Jersey Shore goes to Italy

For two years, MTV’s reality show Jersey Shore has been offending Italian-American advocacy groups (and intelligent life-forms in general) with its portrayal of a group of young Italian-American adults chosen primarily for their addiction to tanning salons, ability to consume large amounts of alcohol and propensity for drama.

Now, MTV has decided to help the Jersey Shore cast get “back to their roots” by moving the show to Florence, Italy for a season. However, if the cast was expecting a warm welcome in the “old country,” they’ve no doubt been disappointed.  In the process, they’re learning the heard way about the differences between the Italian culture they’re living in now and the Italian-American culture they grew up in.

The New York Post notes that Italians seem to see the show as an insult:

“Their stay has yielded one cultural insult after another for Italians, who fail to identify with the “Guido” mantra of palestra, abbronzatura, lavanderia (gym, tan, laundry). On Day 1, the Italian press labeled them “supercafoni,” or superboors.”

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Europa Editions Translates Novels for the American Market

Americans are not known for being avid consumers of foreign literature. In fact, last year, only about 2 or 3% of new titles published in the US were translations of titles by non-English-speaking authors.

However, as the New York Times reports, an independent publishing company called Europa Editions has had quite a bit of success bucking the norm and selling translated novels at independent bookstores across the country.

The company is operated by a married couple from Italy.  Only 5 years old, the publishing house just reported its first profit last year. The company focuses on literary novels translated from European authors, such as The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by French writer Muriel Barbery.

The book has sold 71,000 copies and has been on the New York Times’ trade paperback fiction best-seller list for the past 6 weeks. Although the novel was a hit in France, Germany and South Korea, it was an unlikely hit in the US, where most publishing houses are afraid to touch translated novels because they don’t think they will sell.

It would be wonderful to see more translated novels made available for American consumption. Perhaps Europa Editions’ success can prompt other publishing companies to follow suit.

As Sandro Ferri, one of the co-founders of the publishing house told the New York Times, “I have a universal, global feeling that everywhere people should read and could read books from different countries. Even if up to now, only 3 percent of the American books are books in translation, I think that this is not a reason that it should always be like that.”

Those ambitions are echoed by Kent Carroll, Europa’s publisher.  “We don’t want to be in that small-press translation ghetto. Our ambitions are large,” he said in the article.

British or American Rock Music?

Rock Music was born in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s. It is a combination of Blues, Gospel, Jazz and Country music.

Historically, the first rock success came basically from American singers such as Muddy Watters, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. According to the Library of Congress,

“American rock and roll music was imitated by British groups, who then refined it and, in the view of some, improved it.”

Even if Rock Music was born in United States, musicians like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker introduced the Blues in England. Since the birth of rock music, American and British bands reciprocally influenced and grew up together.

The 60’s were the period named the British Invasion with groups like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who. It cannot be denied that The Beatles led to rock music development around the world. Who doesn’t know one Beatles song at least?! Read more

Dictionary of American Regional English Just Released

The Dictionary of American Regional English has just been completed and is now available to the general public. Why would you need another dictionary, you may ask?

The Dictionary of American Regional English is not a normal dictionary at all. 50 years in the making, it is a compilation of all the different regional dialects that Americans use in daily conversation.

This book would be especially useful for anyone planning a road trip across the country, but it’s also just plain interesting to see how English has mutated in different regions of the country.

The difference in speech between regions goes far beyond “y’all” (a southern word that’s basically a shortened version of “you all” and is used when directly addressing more than one person) and “youse guys” (same thing, only up north).

The ContraCosta Times has a review of the book that excerpts some of the more interesting pieces of dialect. For example, did you know that in Utah, a sow bug is called a “tabernacle?” or that in some parts of Appalachia, a “stool” is an invitation to a party?

One can only imagine the confusion that would ensue if someone from another part of the country heard a group of mountain folk talking about “passing out stools.” In Oklahoma, a dust storm is rather poetically called “Oklahoma rain.”

Earlier versions of the dictionary have also been used to track down criminals based on the dialect used in their letters and to decipher the speech of former President Bill Clinton, whose “folksy” speech sometimes required interpretation for those not born in Arkansas.

The former president once left a roomful of reporters scratching their heads in confusion after he told them that an Air Force official didn’t know him “from Adam’s off ox.” In Arkansas, according to the book review, an “off ox” is “one of two oxen in a team.”

Bloomberg’s Warnings Lost in Translation

New York City has had one heck of a week. First, a mild earthquake shook the city. Then, just a few days later, Hurricane Irene blew in from the Caribbean. Luckily, the city dodged a bullet when the storm weakened before it struck land.

As New York breathed a sigh of relief and began to clean up Irene’s mess, one way people coped with the ensuing aggravation was through humor – and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a prime target.

You see, New York is a diverse city, and the two most commonly spoken languages are English and Spanish. To make sure the Spanish-speaking inhabitants were kept informed of the safety measures the city was taking, Mayor Bloomberg summarized them in Spanish. That’s definitely a nice gesture, but as you can see from the video below, young Mr. Bloomberg probably wasn’t the teacher’s pet in Spanish class:

Note the person laughing in the background and the decidedly uncomfortable expressions on the faces of the men behind him in the video.

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