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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Nonché’

Not only is this word useful, its meaning might surprise you.

Italian word of the day: 'Nonché'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Perhaps it's just me, but nonché (pronounced “non-keh”) always makes me do a double take. 

It starts with non, the word for 'not', so it must be a negative, right? 

Well, no. Don't make the same mistake I do: nonché is a positive in disguise, meaning 'and also' or 'as well as'.

Lo ricorderò a lei, nonché a suo fratello. 
I'll remind her, and also her brother.

Riceverai per posta l’avviso, nonché il bollettino da pagare.
You’ll get the notice in the post, as well as the bill to be paid.

It's especially useful when you're giving a list and want to avoid repeating e ('and') too many times.

Il candidato dovrà sostenere una prova scritta e una orale, nonché un colloquio in lingua straniera.
The candidate must take a written and oral exam, as well as an interview in a foreign language.

The confusion comes from the fact that nonché looks a lot like non che, which means 'not that' and serves pretty much the opposite function: to show not that something is included, but that it's excluded.

Non che io non voglia aiutarlo, però deve essere più cauto.
Not that I don't want to help him, but he should be more careful.

Just remember that sticking the two words together and popping an accent on the final 'e' transforms them into something else altogether. That's languages for you! 

Do you have an Italian phrase 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: ‘Scarabocchio’

Can you fathom the meaning of this word?

Italian word of the day: ‘Scarabocchio’

If you haven’t yet found a proper Italian word to describe the unintelligible collection of dots, wonky lines and swirls that Italian doctors often nonchalantly passes off as a prescription, scarabocchio might do the trick.

Scarabocchio is the Italian equivalent of ‘scribble’ or ‘scrawl’ and it describes to any piece of writing or drawing whose meaning can’t be fathomed. 

Ho lasciato la lista della spesa sul tavolo!

Si, l’ho vista ma non ci ho capito niente. Era tutto uno scarabocchio…

I left the shopping list on the table!

Yes, I saw it but couldn’t understand any of it. It was all a scribble…

From a five-year-old’s abstract artworks to a colleague’s poor excuse for a handwritten note, you can use scarabocchio for pretty much anything – as long as it figures on a piece of paper. 

Though it is a bit of a mouthful (pronunciation available here), Italians love to use the word in daily conversations, especially so when it comes to mocking the unfortunate author of the scribble. 

Ti ho fatto uno schema per farti capire meglio.

Ma cos’e’ ‘sta cosa? Mi sembra proprio uno scarabocchio…

I’ve drawn a diagram to help you understand.

What on earth is this? It looks like a scrawl to me…

The word comes from the fusion of scarabeo (beetle) and the pejorative suffix -occhio (also used in ranocchio, meaning ‘ugly frog’, and marmocchio, meaning ‘bratty kid’). 

Though today’s scribbles may not resemble the shape of a beetle, they most likely did back in the days when poor handwriting skills would result in your quill creating circular blots of ink on the paper.

That’s why, to this day, Italians refer to scribbles as ‘ugly beetles’. 

Funnily enough, sgorbio, one of scarabocchio’s synonyms, also takes its name from an animal, namely the scorpion. But that’s a story for another time.

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

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