Jokes and andecdotes

There is a story, occasionally told of Pietro Bembo and his guest, Count Montebello. It is highly unlikely that there is anything true about it, save perhaps the characters and the mores of the time.

When Count Montebello, known for his excellent manners,was attending a dinner at Bembo’s house, he suddenly got up and, after looking around and observing all the splendors of the humanist’s humble abode, directed his steps towards one of the servants and spat in his face. Later, he explained that everything at Bembo’s house was so exquisite and clean that he simply could not find a more suitable place to spit.

Now, if you try to find this story in some modern collection of anecdotes, you will probably read in it that the count actually spat into the servant’s mouth. It seems to me that the anecdote has been poorly translated from Latin, because a) there is no reason for the servant’s mouth to be open at the moment b) the Latin word os that means “mouth” also can mean “face” in a lot of contexts.

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It is a known fact that the English language lacks colorful phrases that one is supposed to use in various social drinking situations. All the more reasons to learn some Italian toasts! Italians seem to have a few toasts that fit every occasion. If you can’t pronounce them right, at least try to appear enthusiastic when hear these phrases.

Alla tua salute! – To your health!
Cin cin! – All things good for you!
Propino tibi! – I drink to you! (this toast is actually in Latin, the language from which modern Italian stems)
Propino tibi salutem! – I drink to your health! (a longer version of the toast above)
Per cent’anni! – One hundred years <of luck to you>!
Auguri! – Best wishes!

Finally, a traditional Italian wedding toast:

Evviva gli sposi! – “Hooray for the newlyweds”

See also:

Italian wine customs and etiquette
Pairing Italian wines

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Italian School System (Spare the Rod)

March 10, 2011

This odd bit is from a nineteenth-century book: The Jest Book: The Choicest Anecdotes and Sayings by Mark Lemon. A SCHOOLBOY being asked by the teacher how he should flog him, replied, “If you please, sir, I should like to have it upon the Italian system — the heavy strokes upwards, and the down ones […]

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Italian government – insider’s insight

January 16, 2011

Although this phrase is sometimes attributed to Benito Mussolini, it was most likely uttered by Giovanni Giolitti (1842 –1928), an Italian statesman who served as Prime Minister of Italy five times. Supposedly, when asked by a journalist whether it was impossible to rule Italy, Giolitti replied, “It is not impossible. It is useless.” For many […]

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