I was talking to an Italian friend and explaining how I was conducting a job interview for some new graduates at our office. I used the word ‘intervista’ to describe this–which, as I was rapidly pointed out, is of course incorrect. Indeed, ‘intervista’ is a classic example of a false friend, i.e. a word that sounds like a word in your native language but has an entirely different meaning in the one you are learning. Although an intervista is indeed an interview of sorts, it is only used to describe a meeting between a journalist or presenter and a subject. For example, “Il giornalista ha avuto un’intervista col ministro.” (The journalist had an interview with the minister).
The word ‘magari’ is a little bit mystical. Just like ‘allora’, it’s a very Italian word which is used extensively in everyday speech. It’s origins are curious. It seems to come from the Greek word ‘makarios’, which means ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’. This implies that it must have originated in Southern Italy or Sicily, since the people of those territories were Greek-speaking for centuries.
The BBC has recently been broadcasting the Italian police dramas Il Commissario Montalbano and Il Commissario De Luca. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Montalbano, though this post isn’t about him. Instead, I’d like to focus on a part of speech that sometimes crops up in these shows, and indeed many others. Even now and then, the protagonist will find himself talking to a new acquaintance (yes, usually a woman) and she will say to him the enigmatic phrase “Diamoci del tu.” Literally, this means “Let’s give each other ‘you’.” The English subtitles translate this phrase as the slightly bland “Let’s talk less formally.”