This guy I was dating messaged me a while back saying: Ciao patatona, come stai?

I looked at it for a second and said, what the hell

Let me break this down for you: patata is potato, and if you add ona or one to the end of a word it means big.

However, patata is another word they use for a vagina. So I said, why the hell is this guy calling me a BIG VAGINA? And yes, that was exactly how I responded to him. As if I didn’t already have enough trouble reading this guy, then he had to throw me this curve ball.

I already thought that I was one step ahead of the game knowing the double meaning of potato. Turns out, there’s a THIRD usage, which apparently means you’re sweet and cuddly, like a teddy bear. So…big vagina. I was way off.

But to be fair, my English friend who’s in the same language boat as myself, works in a preschool and wondered why the parents would call their children “patatina.”

In her lovely British accent: “I didn’t really assume a mom was calling her child a little vagina, but I was slightly confused.”

I’m always worried that in my fogginess of not quite getting all the shades of the language, I let some things slide. Laugh off the things that really deserve a fuck you because I don’t fully understand.

Case and point: I was with this same guy a few months ago, and he calls me maialina, in the midst of lets say, “making out.” Now, translated to me, that means little pig.

I paused for a moment. My first instinct was to wallop him. Then I thought I would just go straight postal on his ass. Instead I froze. Carried on as if nothing had happened and made an immediate mental note to ask my Italian girlfriend later. When I asked her, she assured me under the “circumstances” it wasn’t a bad thing.

“Don’t worry. It’s like a bitch, but not like a whore.”

I’m not sure that makes me feel any better Tonia, but ok…

It’s not like vacca, she assured me. Vacca is actually a word for a cow, but also used to call someone a slut. So if I’m a piglet I’m good, a cow, well….I’ve made a reputation for myself and I should probably move back to the States. Highly confusing but duly noted.

Side note: still really perplexed on maialina and I’d prefer nobody to ever call me that again, if at all possible.

These are truly the shades of the language that wordreference.com just does not give you a hand with and that make my sharp wit that I possess in English just turn to mush.

That’s the comprehension bit. Let’s talk about my verbal delivery, shall we?

There are just some things my mouth cannot physically do with this language. I still can’t roll my Rs, never could, still can’t. And so I avoid saying things like arrivederci. Like, I don’t say it. Ever. Ciao will forever be my go to for saying bye! Or double consonants. You linger on them more with Italian words, but to my ear, it all sounds the same. I’m not used to the difference because in English it doesn’t exist, whether there is one M in the word or two, we pronounce it all the same. But messing it up here can be an issue.

For example. Ano means anus, but anno means year. Since I use the latter quite often on a day to day basis, I make sure I hold out that N. Or pene, which means penis and penne that is the pasta. I say it, and it sounds like one in the same. Ok, so I’ll never order penne at a restaurant, ever, so as to avoid possibly asking for penis al pomodoro.

Then there is scappare, which means to escape and scopare, which means to fuck. One slight change in the vowel and suddenly your conversation can take on its own perverse course. If you’ve had one too many drinks or you’re simply tired, this is an easy slip up and the next thing you know you’re telling the guy at the street meat truck outside the club that Rhode Island is so small and you just felt this need to fuck and come to Italy. And suddenly this gentleman thinks he’s hit the jackpot and now you’ve got to backpedal a bit.

I can’t take credit for this one but I once had an American friend who mistakenly referred to her padrone di casa (landlord) as her pappone (pimp). Classic.

And forget the accents. The farther south I go in this country, the less I understand. I’m going to a wedding in Naples next weekend (stay tuned, blog post to follow), and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be 24 hours of sheer and utter confusion.

Does Italian ever get any easier? Or better yet, does there ever come a time when I’ll know when someone is making fun of me? Insulting me? I’m getting there. I can finally hold my own in a verbal argument in Italian, and for that I’m quite proud, I’ve made huge strides. However, I still feel this overwhelming need to assure everyone that I’m much more intelligent in English. Not to mention way funnier…