of the south, including Calabrese, Apulian, and Sardinian dialects. The rich variety speaks to the turmoil that Italy endured on the way to its unification in 1861. Only an official republic since 1946, Italy’s cultural pride is highly regional to this day. Where the Tuscan dialect is considered the national language or the “lingua italiana,” perhaps because the area is considered the birthplace of Italian literature (as in Dante, Petrarca, and Boccaccio,) still, different regions proudly embrace the differences that distinguish their manner of speaking from others in their country, much like Bostonians.

There are many other countries with multiple dialects of the same language, including Spain (10 recognized dialects), India (400 languages, and an estimated 2000 dialects), Asia (Japan has dozens, and China has at least 200 dialects), and many more all over the world. Dialects add color and diversity to language, and infuse flavor into one’s culture. After all, wouldn’t you rather have a “wicked good” cannoli than just a good cannoli?

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Going to the Movies, with Some Italian Flair

Ah, going to the movies…the big screen, the packed seats, the laughter and the tears from a great film, the whispers of “whodunit?,” the couples holding hands, and the wafting aroma of…marinara sauce?

One of the pleasures of Italy is going to the movies. It’s an experience all its own. I love movies, and while studying in Rome in the 90’s, most weekends I’d frequent a movie house in the Trastevere neighborhood. “Il Pasquino” showed American movies, typically ones I’d already seen, but it was a great taste of home.

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My first time at Il Pasquino was the most memorable, because I had no idea just how different movie theaters in Italy are from those in America. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband, Jamie,) and I bought tickets at the entrance, and then we settled into our seats for a showing of Balla Coi Lupi (Dances with Wolves.) Typical screen, typical seats, and that’s where the similarities ended. While waiting for the projector to start rolling the reel (yes, I’m dating myself,) an elderly couple showed us their tickets and told us we were sitting in their seats. Assigned seats? Apparently, Italian cinemas are big on assigned seating at most movie theaters, to this day.
movie theaterAfter we cozied into our new seats, the movie rolled, and I can tell you, Kevin Costner never sounded so good. That’s because even though the movie was in English, Costner’s voice was dubbed over by an Italian voice actor, known as a doppiaggio. This dubbing practice is prevalent, even today, and Italian cinema and television prides itself on its voice actors, who usually follow the real actor’s movie journey throughout his or her career. A funny side note: it’s tricky making a movie featuring both DeNiro and Pacino as they’re both dubbed by the same voice actor. (So, if I plan to cast DeNiro and Pacino in movie versions of my novels, the same doppiaggio can dub both The Race and The Sculptor.)

Jamie and I soon got used to the Costner stand-in and enjoyed the movie. That is, until the smell of marinara wafting in from the lobby made our stomachs growl. We’d both seen the movie before, and we decided to wait until after a major scene to dash out to the lobby for a bite. But just as the character named “Stands with a Fist” so intimately shares conversation with her handsome male lead, the film stopped, mid-scene, with a frame that read “Intervallo” (intermission!) Then and now, Italians stop their movies mid-way, regardless of the artistic timing, and grant their patrons about five minutes of freedom to move about the theater or to chat with friends on their opinion of the film thus far.

marinara with red wineBut before Jamie and I could dash to the lobby to surmise the source of the aromatic sauce, a concessionaire toting a box strapped around his neck, similar to a sporting event, began selling bags of popcorn, chips, and soda. On subsequent visits to Il Pasquino, I did determine the root of Grandma’s exquisite sauce aroma – the lobby sold hot food too: arancini or suppli (breaded orange-size balls of rice and mozzarella, with marinara sauce for dipping,) as well as eggplant and zucchini fritters, among other delectable munchies. My father told me that when he was a kid, smoking was allowed in Italian cinemas. Also, standing room only was common for big releases because of the difficulty some theaters had with keeping track of tickets sold. Today, the overall experience remains the same in many Italian cinemas: assigned seating, dubbed voice actors, intermission, halftime concession, and diverse food offerings.

The interior of an Italian movie theater is similar to that of an American one. The difference lies in the exterior: Italian ones are usually smaller, more intimate, local one-screen playhouses in each community, whereas American movie
theaters are often times multi-screen mega-plexes. Italians seem to prefer the experience of the smaller playhouse, though “Cinecity” mega-plexes are sprouting in bigger cities up north. If you’re headed to Italy, here’s a great link for finding a cinema near you: http://www.cinematreasures.org/theaters/italy

I’ve experienced similar great experiences here in the states at local art houses and independent cinemas, intimate theaters that show current mainstream films as well as throwback-era gems, independent films, documentaries, and foreign classics. On a recent visit to my hometown of Buffalo, NY, I enjoyed an evening viewing of Life Is Beautiful, an Academy-award winning Italian film by Roberto Benigni, in the historic and recently renovated The North Park Theatre, a richly detailed single-screen theater with an Art Deco marquee and an ornate interior that exudes warmth and nostalgia, lending to the viewing experience. No matter your taste in film or the time of year, it’s always the perfect time to go to the movies…with or without the marinara.

