“Infrasciamàtu”, the Sicilian adjective that does not exist in dictionaries

If we wanted to paraphrase its meaning, we could think of the adjective sloppy or scruffy, although few linguistic and etymological studies exist today on its origin and meanings

The Sicilian dialect has been famous for centuries for the untranslatability of some linguistic and cultural concepts, which are the result of a history linked to different dominations and mentalities. Although in many cases experts have finally discovered the etymology of certain terms and we know, in general, the context in which they were used at first, in other cases the mysteries that surround the origin of a word remain unsolved and fascinating.

This applies, for example, to the adjective infrasciamàtu (or ‘nfrasciamàtu), which continues to be used today in numerous circumstances. Surprisingly, the word does not appear in any etymological dictionary or in the Sicilian vocabularies in circulation, while it is mentioned in the Gran Circo Catania, a guide written by Giuseppe Lazzaro Danzuso and published by Carthago Edizioni. This suggests its spread in an area that coincides mostly with the Etna territory, although in recent decades it has also become familiar in other provinces of the region.

If we wanted to explain its meaning, we could think of the adjective sloppy or scruffy, or opt for the periphrasis a person dressed in rags – or, more generally, a person not dressed with care. Therefore, the adjective is often the associated with beggars, children who have just finished playing on the street and perhaps tearing their trousers, or people with little passion for fashion. Despite its semantic precision, the term has an etymology that is still uncertain, which leaves room for different theories.

The most probable would seem to be associated with the Italian noun frasca. According to the Enciclopedia Treccani, in fact, it can indicate some “cut branches of shrubs and trees” and, when declined in the plural, “clothes’ ornaments, frills”. One could therefore imagine the infrasciamàtu as a person wrapped around dry branches rather than an elegant dress, or perhaps wearing frills of dubious aesthetic taste. At the moment, however, it is only a matter of assumptions, even if philology can reserve some curious news about it in the near future.

Translated by Eva Luna Mascolino

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