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Italian plurals-panino vs panini...biscotto vs biscotti

  • j
  • Joanne Nov 14, 2004 10:20 AM
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Hi,

I've resisted writing this email for at least 2 years but I can't take it anymore. I'll go mad if I don't at least try to enlighten the great folks who frequent the Chowhound boards. :)

Generally speaking, if an Italian word ends in an "i", it's plural. So, you can't say "I had a panini". That translates to "I had a sandwiches". The same goes for biscotto....one cookie...vs biscotti, which is cookies. Most of the time, a word ending in "e" is also plural. (There are some exceptions to that rule, but not many.)

If only everyone would read this and learn, I could die a happy Italian.

Joanne

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  1. e
    Elaine(Snutteplutten)

    I agree wholeheartedly with the panino/panini upset, although one could argue (in a subject way off topic for this message board) that when a word comes into another language it often changes its meaning and usage. (Think about the mysterious ways the ostensibly English words "block notes" and "feeling" are pronounced and used in their now ensconced places in contemporary Italian.)

    But I would caution that are there are whole host of Italian adjectives and nouns that end in e and are not plural. Not that it's important, as long as people understand what you are talking about.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)

      Pizza, pizze. Lasagna, lasagne.

      1. re: Karl S.
        e
        Elaine(Snutteplutten)

        What's your point? A noun or adjective that ends in e becomes i in the plural, and one that ends in e in the singular becames i in the plural, generally speaking. I.e., carne... carni, salume... salumi.

        'Nuff said.

        1. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)

          I think the point might have been that words ending in a become e in the plural. This is also correct and just as frequently said incorrectly as the other examples.

          Although with pizza in the American lexicon, it is hard to argue that a call to Domino's should request 2 large pizze with everything.

          And I have had a single raviolo in a restaurant. Filled with lobster.

          1. re: bacchante
            e
            Elaine(Snutteplutten)

            That's what I was trying to say, typed too quickly: a to e, and e and o to i to become plural.

            Raviolo is pretty normal - I've often had one giant raviolo (a raviolone?) in different parts of Italy.

      2. re: Elaine(Snutteplutten)

        Of course, you're right. Duh. I guess I was so caught up in the moment that I wasn't thinking clearly. I should have just stuck with the "i" issue. How silly of me. I stand corrected.

        two more pet peeves:

        raviolo, ravioli, raviolis
        cannolo, cannoli

        Thanks,
        Joanne

        1. re: Joanne

          Sorry you are peevish about "raviolis," Joanne--we know it's incorrect, but it's kind of a cutesy word for me and my family!

      3. About the only two that are correct are gnocchi and ravioli. I've never had just one gnoccho. And, it's rare that a restaurant serves a single raviolo, although I've been places where it's three.

        I rarely ever have just one biscotto, so I'm usually okay saying biscotti. Even though I speak Italian, I usually let that stuff go because people just don't care. It's the same stuff that irritates me as an English major. None is singular i.e. None of them is here.

        I also get irritated with menus that offer shrimps. Yesterday I had a native English speaker tell me that the restaurant had 3 fishes on special. Needless to say I opted for the chicken :)

        4 Replies
        1. re: Emme

          >"Yesterday I had a native English speaker tell me that the restaurant had 3 fishes on special."

          Really? Is there anything wrong with "fishes"? It may sound a little quaint to your ears, but it is perfectly acceptable--and probably better grammatically in that context than the plural "fish", which is best used in the collective sense. But who's playing the pedant here? I don't care.

          As for "pizza", it's an English word from the Italian. Don't let the spelling fool you. If it were Italian, we would italicize the word. But we don't. Almost a century's worth of naturalization should mean something. This goes for the other words as well.

          In other words, just chill and enjoy the foods!

          1. re: mod'ern

            I have a degree in English, and fishes is not something I was ever taught, but I guess you learn something new every day.

            I don't really take issue for the most part with food misnomers... I have more issues with presidential pronunciations of words like nuclear...

            1. re: Emme
              s
              Stinky Cheese

              I was under the impression that "fishes" refers to the animal (eg, there are three fishes on the menu) whereas "fish" refers to the meat.

