Eliza Robertson was our leader today, and we focused on voice as ‘an intersection of character and place’. We tried bringing out our own local, personal varieties of English, by adapting a pssage from Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. I failed, it became Tuscan very quickly.
1. Maledetti imbecilli in un paese d’imbecilli – diahane. E unn’é miha colpa loro se ci siam fatti invadere dagl’inglesi. Miha li odio, io. Son imbecili, poracci. Noi e un siam nemmanco capaci di piglianne una a modino di gente pe faccelo tirá nicculo. Sie – governati da buhaioli. E noi icch’é si diviene? Merde. Merde zozze, schifose – merdacce proprio – nemmanco merde di hane, iobono. Miha li odio gl’inglesi io. C’hanno le su cose anche loro. A me stanno su icculo I toscani.
Someone close to that speaker decided to mediate the response:
2. What I believe he’s trying to say, really, is that sometimes we feel like – and this is just sometimes of course – like there could be more cooperation between you and us. I mean, we can be difficult to deal with, sometimes, of course, no point in denying that *nervous laughter*
…but maybe a hand in more urgent matters could improve morale? Only if it’s not a burden…
And it continued.
3. ‘OH! A chi, difficult? Noi? Difficult? Mavvacahare vai, te e i’ tu’ nglese perbenino e cicici e risolini e leccaculi.. gnamo su.’
‘Well. I’m sorry, I just think we could be a little less harsh about some of the complaints. We–‘
‘Ma ndoe harsh?! Io le ho dette come lle stanno le hose, diocristo, se un sapehe icche farci son cazzacci vostri.’
I once knew this grumpy old fart
who was actually really quite smart –
he looked at his heels,
and stuck on some wheels:
shot to fame as the first human cart!
The prompt is my own, inspired by my current PhD chapter: take an non-English idiom, translate it literally, make a poem out of it. It was inevitably going to be nonsensical.
For the curious, the original Tuscan idiom is ‘se il mi’ nonno c’aveva le rote, l’era un carretto’ – literally ‘if my grandad had wheels, he’d’ve been a cart’. Similar in meaning to the English ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride’.
250 grams of your finest minced beef
Argentine or Scottish, either really is fine.
From the Mediterranean, 600 grams of onions
but yes, we can pretend they’re French.
400 grams of potatoes, brought over by the Spanish.
One single solitary egg, as long as it’s free range.
A pinch of guilt, for not visiting as often.
50 grams of Dutch, Turkish, English
bread left to dry and harden for days.
100 grams of Italian Parmigiano,
only the good stuff, finely grated.
Add a grandmother, telling you the story
of how they all met and mixed.
Boil the onions and potatoes,
drain them, sieve them, smooth and thick.
Soak the bread in clear water, mix it all together,
ask your dad for yesterday’s loaf,
there should be some in the drawer.
Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and oregano
a lot of it, make sure there’s a lot of it.
Knead the mixture of seamstresses and diplomats
migrants, mechanics and an emir’s daughter,
make sure everything blends together.
Now take some each
and roll it into smaller balls,
pass them in flour, turn on the flame,
douse them in virgin olive oil,
into the pan, turn up the heat, fry.
Let her know you’re visiting soon
as you wait for them to cook.
I met-a this Tuscan young man,
who’s Yorkshire on t’side of his nan.
He says he’s a poet
but I don’t believe it
as he can’t even finish a silly limerick, for crying out loud.
If ah were fire, ah’d burn t’ world whole;
if ah were wind, ah’d trash it;
if ah were water, ah’d drown it;
if ah were God, ah’d purrit in th’ole;
if ah were t’ Pope, ah’d be a chuffed soul,
as ah’d let all t’ Christians ‘ave it;
if ah were t’ Emperor, ah’d be reet good at it;
ah’d chop their ‘eads off, t’ one n all.
If ah were death, ah’d go to mi ol’ man;
if ah were life, ah wunt stay wi’ ‘im;
t’ same ah’d do wi’ me ol’ mam.
If ah were Cecco, like wor’ ah was an’ am,
ah’d take all t’ lasses bonny n proper,
and ah’d leave t’ gammy legs and th’old for t’others.
The original Italian (Tuscan) text.
S’i fosse fuoco, arderei ‘l mondo;
s’i fosse vento, lo tempestarei;
s’i fosse acqua, i’ l’annegherei;
s’i fosse Dio, mandereil’ en profondo;
s’i fosse papa, allor serei giocondo,
ché tutti cristiani imbrigarei;
s’i fosse ‘mperator, ben lo farei;
a tutti tagliarei lo capo a tondo.
S’i fosse morte, andarei a mi’ padre;
s’i fosse vita, non starei con lui;
similemente faria da mi’ madre.
Si fosse Cecco com’i’ sono e fui,
torrei le donne giovani e leggiadre:
le zoppe e vecchie lasserei altrui.
Cecco Angiolieri (1260-1313?)