Buffalo’s NPR station, WBFO, chats with Gina Fava about The Sculptor

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WHAT GETS INTO MY HEAD?

I sat down recently with Mike Desmond at Buffalo’s NPR station, WBFO, to discuss my suspense thrillers,  THE SCULPTOR, and THE RACE, and a mixed bag of other things, such as:

  1. Joyriding a gondola in Venice
  2. The influence of counter-terrorism studies on my writing
  3. Whether I let my kids read my books
  4. Why one of my bad ass villain’s reminds me of the guy who built my deck
  5. Why I set the mysteries in Rome, Italy

Here’s the link to the podcast: http://news.wbfo.org/post/author-gina-fava-sculpts-new-novel

After listening, you might be wondering where to pick up a copy of one of my books. Just click on the cover to buy it.

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I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think…

 

Gina Fava’s THE SCULPTOR is Available Now!

The plaster has been chiseled away, 

and now all is revealed…

Gina Fava’s latest suspense thriller, THE SCULPTOR, has arrived!

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DOES ART IMITATE LIFE, OR DOES LIFE IMITATE ART…

WHEN IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY?

 

Book Synopsis:

Rome’s serial killer has a way with the ladies…first he wines and dines them, then he carves and plasters them ― alive. Preying on the brilliant, voluptuous grad students of Rome’s universities, the Sculptor excises and molds their finest features for his personal gallery of adulation. The Sculptor, Italy’s most notorious serial killer since the Monster of Florence, has confounded Rome’s police force. Their slew of suspects is growing as fast as their list of victims.

Mara Silvestri is a saucy female grad student seeking to shed her past. When she discovers that the Sculptor is stalking her in a twisted game of cat and mouse, she becomes wary of her relationships with fellow students, art professors, her business mentor, and Jesse, a sexy lothario and mysterious colleague. Barely thwarting the Sculptor’s attacks in Rome, Venice, Tuscany, and the Swiss Alps, Mara uncovers the family secrets in her past that draw him to her. Can Mara turn the tables on the Sculptor before he finally claims her as his prized masterpiece?

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Book Details

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Steepo Press
Publication Date: May 21, 2014
Number of Pages: 450 print pages

Purchase Link:    

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  The Reviews are in! And here’s what they’re saying about

Gina Fava’s THE SCULPTOR: 

From the opening attack high in the Italian Alps to the final chilling twist in the dark streets of Rome, Gina Fava’s new novel, The Sculptor, carries the reader on a harrowing journey of nonstop action, with vivid settings, sympathetic characters, and a serial killer to die for. Highly recommended.”

 ―Douglas Preston, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Monster of Florence.

 

“In The Sculptor, Fava has chiseled another fast-paced thriller featuring beautifully rendered European settings. I loved courageous heroine Mara Silvestri, and the rich cast of suspects kept me guessing right up until the hold-your-breath climax. An excellent read!”

―Steve Ulfelder, Edgar-nominated author of Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage

 

“After thrilling us with her action-packed debut novel, The Race, Gina Fava takes a slightly lateral move to an intimate, suspenseful, at times creepy but always gripping, mystery tale in The Sculptor.  Just when I thought that I figured out the bad guy, Fava threw me a curve, and then another, until I reached the shocking, satisfying conclusion.”

―J. H. Bográn, author of Firefall and Treasure Hunt

 

“Evil stalks the streets of Rome. A serial killer searches for his next victim amidst the ancient ruins and modern wonders. A smart, resilient, resourceful young woman crosses his path. How smart? How resilient and resourceful? Find out in The Sculptor, a page-turning, spine-tingling heart-stopper that will keep you up all night. And when dawn comes and you turn the last page, you will agree that Gina Fava is one of the rising young stars of the thriller genre.”

 William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of Back Bay and The Lincoln Letter

 

A unique front-to-back thrill ride worthy of our primal senses. Deliver[s] a robust thriller for lovers of the genre.”

