You may recognise today’s word from Italian headlines or speeches by the prime minister.
Fasce is not the most commonly-heard word in Italian most of the time but it’s suddenly on everyone’s lips, as we all wait to hear which one we’re in.
It’s the plural form of fascia (pronounced fah-shah), which means a “band” or “strip”, usually of fabric or wood. It can be used when talking about bandages, or nappies.
But it can also be used to mean “zone”, “area”, or “section” and this is the sense in which government ministers have been using it.
This is of course when talking about Italy’s new tier or zone system, under which the coronavirus restrictions will vary from one region to another.
– Il paese è diviso in tre fasce
– The country is divided into three zones
– C'è una terza fascia
– There’s a third section
It’s not to be confused with the word fase (meaning “phase”, pronounced “fah-zeh”), which was also used by ministers a lot recently in relation to the changing coronavirus situation.
Nor should fascia be confused with the masculine fascio or its plural fasci – a very different thing altogether.
While it can mean “bundle” (of sticks, for example) it’s usually associated with the fascio littorio or, in Latin, the fascis, an ancient Roman weapon and a symbol of power and authority which is widely believed to be where Italy's fascist movement got its name from.
So be careful with the pronunciation – but hopefully knowing this little word will make the Italian news a little easier to follow in the coming days.
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