In the last decades many English words have become part of the Italian vocabulary.

We have words of common use, as fitness, check-in or ticket in our everyday life but there are also professional areas that rely uniquely on the English vocabulary, just as economics, design and many others.

Do you know that it has not been always like that?

Back in the 20’s the Kingdom of Italy tried to gather the Italian language under a unique vocabulary made of pure Italian words. This process was called “italianization” and its aim was to force the cultural and ethnic assimilation of the native minority populations living in the former Austro-Hungarian territories with the rest of the Italian community. In fact the subject of this process was the use of Italian, and the goal was to give an idea of vocabulary strength and linguistic autonomy which would have supported the population unity with a pure use of the Italian language. The process of “italianization” was conducted during the Fascism, between 1922 and 1943.

How did they carry it on?

In order to create an immaculate Italian vocabulary, the fascist regime banned every kind of “foreign contamination” from other languages as English  or French within press and publishing houses. They translated every foreign word that was already part of the Italian vocabulary: for example “sandwich” became tramezzino, which is currently used, “bar” became mescita and “cocktail” became bevanda arlecchina, an expression which is not used anymore, that can be translated as “colorful drink“.

This policy pursued also family names, translating foreign-sounding names into Italian such as the slovenian name Vodopivec which turned into Bevilacqua or Krizman into Crismani. The world of sport, which has many English and French words underwent by this policy too: the Italian Football Federation (Federazione Italiana Football) soon became Italian Federation Calcio Game (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio) which is currently used, and the word “football” was replaced with palla al calcio.

Rita Fabbri