I’m determined to be able to speak Italian before this Lockdown is over. I’m doing two Italian lessons per week via Skype (Verbling), I’d do three except my teacher has no spaces left in his schedule as everyone in Lockdown is using it as a time to improve their Italian. I know a lot of words in Italian I just don’t have confidence in using them as my pronunciation is rubbish. And it’s quite a dangerous language if your pronunciation is off.

In practically every conversation with my Italian friend, when I make an effort to speak Italian she bursts out laughing. “I think I know what you mean, but you just said a word for Penis”. Or “You can’t say it like that, you just said something about your Vagina.”

This is particularly the case when talking about a recipe, growing vegetables or doing grocery shopping as every fruit and vegetable seems to have a pun or innuendo attached to it.

The most common of these words is probably ‘patata’, which is commonly used as a nickname for a female’s private anatomy. Saying “dammi la patata“, “give me the potato” can be taken two different ways. If you are having peas with your potatoes you need to be aware that the word for pea, piesolla, is a childish word for penis. So if you are not careful, you could be asking ‘Give me your vagina” and “would you like penis with that?’.  Discussing fennel and figs are also mine fields.

Another problem is when pronouncing double consonants. A common one is, ‘Penne’, if not pronounced correctly it means penis. This is why you see penis shaped pasta in tacky gift shops in Italy, as most tourists in restaurants ask for penis pasta. Similarly ‘anni’, which means ‘years’, if said too quickly it means anus. My husband, who has decided to communicate with hand gestures rather than learn Italian, merrily wished everyone a ‘Happy Anus’ last New Year’s.  Maybe that’s why we are all having such a shit year?

But it works both ways, the same Italian friend who corrects me on perverted Italian, decided to create a hen house during lockdown, she’s delighted with her new hobby and last night sent me pics of her hugging her chucks with a message “I will be called Queen of Chickens!”

I text her back;  ‘That sounds like you are leading a nation of cowards, better to use the adult name.”

“Ah okay I see…” She replied, “Okay then, I will be Queen of Cocks.”

I was going to text back, “NOOOOOOO…. HENS!” but it was late, I was tired … and it’s a way of getting her back for laughing at all my perverted Italian pronunciation over the last year.