Being a Local and the Lost Vowels

Earlier I had my  initiation into being a local, I had gone with our builder to fetch sand and cement, I was introduced to the man selling sand, we shook hands and loudly exclaimed many buon giorni then he waved his hands in the air “Nessuna vendita, gratis,” he said and ripped up the receipt, and with a huge quantity of sand for free we left him, waving as we drove off. We then went to purchase cement and after this, I assumed we’d go back to the house. But no, we pulled into the local bar and stood with the locals at the counter as two young ladies made us thimble sized cups of dark black coffee. We swallowed our caffeine hit and left. The complete exercise of entering, purchasing and consuming before leaving taking just three or four minutes. As we left the bar, several other people took our places with the same swiftness we had adopted. “Straniero non è più.” said my builder, (You no longer foreigner), so with a quick hit of Arabica bean I became a local.


Later, I popped down into the village below ours to do some errands for my good friend Christine who has a lovely house over here in Abruzzo, but at present is back in the UK. While I attended to the errands I bumped in Piero, one of her neighbours. I had met him once back in 2011 at a gathering on Christine’s wonderful terrace overlooking the mountains, and he remembered my name and what car I drove back then. He was chatting away, molto volecemenete (very quickly) and I did my best to keep up with him. After the 45 minutes of rapid chatter had concluded and we’d parted company I gave myself a well earned pat on the back for establishing effective communication with the old fella.

As I was driving home it suddenly occurred to me that during the conversation I’d begun to omit the vowel at the end of sentences as the locals do. Now the problem with doing this is firstly it’s the last vowel that signifies gender, typically ‘o’ for masculine and ‘a’ for feminine words. It’s also the vowel that denotes the plural of the gender, ‘i’ for masculine and ‘e’ for feminine. so a typical phrase like,  this house is old –(questa casa é vecchia) becomes quest casa vecch. It’s surprising how the Italian people can hold conversations and completely understand what is being said, of course most of the speech is down to inflection, it’s the stress used that turns a statement into a question. But I’m not sure my pigeon Italian is yet advanced enough for me to grasp the psychic ability to address gender and action, so for the time being I’ll continue using the final vowel, I don’t want to fall foul of any errors such as saying ‘pago’ (I’ll pay) rather than ‘paga’ (you pay).


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