Words on the street: graffiti campaign aims to save endangered Italian vocabulary

Clare Speak
Clare Speak - [email protected] • 26 Oct, 2018 Updated Fri 26 Oct 2018 15:20 CEST
image alt text

Editors at a publishing house have launched an unusual street graffiti campaign to save lesser-used Italian words from extinction.


The Italian language is in danger of losing its beauty and complexity, language experts have warned, as writing becomes increasingly simplistic and people rely on an ever-smaller range of vocabulary with which to express themselves.

Italian, as its students know, is a complex language with many fascinating words.

But many of these words are now falling out of use, and apparently our brief communications in the digital age are at least partly to blame.

Editors at the Zanichelli publishing house have drawn up a list of lesser-used words in serious danger of disappearing from the written language altogether, and launched an unusual campaign to save them.

Using the words in graffiti on the pavements, editors say, gives “opportunities for reflection on our capacity for expression.”

It’s “not by chance” that the words have been painted in the streets “where we walk with our eyes down, answering messages or looking at the latest social media post,” they added.

From the grand total of 3125 entries, Zanichelli has somehow narrowed the list down to just five words for the campaign using graffiti on Italian city streets.

The five chosen words (and their English translations) are:

  • Bòria (noun): haughtiness, conceit
  • Denigràre (verb): denigrate, disparage
  • Insìgne (adjective): distinguished, eminent
  • Solèrte (adjective): diligent, zealous
  • Corroborare (verb): corroborate, strengthen

The complete list includes words like ondivago (wavering) and taccagno (miser).

The campaign also features other Italian words that describe literary devices and terms, such as 'onomatopea', as well as false friends in foreign languages.

READ ALSO: 12 signs you've cracked the Italian language 

The graffiti can now be seen in the streets of Turin, Milan, Padua and Naples. There are 50 pieces of graffiti in each city, each one marked with the hashtag #laculturasifastrada

The eco-friendly paint used for the graffiti, apparently made with yogurt, will be removed using ‘nothing but water’ after two weeks. 



Clare Speak 2018/10/26 15:20

Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also