Che due marroni! and more thoughts on the Berlusconi gaffe

Above: this morning, my college friend Steve Muench sent this pic of chestnuts roasting in Piazza della frutta in Padua, where he and I attended university in 1987-88 (my first year in Italy). I played my first Italian gig in that square, at Bar Margherita.

There’s a saying in Italian, che due marroni!, literally, what two chestnuts! I’ll spare you the figurative meaning and its reference to the male anatomy: it can be translated as what a pain in the butt!

I spent the better part of the morning getting my gmail back online. I know a lot of people had email bounce back but it seems to be working properly now. Sorry for the hassle.

In other news…

Today, Cristiano left this insightful and thoughtful comment on my Berlusconi gaffe post:

    The fact is that Berlusconi, and a lot of people in Italy for that matter, don’t seem to be able to see the fact that the pun is indeed a racist one and feel offended if this is pointed out to them.

    I really wonder how Berlusconi really is viewed by people out of Italy.

It reminded me of a passage in a book that I read over and over again as a teenager, The Big Sea by Langston Hughes (btw, I referenced a Langston Hughes poem in my post-election Harlem post from last Wednesday). In the 1920s, the young Hughes traveled to Italy and visited his friend Romeo in Desenzano in Lombardy. Note that in Italian, vino rosso can be referred to as vino nero or black wine:

    The night we arrived was Sunday and the whole village had gone to the movies. There was no one home at Romeo’s house and he had no key, so we left our baggage piled in the doorway and went to the movies, too. It was one of those theaters where the screen is at the front of the house beside the front door, so you come in facing the audience Just as we came in, the house lights went on between reels, as they were changing the film. The place was crowded, but as we entered and the people saw us, the whole crowd arose and began to make for the doorway. Soon they became a shouting, pushing mass. I didn’t know what they were saying, for they were speaking Italian, of course, and I didn’t understand Italian. But Romeo and I were swept into the street and surrounded by curious but amiable men, women, and children. Finally, Romeo’s mother got him through the crowd and threw her arms about his neck. I gather that almost all of the people of the village were Romeo’s friends, but I didn’t know why so many of them clung to me and shook my hands, while a crowd of young boys and men pulled and pushed until they had me in the midst of them in a wine shop, with a dozen big glasses of wine in front of me.

    Later that night Romeo explained to me that never in Desenzano, so far as he knew, had there been a Negro before, so naturally everybody wanted to look at me at close hand, and touch me, and treat me to a glass of vino nero. Romeo said they were all his friends, but hardly would the whole theater have rushed into the street between reels had it not been for me, a Negro, being with him.

I’ll leave the exegesis of this passage up to you…

4 thoughts on “Che due marroni! and more thoughts on the Berlusconi gaffe

  1. Pingback: Sunday Poetry: Love is like red, red wine « Do Bianchi

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