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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Buon Natale’

There's no better time of year to learn this festive phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Buon Natale'
Photo: DepositPhotos

We pretty sure you can guess what this one means: buon Natale is Italian for ‘merry Christmas’.

It’s all pretty straightforward: buon is ‘good’ and Natale is ‘Christmas’. But word geeks (ourselves included) will be interested to see that the Italian word for Christmas comes from the Latin for ‘day of birth’.

It’s not just anyone’s ‘birthday’ – that’s compleanno, the day you ‘complete the year’ – but one birthday in particular: natalis dies Domini, or ‘the day the Lord was born’. It’s the same root that gave English the word ‘Noel’.

Nat King Cole got the translation right in his 1959 song about “a quaint little town” in Italy where “the Christmas season is celebrated all year”: as he sings, “Buon Natale in Italy means a Merry Christmas to you”.

But his pronunciation isn’t quite on point. Here’s the proper way to wish it:

Or if you’re looking for a few alternatives, you can also say buone feste (‘happy holidays’) or more formally, ti auguro un Natale pieno di amore, pace e felicità (‘I wish you a Christmas filled with love, peace and happiness’).

And with that, all of us at The Local wish buon Natale a tutti!

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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