Italo-Americano: We think New York, The Godfather, pizza, spaghetti with meatballs, a dark haired women yelling “Mamma Mia” at her child, or two old men having a seemingly secret conversation while puffing cigarettes on a street corner. Any American who hears capeesh immediately thinks Mafia, and that someone has just been given orders to see to it that so-and-so sleeps with the fishes.
On the whole our American outlook on Sicily and Sicilians has been so influenced by the idea of “Mafia” that we’ve created two separate identities for thinking about Italy. There’s the mainland full of art, wine, and romance, then there’s the island, which is a lawless land run by large men with dark mustaches and brimmed hats pulled low over their eyes. Don’t lie, you’ve all been thinking it.
The beautiful thing is that in some ways you’re not wrong! While Sicily shouldn’t have the reputation of an island of infamous organized crime, it also shouldn’t be lumped together with the rest of Italy. The Sicilian identity is extremely important and it’s this pride that helps preserve the islands unique and varied culture.
So that being said, let me give you something to think about other than what the Godfather has taught you. Here’s a mini lesson in local Sicilian dialect and how it differs from classical Italian!
|SICILIAN||ITALIAN||HOW IT’S USED|
|Beddu, Bedda(beh-du, beh-duh)||Bello/Bella||Used to express a greeting, compliment beauty, or to attract attention||“Ciao Bedda!”“Ciao Bella!”“Hey gorgeous!”|
|Comu semu?(coh-moo seh-moo)||Come siamo?||How’s it going?||“Ou Papa comu semu?”“Ciao Papa come siamo?”“Hey Dad how’s it going?”|
|‘Mbare(mm-bah-ray)||Amico||Friend, buddy, dude, etc||“Ou ‘mbare uni vai!?”“Ciao amico dove vai!?”“Hey dude where are you going?!”|
|Mangiasti?(maan-ja-stee)||Hai mangiato?||Have you eaten?||This is the first question asked upon entering the house.|
|Piciriddu(pee-chee-ree-du)||Ragazzino||Used as a name for talking about a child.||Il piciriddu dormeIl ragazzino dormeThe child sleeps|
|Idu, Ida(ee-du, ee-duh)||Lui, Lei||Him and her||“Dissi a idu”“Ho detto a lui”“I told him”|
|Ogghiu(oh-gui-u)||Olio||Oil||Oggiu d’OliveOlio d’OliveOlive Oil|
|Capisti(kah-pee-stee)||Hai capito||Do you understand?OrGet it?||In America it became “capeesh.”|
|Futtitinni(foo-tee-tee-nee)||Fregatene||Don’t worry about itOrWho cares||This is one of the most famous Sicilian slang words and also could be considered a mantra|
|Mu scuddai(moo skoo-die)||Ho dimenticato||I forgot||Mu scuddai u paneHo dimenticato il paneI forgot the bread|
There you have it! A little taste of Sicilian and some of the most common words and phrases you’ll hear in Sicily. As you can see the difference between Sicilian and Italian can be so great that thinking about them as two separate entities is completely natural and understandable. As long as something other than Marlon Brando or Al Pacino pops into your head when you hear the world Sicily, I’ve done my job!