8 June 2016

Politticians? Flowers?

The other day, I was reading some Art History in the Italian Language, in which I am very far from competent. I found myself stumped by the information that "il polittico e stato assegnato a Jacobello del Fiore ... ".

Politico? No; polittico with definitely two ts. It's not in my Collins Italian Dictionary. A misprint? But how could (exempli gratia) Signor Berlusconi, given his reputed sexual interests, be "assigned to Little Jaimie of the Flower"?

Only some hours later did it dawn on me that Polittico must be Eye Tie for Polyptych.

What a fool I felt! And am!!

No need to to express warm agreement with this post, or to give additional evidence for coming to the conclusion supra.


Alan said...

Fairly common in Italian, Father, and indeed in most languages. This is effort avoidance, as the tongue skives off leaping all round the mouth. Italian tends to simplify complex consonantal groups - cf for example insetto/insect, espresso/express, Massimo/Maximus, straordinario/extraordinary. Guy Deutscher also identifies the same reason for the xhange of vowel in German plurals, indicated in writing by the umlaut. In one of his books, Prof. Deutscher amusingly attributes this labour-saving linguistic innovation to the Elders of Idleford and Sig.ra Pigrizia Poltrone and her neighbours in Santa Siesta di Farniente. In English, you'll find the phenomenon in various forms decried by prescriptivists, innit?

GOR said...

No, not in my Oxford Italian Dictionary either, Father. Strange, as the term crops up so often in conversation…

But an understandable confusion, nevertheless, given that politicians tend to be ‘multi-faceted’ as a rule.

mark wauck said...

The common Online dictionaries are far from infallible, however they can be major time savers. This one is based on Collins, btw:


@ Alan: English still has a few vowel change noun plural survivals from its Germanic past:

man men
foot feet
goose geese
louse lice
mouse mice
tooth teeth

And then there are those that involve changes in consonant sounds.

mark wauck said...

I should add that ablaut shift remains a relatively prominent feature of English in its "irregular" verbs--which are actually "strong" verbs. The Great Vowel Shift put paid to the semi-regularity of the strong verb system, so now we call them irregular. Here's an amusing page for those with perhaps more time on their hands than they should have: Strong Verbs. How did we ever do without the internet?