With summer vacation just around the corner, I decided to take a look at the vocabulary that Italians use to talk about travel. So, I analyzed the language of Chiara Meriani’s The Little Pink Book Donne in viaggio (The Little Pink Book: Women on a Trip) (Astræa, 2011), a cute, pocket-sized hardcover I discovered while on vacation in Rome at the Feltrinelli in Largo di Torre Argentina. As the title indicates, what I call “travel Italian” is chock full of English.
If you’re unfamiliar with Italy’s The Little Book series, they come in a variety of colors, all featuring different themes. The Little Pink Book series focuses on topics of interest to women (everything from travel to love to lingerie). Other books in the series include The Little Blue Book (sports), The Little Green Book (plants), The Little Red Book (Christmas) and The Little Black Book (sorry ladies, no hot Italian guys’ phone numbers here—just food).
The Little Pink Book Donne in viaggio is a fun read. I loved the vocabulary related to clothing and products, such as “il total black,” which apparently refers to “the all-black outfit” and “doposole (after sun [lotion]).” I also enjoyed the history of female travel and references to cultural phenomena that reflect Americans’ desire to go abroad after World War II, such as Vacanze romane (the film Roman Holiday) and the “mito della Dolce Vita (myth of the Sweet Life).”
In terms of language, the Italian in The Little Pink Book Donne in viaggio is refreshingly contemporary yet simple to read—thanks in part to all the English! As I note in my conclusion, however, there are times that the book is unintelligible. But hilariously, this is because of the either incorrect or enigmatic use of English (see the conclusion below).
la viaggiatrice no limits (the no-limits traveller)
La viaggiatrice no limits non si fa intimidire dalla moda e nemmeno da dislivelli paurosi, fiumi e rapide, caldo insopportabile e animaletti di tutti i generi e di tutte le taglie.
(The no-limits traveller doesn’t get intimidated by fashion and not even by scary slopes, rivers and rapids, unbearable heat and animals of all types and sizes.)
la viaggiatrice eco-chic (the eco-chic traveller)
Alla viaggiatrice eco-chic la paventata fine del petrolio non fa paura: sul “suo” atollo preferito ci arriva in barca a vela, con lo skipper personale.
(To the eco-chic traveller, the feared end of petroleum isn’t scary: she arrives on “her” favorite atoll in a sailboat with a personal skipper.)
gli abiti cult della stagione (the cult clothes of the season)
gli accessori must (the must-have accessories)
Nella sua valigia non mancano mai gli abiti cult della stagione e tutti gli accessori must.
(In her suitcase, the cult clothes of the season and all the must-have accessories are never lacking.)
Shampoo-balsamo antisole e sale (anti sun and sea salt shampoo-conditioner)
Profumi alcoolfree-aftersun (alcohol-free after sun sprays)
Scegliete prodotti multiuso: shampoo-balsamo antisole e sale tutto in uno, cosmetici salvaspazio e profumi alcoolfree-aftersun.
(Choose multiuse products: all-in-one anti sun and sea salt shampoo-conditioner, space-saving cosmetics and alchohol-free after sun sprays.)
Tariffe dell’overweight (overweight [baggage] fees)
volo low cost (low cost flight)
Pesate il bagaglio a casa per non incorrere nelle tariffe dell’overweight, che può azzerare il vantaggio di un volo low cost.
(Weigh the baggage at home to avoid the overweight fee, which can cancel out the advantage of a low cost flight.)
il check in (the check in)
Per rendere la valigia facilmente riconoscibile (e recuperabile in caso di smarrimento) scrivete i vostri dati sull’etichetta fornita al check in, ma anche sulla valigia stessa.
(To make the suitcase easily recognizable (and recoverable in case of loss) write your information on the label provided at check in, but also on the suitcase itself.)
il metal detector (the metal detector)
Per passare al primo colpo senza che si attivi il beep del metal detector, non indossate oggetti metallici come cinture con fibbia, catenine, bracialetti e così via.
(To pass the first step without activating the beep of the metal detector, don’t wear metal objects like belts with buckles, chains, bracelets and so on.)
woman friendly [accomodations]
Esistono alberghi e B&B che si distinguono grazie all’accoglienza woman friendly.
(There exist hotels and B&B that distinguish themselves thanks to their woman-friendly welcome.)
una beauty farm (a spa)
Lasciate a casa la maschera al cetriolo che non avrete mai tempo di fare (a meno che non andiate in un beauty farm).
(Leave the cucumber mask that you’ll never have time to do at home [unless you’re going to a spa]).
Conclusions: As The Little Pink Book Donne in viaggio so nicely illustrates, Italians use a lot of English to talk about travelling. But that English is not always correct. For example, travellers can enjoy “una settimana di sole, mare e relax (a week of sun, sea and relax).”
The English is also sometimes recognizable to native English speakers but nevertheless incomprehensible. One of my favorite examples of this phenomenon is a reference to travellers who seek “no-real travel.” What is travel that is “no-real”? Virtual travel?
My favorite incomprehensible-English phrase of the book instructs the Italian female traveller to ask to change seats if she is seated next to “un americano stile (e taglia) Big Mac (a Big-Mac style [and size] American man).” I get that a “Big-Mac size American man” would refer to an overweight guy. But what is a “Big-Mac style American man”? A guy who loves Big Macs? A tall Texan? What?