Siculish, or how English influenced Sicilian dialect

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From the crossroad of Sicilian and American language, a new one came into the world: a hybrid reminiscent of Anglo-American for vocabulary, but adapted to local spelling and phonetics.

The first languages ​​of influence to which you may think, when it comes to Sicilian dialect and its  origins, are French, Spanish and Italian. Catalan and Provençal had their importance too, as well as Arabic and Norman, that prove the island’s multicultural history. On the contrary, the impact that American English had especially in the 20th century is less known, perhaps. It was due to phenomena such as mass immigration and world wars, in which Sicily was strongly involved. Therefore, the so-called Siculish came from the crossroad of Sicilian and American language: it is a hybrid reminiscent of Anglo-American for vocabulary, but adapted to local spelling and phonetics.

In addition to the well-known names of some “revisited” cities, such as “Nova Jorca” and “Brucculinu” for New York and Brooklyn, there also is the adverb “veru”, coming from “very” and used in expressions such as “siccuveru” (very skinny) or in similar ones, where the speaker wants to underline the intensity of an adjective. And what about words like “sciàbbula”, which in Italian would be equivalent to “spade”, while in English is “shovel”? The same goes for “rifriguirera”, derived from “refrigerator”, “nepichina”, inspired by the word “napkin”, and even for “sciào”, an alternative to some better known variants to indicate the “shower”. In fact, this is what the ears of those who had just arrived in America understood, as their English was bad and poor yet.

And we shall not forget the “ciunga”, i.e. the American “chewing gum”, yet another demonstration of the influence of American on the land of Etna. Next time you hear a Sicilian word with an uncertain etymology, then keep in mind that it may have travelled to Sicily on a passenger ship from the States or in a letter sent from Manhattan.

 

Translated into English by Eva Luna Mascolino

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