22 November 2010

How to create panic in Italy...

I mentioned a while ago that I occasionally make mistakes in terms of my Italian.

My last reported mistake was getting the words for hornet (calabrone) and samples (cambione) confused and telling everyone that we had lots of samples at home.

Well, today I did it again.

For some time, we've been purchasing boxes of 'accendifuoco' for our fires. These are little tablets which are available in either a petrochemical or a natural form. We use the natural form which is made up of compressed sawdust. We use them to light our fires because paper burns too quickly. We put a tablet in the middle of the fireplace, build a little kindling tee-pee over the top of it and wait until the fire is strong enough to tackle wood.

Now, any half intelligent person learning Italian would observe that the word 'accendifuoco' is made up of two words: accendi (light) and fuoco (fire).

For months, I've been talking about cutting wood for our 'fuoco', lighting our 'fuoco', wanting a 'fuoco', etc.

Well, tonight when we arrived at our Italian lesson, our teachers asked us what we've been doing lately.

I proudly announced that we had installed a fire in our lounge.

They looked at each other and smiled, then one of them waved her arms in a rather erratic manner above her head and ran around in circles yelling 'Panico! Un fuoco!'

I looked at Stu. Stu looked at me. Clearly our teachers needed a break. We wondered when the next school holidays were.

After a few minutes, they'd calmed down enough to tell us that 'fuoco' was used in a panic situation when a fire had broken out. One of the teachers went over to the blackboard and drew a picture of a fireplace and called it a 'camino'.

So now I know.

I also know that it's far worse to be telling people you're responsible for a fire outbreak than telling them you've got lots of samples at home...


  1. Thats a good one. - But I am a bit horrified to think of all the classics that you are not even aware of. Watch the Italians in the shops - if you see them snigger when you arrive, you will know that you dropped a clanger when you last visited them. Dad

  2. Hysterical thanks for this gem - I would say that the students need a break from the teachers in this case as they should be prepared for errors of this kind.

    Now that lets see what gems you will ave with the plumber lol :)

    Dianne Chiola

  3. We had a similar experience. I went to investigate a 'fuoco' behind the vineyard which as setting off exploding bamboo and igniting the hedgerow. My wife back at the house, was directing perplexed helpers by pointing and saying 'fiore' !!


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