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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Capodanno’

Top of the year to you.

Statue of a head inTrieste
Stay 'ahead' of the game in 2022 with this Italian word of the day. Photo by Jens Aber on Unsplash

If the year’s a body, today’s its head. That’s the literal meaning of Capodanno, the Italian for ‘New Year’s Day’. 

It makes our name for January 1st seem boringly literal in comparison, but Italians call the first day of the new year the capo d’anno, or ‘head of the year’. (You might hear people refer to New Year’s Eve as Capodanno too; in fact that’s technically San Silvestro, but at this time of year who’s counting?)

The year’s head usually starts out a little sore: most Italians stay up all night celebrating – or being kept awake by others’ celebrations – so the public holiday is a chance to sleep it off and not much else. Unless, of course, you’re one of the certifiably insane people who choose to jump into the River Tiber on New Year’s Day (it’s a thing).

Interestingly, il Capodanno hasn’t always fallen on January 1st: some parts of Italy, especially Tuscany, used to celebrate March 25th as the turn of the year, since it was the date that Christians believe the Virgin Mary was told she was to become the mother of Christ. Meanwhile the Venetians fixed March 1st, the coming of spring, as their new year, while parts of southern Italy followed the Byzantine calendar, which has the year starting on September 1st.

As a result in Sardinian dialect September is called Cabudanni, and it’s the month in which the new year of farm work begins.

But one Capodanno that didn’t take off was October 29th, the date of Benito Mussolini’s March on Rome and accession to power. The Fascists chose the date as the New Year’s Day of their Era Fascista, a calendar of their own making. So keen were they to replace the regular calendar with their own that in December 1939, they ordered newspapers not to write about a certain date coming up that Italians were no longer supposed to celebrate.

Needless to say, the scheme was just as dumb as the rest of their ideas, and happily Italy continues to celebrate the New Year on January 1st. 

Buon Capodanno!

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

Disappointment Disappointed GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Food Review GIFs

The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad Che Delusione No Che Vergogna GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Oh No GIFs

The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

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

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