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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Sceneggiata’

There's no need to make a song and dance about this term.

Italian word of the day: 'Sceneggiata'
Photo: DepositPhotos

Today's word is one for the drama queens and kings: sceneggiata (pronounced “scheh-neh-jiar-ta”) meaning 'performance' or 'show'.

It's taken from the verb sceneggiare, which is 'to dramatise'. And just like in English, turning something into a drama can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances.

Sceneggiare describes literally adapting something for performance on stage, cinema or TV, and the masculine form of the noun, uno sceneggiato, is simply a 'dramatization', especially for TV.

The feminine version, however, usually refers to a live performance – traditionally, one of a very specific kind. 

La sceneggiata, also known as la sceneggiata napoletana, is as the name suggests a type of drama originating from Naples that wove melodramatic plots around classic Neapolitan songs. The form was taken around the world by emigrants leaving southern Italy behind and became known in the English-speaking world by its original name.

In today's Italian, by extension, una sceneggiata can be any type of performance for someone else's benefit. The implication is that it's insincere – as we might say in English, an 'act'. 

La sua protesta è stata solo una sceneggiata.
His protest was just an act.

The word also suggests that said sceneggiata is over the top or exaggerated. In English we might call it a 'song and dance' or a 'scene', and fare una sceneggiata or fare sceneggiate (plural) is how you say that someone's 'making' one. 

Che sceneggiata!
What a song and dance!

Smettila di fare sceneggiate!
Stop making a scene!

Do you have an Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Tirocinio’

Let us offer you some (unpaid) experience with this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: 'Tirocinio'

If you’re entering the world of work in Italy, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be offered a tirocinio (pronunciation available here). Should you accept?

That all depends on whether you think you’ll get enough benefit (and money – in the unlikely event there is any) out of an internship, which is what this slightly odd-sounding word means.

According to the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s oldest linguistic academy and the guardians of the Italian language, it comes from the Latin word tirocinium, which has two components.

The first part of the word comes from tirone, the name for a recruit to the Roman military (tirare means – among others things – ‘to shoot’ in Italian).

The second, cinium, comes from canere, meaning ‘to sound’ (a horn) or ‘to play’ (music); a tubicinium was a horn or trumpet player.

Joined together, the two words meant something like ‘a rousing of the recruits’, in the sense of an initiation or learning experience. An intern is a tirocinante.

Tirocinio isn’t the only Italian word for internship: you’ll also hear people talk about a stage (pronounced the French way, like this, as it’s borrowed from French); an intern is a stagista.

That’s the title given to Alessandro, one of the main characters in the Italian comedy series Boris, who starts an internship on the set of the medical soap opera Eyes of the Heart 2 and is soon initiated into the bizarre and dysfunctional world of Roman TV production.

Ho dovuto lavorare presso la mia azienda per sei mesi come stagista prima che mi offrissero un lavoro.
I had to work at my company for six months as an intern before they offered me a job.

Domani inizierò il mio tirocinio – auguratemi buona fortuna!
I start my internship tomorrow – wish me luck!

If you do end up working as a tirocinante or stagista, hopefully it will be less surreal and better remunerated than that of Boris’s protagonist.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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