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Lessons for topic Diminutives

What's up with Italian nicknames?

These days, even in Italy, you name your child however you choose. But at one time, in this historically Roman Catholic country, the names of saints were among the most popular ones. As a result, many children had the same name. By far the most popular names were Giuseppe (Joseph), Giovanni (John), Pietro, Piero (Peter), Paolo (Paul), Filiippo (Phillip), Marco (Mark), Matteo (Matthew), Domenico (Dominick), Antonio (Anthony), Leonardo (Leonard), Francesco (Francis), Maria (Mary), Giovanna (Jean, Joan), Paola (Paula), Anna (Anne), Elisabetta (Elisabeth), Simona (Simona), among others.

 

Note: You will find some little quiz questions throughout the lesson. Although each question refers to the video example preceding it, you might need information from further on in the lesson to answer it properly. So it would be wise read the entire lesson before trying to answer the quiz questions.

 

Abbreviating a name

We have seen in many Yabla videos that family and friends will use just the first syllable or two of the name, to make it easier and quicker to say, primarily when speaking directly to the person. The person's name is actually Martino. These are not nicknames, they're abbreviations.

Che stai facendo, Marti'?

What are you doing, Marti'?

Caption 50, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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1) If, instead of abbreviating your friend's name, you wanted to give it an affectionate touch, what could you call Martino and what would you say?

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The nickname can be longer than the given name

Nicknames are a bit different, and can be longer than the given name, so it's not just an expedient. It's common to use nicknames, partly to distinguish one Giovanni from another, but also to distinguish the size and stature of the person or some other characteristic. For these, suffixes are commonly used. 

If a boy or man named Paolo is a hefty guy, we might call him Paolone, using the accrescitivo (augmentative suffix). If he is kind of short or thin, or young, he might be called Paolino using the diminutivo ino/ina.

Invece la perfezione, caro Paolino, non esiste.

But perfection, dear Paolino, doesn't exist.

Caption 45, La Tempesta film - Part 17

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2) Maybe I don't know this guy very well, so I am not about to use a nickname. What would I say?

 

There is even a street called via San Paolino in the historical city of Lucca, so nicknaming this way is a pretty old tradition!

Poi arrivi fino a Piazza San Michele, continua con Via San Paolino e finisce in Piazzale Verdi. Quindi è una via unica che ovviamente cambia nome.

Then you get to Piazza San Michele, it continues with Via San Paolino, and it ends in Piazzale Verdi. So it's one street, which obviously changes its name.

Captions 50-52, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 2

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Sometimes a nickname sticks and becomes the name someone goes by for their entire life. Simonetta is a common nickname for Simona, but it might also be a person's given name. Whoever gave her the name or nickname used the diminutivo (diminutive) suffix etto/etta to name her.

E comunque mi chiamo Simonetta. -Grazie, Simonetta. Sei proprio un'artista.

And anyway, my name is Simonetta. -Thank you, Simonetta. You really are an artist.

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 11

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3) Let's assume Simonetta is the name this woman has gone by her whole life, but I want to emphasize the fact that she is young and slender. We also need to assume I am on familiar terms with her. How could I thank her? 

 

How Italians introduce themselves

It's interesting to note that in Italian, people generally use the formula mi chiamo __________ (literally, "I call myself __________"), in conversation and introductions, rather than il mio nome è __________ (my name is __________). This gives them room to provide you with their nickname, not necessarily the name on their birth certificate.

 

In the following example from the story of Puccini's La Bohème, the main character introduces herself by using the nickname other people have given her, but she goes on to explain her real name.

Mi chiamano Mimì, ma il mio nome è Lucia.

They call me Mimi, but my name is Lucia.

Captions 1-2, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 1

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4) Let's say Mimì is saying that she calls herself Mimì, not that others call her that. What could she say?

5) How could we talk about her name, using a common formula?

 

Vezzeggiativi (affectionate terms)

And of course, in the mix of nicknames are what we call i nomi vezzeggiativi  — affectionate names for people. These affectionate names can also involve words that aren't strictly names (such as tesoruccia), but we'll get to these in another lesson.

In Un medico in famiglia, we have the little girl, Annuccia. Her real or given name will undoubtedly be Anna. Sometimes lengthening a name gives it prominence, makes it more audible, or warms it up. In Annuccia's case, her family uses the vezzeggiativo or affectionate suffix uccio/uccia to form her nickname. Since everyone calls her Annuccia, there's a fine line between calling a name a nickname or just someone's name. It's only going to matter on her carta d'identità (ID card) or other official documents.