―Rob Watts, author of The Crooked Road Through Cedar Grove series

 

 GinaFavaPhoto_MGina Fava is a Buffalo, New York native and lives with her family in New England. The Sculptor, her second novel, is the first in her Mara Silvestri mystery series. She is also the author of The Race: A HELL Ranger Thriller. A University at Buffalo graduate, she also holds a law degree, and has studied art history and counter-terrorism in Rome. Stricken with wanderlust, she travels far and wide to research new characters and new places to murder them. Visit www.GinaFava.com.

Welcoming Connection

Writers seek to relate to readers with every piece of writing that we create.  We also associate with other writers for camaraderie, information, and empathy.  We crave connection, the essence of community.

Today, I invite you to connect with me.

Welcome, officially.

The purpose of this blog is all about skeletal recomposition:  I add flesh to bare bone.  That is, as a thriller  writer, I regularly post information and then categorize it according to some of the typical elements of a thriller novel.  Let me flesh out the categories for you:

  • HEART (Characters):  Brings the Story to Life
  • SPINE (Plot/Scenes/Structure):  What Holds the Story Together and Moves It Along
  • SKULL (Style/Voice/Theme):  Getting Inside the Reader’s Head
  • FEMURS (Setting/Description):  Legs to Stand On
  • BLOOD (Spattered Information):  Miscellaneous Posts
  • SKELETAL REMAINS…OF THE DAY:  Book and Movie Reviews

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A little bit about Gina Fava, and why I leap at every connection:

Born 20 minutes from the Peace Bridge that connects Canada with Buffalo, NY, and residing somewhere between the Boston Zakim and the Cape Cod Sagamore, I attribute my writing philosophy to taking the plunge at every opportunity.

At 9, I stood with my dad on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.  He pointed to a rainbow and told me to “dream farther than the end of it”. I took the leap and filled three journals about it.  I’ve never stopped writing, or dreaming.

Later, the young man who’d rescued me from a bomb threat to our university in Rome asked me to marry him under the Bridge of Sighs after braving Venice’s Grand Canal, inspiring my suspense-driven novels and short stories, and many thrilling years of marriage.

My bios at Twitter (@ginafava) and Facebook both read:  Gina Fava, Writer of cliffhangers.  Bridge jumper.  Now you know why. I hope you’ll connect with me there, too.

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THE RACE

Connecting with Readers

I’ve recently embarked on a journey toward the publication of my two novels.

The first is a thriller, entitled THE RACE, about car-racing covert agent Devlin Luccesi, who must save Rome from annihilation and rescue his young son from an elusive international criminal and his race of followers.

THE SCULPTOR

The second novel, entitled THE SCULPTOR, is a suspense novel in which Mara Silvestri is the only woman who can stop the Sculptor from murdering Rome’s female grad students, and the one woman he truly covets for his collection.

Please take a few minutes to explore my website at www.GinaFava.com.  I hope you’ll find something that grabs you, perhaps a novel synopsis, or one of the many photos that inspired my novels, maybe a short story, or a link to another great resource that resonates with you.

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Connecting with Writers

Please take note of my blogroll.  Each one represents a part of my community, and they all truly mean a lot to me, personally and professionally.

A) Initiation Blogs

These blogs initiated me into the industry.  I still turn to them when I need succinct, sometimes brutal, always honest, never shy advice about writing and publishing.

B)  Life Support

I’ve come to rely on these blogs for great lessons in craft, or just plain old positive energy.

C)  Colleagues-in-Arms

The people who write these blogs are those authors who’ve gone above and beyond the call.  They’ve been there to kick me into gear or pat me on the back, with a post, a message, a tweet, a coffee, or a phone call, when I truly needed it.

To all of the writers listed above, I am truly grateful.  Also, not a day goes by that I’m not pleasantly surprised by a newly discovered blog, one that tickles my phalanges or inspires murderous thoughts (in a good way, I’m a thriller writer!), so be sure to check back for new ones that might pop up on my blogroll in the future.  It might just be yours.

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Coming Soon

Getting back to skeletal recomposition, consider these juicy bones to chew on in future posts:

  • Chernobyl, 25 years later
  • F1 Racing in America, professional and amateur tracks
  • Household weaponry
  • Using international slang to spice up dialogue
  • Fava bean recipes
  • Italian museums, churches, and artwork that are often overlooked
  • Reviews of great thrillers, that just might be yours
  • And many more…

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Thank you for reading this blog.  I invite you to link up with me, and the rest of the writing community, at our usual haunts.  We’d love to connect with you.  Do you have a favorite blog you’d like to recommend?