              1. re: Stinky Cheese

                Not exactly:

                Fish: if they are of the same species

                Fishes: if you are talking about different species (of fishes)

        2. I would die a happy Italian if all my problems were so little :-) ciao

          1. You have every right to have your personal peeves, but when you've gone through your whole life having people mispronounce your name and food from your native country (pho as 'foe', etc.), then you learn to overlook harmless language blunders pretty easily...

            1. a
              Amin (London Foodie)

              (Read this message aloud, slowly, and in an Italiano
              accent)

              Alfonso, an Italian having returned from his first
              ever holiday to the US in the mid '60's (the days of
              free love and flower power), comes back to rome and is
              narrating his tales to his best friend Guiseppe.

              ''These Americano's….They are Crrraazzy…''
              Guiseppe: Why are the Americano's Crrraazzy ??
              Alfonso: I wenth for my holidays to Chicago, and
              stayed in the Hotel Seville de Chicago.

              I arrive in the morrrning(a), and check into my room
              a), thenna (then), I wenta to the restaurant(a)
              downstairs to hava some breakfast(a). I ordered som(a)
              tea and some(a) Toast(a)

              The waitress, she bringa me one piece(a) da Tossta,
              and I always like(a) two piece(a) da toast(a) with my
              tea, so I tell her…Hey waitressa…I want 2 piece(a). She
              tell me, go to the toilet(ta). I say…No..No.. I want
              2 piss(a) on my plate(a).

              She tell me ''Well you betta not(ta) pissa on the plate
              (a) you son of a beech.

              After breakfast(a), I go outta for shopping, and come
              (a) back(a) in the evening, full of gifts for the
              bellasima, and very tired….I go straight(a) to the
              restaurant(a) to have a dinner. I see that there is
              only one Fork(a), and one Knife(a). I always like(a)
              to have two of each….So I call the waiter….I say ''Hey
              Waiter…I want(a) two Fork(a)….He shrug his shoulder
              and say ''Who doesn't ?? . So I bang(a) the table and
              I tell him….;No…No… I want(a) two Fork(a) on the
              table….He tell me ''Well you betta not Fork(a) on the
              table you son of a beech.

              After Dinna, I go upstairs to my room(a) to sleepa. I
              am very tired. I see that on the bedhh, there is only
              one sheet(a) and as I always like to have(a) a double
              sheet(a) , I call up housekeeping, and I tella
              her…''Hey housekeeping… I want(a) two Sheet(a)… She
              tell me ''Go to the toilet''. I tell her, you silly
              woman, I wantta two sheet(a) on the bedhh. She tell
              me ''Well, you bett(a) not sheet(a) on the bed, you
              son of a beech.

              The next morning, I go downstairs to check(a) outta da
              hotel. At the reception, there is this Man with(a)
              da long hair, a flowery shirt(a), and a medal around
              his neck(ka). I pay my bill to him, and then he make
              a V sign with his fingers and he tell(a) me ''Peace on
              you Sir''. . I become(a) verrry angry. I put up(a) my
              two fingers and I tell(a) heem….''Peeess on you too
              Sir…I going back to Eeetaly.''

              1 Reply
              1. re: Amin (London Foodie)

                This is such a funny story! Thanks for brightening up my morning!

              2. I am also Italian, 70 years old, family from Lucca. I HAVE BEEN INCENSED FOR YEARS ABOUT THE AMERICANS WHO CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SINGULAR AND PLURAL ITALIAN WORDS!!!!

                I love your comment about not using "proper italian" and constantly try to tell starbucks and other establishments, restaurants, etc. to use panini and panino. I have been on what I thought was a one woman crusade to teach americans the differenct, and other foreign born persons. The ONLY place I saw the word pannio used correctly, and explained was a small coffee and treats and salads shop on Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Seattle. Above the menu on a chalk board was an explaination, almost exactly as you wrote above, explaining proper usuage. I asked the young lady how and why she knew this and why have it explained in her shop. She said she had studied in italy and wanted people to know proper italian. god bless her!! the stewardess on the flight home went down th aisle asking who wanted a "panini" or a salad. From the opposite aisle a man told her it's panino for one person. that started a 10 year and counting crusade. Good for you. A woman after my own heart!! ciao and thanks.