E questa è Annuccia, la mia sorellina più piccola.

And this is Annuccia, my littlest little sister

Caption 34, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 1

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In the popular Yabla series, Provaci Ancora Prof!, Camilla's young daughter, Livietta, was surely named Livia, but Livietta stuck. Who knows if they will keep calling her that when she grows up. 

Pronto? -Mamma? Senti, non è che potresti andare a prendere Livietta alla lezione di danza?

Hello. -Mom? Listen, you couldn't go to pick up Livietta from her dance lesson, could you?

Captions 1-2, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 17

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Nicknames can change according to region

The name Giuseppe, a favorite, is interesting because, depending on the region, the nickname will be different. In Tuscany, the nickname for Giuseppe is Beppe

Beppe! Guardami. Me.

Beppe [nickname for Giuseppe]! Look at me. Me.

Caption 35, Telecom Italia Mobile Quando mamma chiama...Garibaldi risponde!

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We can take that nickname one step further and say Beppino, especially if the Beppe in question is not too tall.

 

Beppino is typical in Tuscany, but further south, Peppe or Peppino would be used. In this case the diminutive probably has nothing to do with the size of the guy. In the following example, Peppino's nickname is used, but is then abbreviated by his friend, who's calling him.

Peppino? Peppi'! Ao [Ehi]! Me [forza], muoviti. Scendi, Peppi'. Ti devo dire una cosa importante. Scendi.

Peppino? Peppi'! Hey! Come on, get moving. Come down, Peppi'. I have to tell you something important. Come down.

Captions 40-43, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 7

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Here is yet another nickname for Giuseppe, this time using an affectionate suffix on top of a nickname. In contrast to the above-mentioned Annuncia, the only name we have heard for the little girl in Medico in Famiglia, Peppuccio is probably a temporary (affectionate) nickname.

Ma'! -Peppuccio! Ho saputo che vai in Brasile, ma che ci vai a fare, la rivoluzione?

Mom! -Peppuccio [nickname of endearment for Giuseppe]! I heard that you're going to Brazil, but what are you going to do there, start a revolution?

Captions 4-5, Telecom Italia Mobile Quando mamma chiama...Garibaldi risponde!

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Especially in the south, the nickname for Giuseppe can take a more roundabout route. We take Giuseppe and make it a diminutive: Giuseppino. Then we just use the end of it and call someone Pino.

Pino Daniele, the famous singer-songwriter has always gone by the name Pino

Tu dimmi quando quando

You tell me when, when

Caption 9, Pino Daniele Quando

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We do the same for the feminine version, so a woman named Pina was almost surely christened as Giuseppina

Fun fact: Although the feminine version of Giuseppe does technically exist, and it would be Giuseppa, most of the time the feminine version is already a diminutive: Giuseppina.

Come si chiama questa nonna? -E allora... Come si chiama? -Giuseppina. Nonna Giuseppina. -Detta Pina. Detta Pina. -Sì.

What's this grandmother's name? -And so... What's her name? -Giuseppina. Grandma Giuseppina. -Nicknamed Pina. Nicknamed Pina. -Yes.

Captions 34-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 3 - Part 15

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Another version of this, including the abbreviated one:

Pinu', be'? Ti sei ricordato? No. Pinuccio, stammi a sentire.

Pinu', well? Do you remember? No. Pinuccio, listen to me.

Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 16

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We started out with Giuseppe, which can become Beppe, Beppino, PeppePeppino, or Pino.

 

6) If we wanted to use an affectionate form for Giuseppina, detta Pina, what could we call her?

 

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How do we refer to a nickname?

Un soprannome in Italian is often a common noun turned into a name (which we'll discuss in another lesson). The nicknames we have been discussing here can be considered to be in the category of diminutives, augmentatives, or, as we mentioned, affectionate versions of names. But we can also use the formula as in the previous example. For example, we can say Giuseppe, detto Peppino (Giuseppe, called Peppino). 

 

Here are some common Italian names with their common nicknames. The list is partial as there are countless others.

 

Luigi (Louis) commonly becomes Gigi.

Filippo (Phlllip) can become Pippo.

Lorenzo (Lawrence) becomes Renzo or Enzo.

Mi chiamo Enzo, ho bisogno di lavorare.

My name is Enzo. I need a job.

