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Let's look at the Italian adjective precario

 

In the movie Chi m'ha visto being currently offered on Yabla, a curious adjective has cropped up in a newspaper headline: musicista precario. It's used to describe Martino, the guitarist, and it happens that he was quite upset when he read it. 

 

Musicista precario a me?

An occasional musician? Me?

Caption 35, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 12

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Chitarrista. Precario.

Guitarist. A temp.

Caption 2, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 13

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Let's delve into this adjective for a moment. The English cognate for precario is "precarious," but it has a specific meaning to Italians in the modern-day world.

 

Primarily, precario is used to describe someone who doesn't have tenure, doesn't have a permanent job. For instance, many public school teachers in Italy find themselves in the position of being precario, and the word is also often used as a noun: un precario. Someone in this position can also be described as un supplente, a substitute teacher, even though they have been teaching in the same school for years. At the end of the school year, un supplente is let go, and has no guarantee of being re-hired for another year. These "substitute" teachers don't get paid during the summer months, but they have to be ready to start work (or not) from one day to the next, come September — definitely a precarious work situation!

 

Precario may also be used to describe a temporary worker or temporary job. 

 

Poi però... con questa crisi ho perso l'ultimo lavoro precario

Then, however... with this crisis, I lost my last temporary job

Caption 25, La Ladra Ep. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 8

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In Martino's case, the headline implies that he doesn't have a steady band he plays with on a regular basis. He has no guaranteed work and plays concerts only occasionally. In fact, he is just about unemployed. 

Precario can also mean the same as "precarious" in other situations, such as walking a tightrope.

While we are on the subject of precariousness, there is another curious word that means much the same thing (but not in the context of job security): in bilicoEssere in bilico is "to teeter," "to be in a precarious equilibrium." It's also used to mean "undecided."

 

Ero in bilico tra l'essere vittima, essere giudice

I was teetering between being a victim and being a judge

Caption 50, Måneskin Torna a casa

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Ma sotto questa tua corazza lo so C'è una ragazza che sta lì in bilico

But underneath this armor of yours I know There's a girl who is there on the verge of falling

Captions 24-25, Max Gazzè Ti Sembra Normale

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