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La storia: History or Story?

In this lesson, we'll take a look at a noun, a cognate in fact, that easy as it is to guess, can also create confusion sometimes, because it means a couple of different things. In English we distinguish among history, story, experience,and love affair. Italian relies on this one noun, la storia, to tell plenty of different stories! 

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We mention, for those interested, that in literature, we might also find istoria as a version of the word, and that la storia comes from the Greek "istoria" and the Latin "historia."

But let's talk about how people use la storia practically, in conversation. It's hard to get through a day without using this word in one way or another. 

History

In the following example, it's clear we're talking about history. 

Nella storia si sono usate le diverse chiavi per fare in modo che tutte le note si trovassero il più possibile dentro al pentagramma.

Historically, different clefs were used to make it so that all the notes would be, as much as possible, inside the staff.

Captions 18-19, A scuola di musica con Alessio - Part 3

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1) Can you say the same thing turning storia into an adverb, as in the translation? 

 

Here, too, it's clear. It's also clear because storia is used with no article, and it's singular.

Io quando sono in questi posti pieni di storia, faccio dei pensieri profondi.

When I'm in these places so full of history, I have profound thoughts.

Captions 2-3, Amiche Filosofie

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2) What if Anna (the speaker) was just talking about one specific place? What would she say?

 

Sometimes it's hard to know whether we're talking about history or stories, but it doesn't always matter. A translator has to make a choice, but the learner, reader, or listener doesn't. We're talking about past events, and if they are true, then we could also say, "history."

Voglio raccontarvi qualcosa di me, della mia vita, della mia storia.

I want to tell you something about myself, about my life, about my story.

Captions 13-14, Volare - La grande storia di Domenico Modugno Ep. 1 - Part 2

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Romance

When it comes to romance, there are different ways to talk about a relationship. The most common way, and this doesn't really have an equivalent in English, is with the noun storia. Of course we can say "love story" in English, (and we can say storia d'amore in Italian) but we don't so much these days, and it is usually an important relationship in one's life. In fact, translators can have a hard time finding the right word for translating storia. The following clip is from the story of an opera, so an old-fashioned word like "romance" seemed appropriate.

Abbiamo riso, abbiamo parlato. Ci siamo ricordati tutti i momenti belli della nostra storia.

We laughed, we talked. We remembered all the beautiful moments of our romance.

Captions 16-17, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 2

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Ho avuto anch'io una storia con una collega.

I also had a relationship with a colleague.

Caption 51, Il Commissario Manara S2EP5 - Mondo sommerso - Part 15

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In the previous example, we might have said "affair" instead of relationship, or possibly "fling." But not knowing the details, it's hard to know what the appropriate word might be.

 

In the next example, however, Luca Manara calls the relationship una relazione, another common term for a romantic relationship, close in meaning to storia, but una storia is often short-term with a beginning and an end, whereas una relazione can give the idea of something ongoing. But as we can see, here the two terms seem to be fairly equivalent. 

Prima le bugie sul tuo trasferimento qua, poi sulla tua relazione con Raimondi. -La mia storia con Fabrizio non ti riguarda.

First, the lies about your getting transferred here, then about your relationship with Raimondi. -My relationship with Fabrizio doesn't concern you.

Captions 15-17, Il Commissario Manara S2EP8 - Fuori servizio - Part 1

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When a relationship is short or not very serious, we can use a suffix to modify the word storia.

Una storiella con un vigile urbano.

A fling with a traffic cop.

Caption 9, La Ladra Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squalo - Part 12

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We can also use storiella or even storia to mean "fib" or "lie."

Situation or "thing"

We can always count on the Luca Manara TV series to give us great examples of everyday conversation. Something to memorize is what you see in boldface below: Cos'è questa storia?

Allora, Manara, che cos'è questa storia del contadino fratello del Conte?

So, Manara, what's this story about the farmer-brother of the Count's?

Caption 15, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 17

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When you say it by itself, you can think: "What's going on?" "What is this?"

 

Storia can often just be translated with "thing." It's a word we use to cover a lot of ground: storia in Italian and "thing" in English. 

Che c'hai? No, niente, 'sta [questa] storia di Lara che è nervosa per il matrimonio...

What's the matter with you? No, nothing. This thing with Lara who's anxious about the wedding...

Captions 2-3, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 8

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You will likely have noticed that questa is often shortened to 'sta.

Another expression to memorize, and this is used in English too, so it should be pretty straightforward.

Ne mangiasse almeno una di queste mele, tutti i giorni la stessa storia.

If he would only eat at least one of these apples, every day, it's the same story.

Captions 4-5, Il Commissario Manara S1EP9 - Morte in paradiso - Part 1

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È sempre la stessa storia (It's always the same old story)!

 

Bed-time story

Let's not forget that storia can just mean story as in telling a story, a fairy-tale, a fable, or reading a bed-time story. 

La morale di questa storia ci dice che l'unione fa la forza.

The moral of this story tells us that unity is what gives strength [united we stand, divided we fall].

Caption 33, Adriano Fiaba - Part 1

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As usual, there is more to this story than we have mentioned in this lesson. As Gualtiero Marchesi said at the end of his episodes about gastronomia (gourmet cooking and food in general):

 

Ah, ma questa è un'altra storia. Quella della prossima puntata.

Ah, but that's another story. The one in the next episode.

Captions 43-44, L'arte della cucina Terre d'Acqua - Part 15

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So stay tuned!

1) Storicamente si sono usate le diverse chiavi per fare in modo che tutte le note si trovassero il più possibile dentro al pentagramma.

2)  Io quando sono in questo posto pieno di storia, faccio dei pensieri profondi.

Vocabulary

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