Caption 52, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 10

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Vincenzo (Vincent) might also become Enzo.

Leonardo (Leonard) might become Leo or Dino.

Francesco (Francis) could become Franco or Ciccio.

Alessandro (Alexander) becomes Sandro.

Domenico (Dominick) can become Mimmo.

Giovanni can become Gianni.

 

7) How do we get from Leonardo to Dino?

 

Feast Day Names

Sometimes babies are named because they are born on a saint's day, or another special feast day. 

 

Annunziata might become Nunzia.

Natale might become Natalino.

Pasquale might become Pasqualino.

 

Here are some answers to the quiz questions above. There may be additional answers. If you have doubts, write to us!

 

1) Che stai facendo, Martinuccio?

2) Invece la perfezione, caro Paolo, non esiste.

3) Grazie, Simonettina. Sei proprio un'artista.

4) Mi chiamo Mimì, ma il mio vero nome è Lucia.

5) Si chiama Lucia, detta Mimì.

6) Pinuccia.

7) First we apply the diminutive suffix: Leonardino, then we take the last part and turn it into Dino.

 

 

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Little Easter: Forming Diminutives

Pasqua (Easter) is a spring holiday. Although things are changing, traditionally, Italy is still a Roman Catholic country, so Pasqua is a big deal in all parts of the country. Local priests travel around the town and countryside to bless homes in the weeks preceding Easter. On la domenica delle palme (Palm Sunday), churches are filled, and olive branches are distributed. There are plenty of palm trees in Italy, but olive branches have become the tradition.

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Some towns and cities stage elaborate processions on venerdì santo (Good Friday). There are famous ones in cities such as Gubbio and Assisi in Umbria, as well as in the Colosseum in Rome.

 

Let’s have a reminder of what Marika shared with us when talking about Christmas:

 

Ma prima voglio dirti che [sic] "Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi".

But first I want to tell you that [sic] "Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want".

Caption 4, Marika spiega - La vera storia di Babbo Natale - Part 1

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This is a very famous rhymed saying in Italy. Christmas is dedicated to family, and you are really expected to spend it with your family, but Easter is less strict. In addition, just as December 26th is a holiday in Italy (Santo Stefano), to invite the relatives you didn’t invite for la vigilia (Christmas Eve) or Natale (Christmas Day), Easter Monday or Pasquetta (little Easter), also called Lunedì dell’ angelo (Monday of the angel), is still a holiday, and still a part of Pasqua. It gives everyone a second opportunity to get together with the people they didn’t see on Easter Sunday. It’s been a national holiday since after World War II, intended to give people more time off from work and school. Many Italians use this day to spend in the country, with a picnic or walk. 

 

We alter Pasqua to become Pasquetta by adding a suffix. The suffix changes the quality but not the basic substance of the noun it's attached to. So, let's talk about this -etta suffix. We see that it indicates “small,” or “less important.” What are some other words that can have the diminutive suffix added?

 

Ora (hour) - un'oretta (a short hour, about an hour, a little under an hour, an hour or so).

 

Se avete tempo, potete farli [farle] lievitare da soli [sole] un'altra oretta, altrimenti procedete.

If you have time, you can have each one rise on its own for another hour or so, otherwise go ahead.

Captions 13-14, L'Italia a tavola - Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2

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La cena (the dinner) - una cenetta (a light supper, an intimate dinner)

 

E per farmi perdonare, che ne dici stasera di una cenetta solo per noi due?

And to get you to forgive me, what do you say to a little dinner for just the two of us?

Caption 41, Acqua in bocca - Tra moglie e marito... - Ep 11

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So far, we have used feminine nouns as examples. Masculine words work the same way, but we use -etto.

 

Un divano (a couch, a sofa) - un divanetto (a loveseat)

 

Seguitemi, questo è un tipico divanetto siciliano.

Follow me, this is a typical Sicilian little loveseat.

Caption 23, Adriano - Negozio di Antichità Sgroi

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Only a few words with -etta and -etto as suffixes have been mentioned here. There are many more. And note that -etto and -etta are not the only suffixes used as diminutives. There are -ino and -ina, too, but we’ll talk about these another time.

Learn more about suffixes that alter words.

Enjoy your Pasquetta, whether you are a casa (at home), al lavoro (at work), scuola (at school), in viaggio (traveling), con amici (with friends) or in vacanza (on vacation).

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To learn what countries do consider Easter Monday a holiday, and in what way, see this Wikipedia article

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