Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ciondolini – Language Lesson

Fuchsia flowers are also called ciondolini Italian language lesson
Fuchsia are also called ciondolini
Dear Art Lover,

     Today is Labor Day in Italia.  I am bummed because I was invited to a festa lunch today in a neighboring village, but it was cancelled yesterday due to a gloomy forecast.  The idea had been to enjoy eating lunch outside in the main piazza.  Today, thus far, has been a glorious day full of beauty!  I find myself annoyed that more times than not, it seems, the weatherman can be wrong, mess up your plans, and . . . get away with it.  Never even an apology!  Weathermen should never change occupations to becomes, for example, a brain surgeon!  Harumphhh.

    Recently, still living car-less (it turns out that the law in Italy has changed once again and it is more difficult than ever to obtain an Italian driver’s license), my neighbors recently let me tag along with them on a trip to a hardware and gardening store.  I took advantage of that!  I needed to buy some supplies to start work on my new bronze sculpture commission.  But I was thrilled to also be able to buy some jasmine, herbs, fuchsia, pots, and dirt.

     I replanted the colorful fuchsia (shown here) in a hanging pot and having it outside my kitchen window.  One afternoon last week, my neighbor Riccardo told me that the nickname for that plant is ciondolini (pronounced:  chon-doh-lee-nee), as in “little bells.”  He also pointed to my necklace, a braided piece of leather with cut cowry shells hanging along the leather.  He said this would also be referred to as ciondolini.  And he went home to get ready for cake baking. 

    A mutual young friend of ours Andrea had just passed his test for doing ambulance service.  The “boys” wanted to try to make an American Red Velvet cake to celebrate.  Other neighbors arrived and then so did Andrea’s parents.  We were standing in the little courtyard outside my door.  I was delighted to tell them that I had just learned a new word in Italian.  I pointed up to the hanging fuchsia plant and said, “It’s a ciondolini.”  Andrea’s mother is Italian-American, but has lived here for about forty years now.  She likes to speak English with me so she does not lose it.

     Well, she burst out laughing and demonstrated another object that is nicknamed ciondolini.  The other English-speaking neighbors and I were a bit confused, as if we were playing charades.  With the idea of bells in our minds, we were not expecting what she was acting out.  She had her legs spread wide and was waving her arms down in between them.  The light in my head went off.  Finally, I sang, “Do your balls hang low?  Do they frolic to and fro?  Can you tie ‘em in a knot?  Can you tie ‘em in a bow?  Can you … “  We English-speakers laughed, all being familiar with the song.

     When our group then entered the kitchen where Andrea and Riccardo were cake-making, I had to explain to Riccardo about Rita’s first thought in hearing the word ciondolino.  He was a bit embarrassed since he never intended to be birichino [naughty], a word that I learned some time ago.  Ha! 

     It turns out that ciondolino (singular; ciondolini plural) is a noun that refers to “things that dangle.”  Do we even have one noun to describe things that act/exist in that way?  Amazing.  The context would give the specific meaning.  So, the shells dangle from my necklace.  The fuchsia flowers dangle from their stems (in this case, like little bells).  And well, we all have some dangling anatomy at some point, right?

Happy Labor Day, Italia… and what a beautiful day it is thus far!


fuchsia plant, flowers, ciondolini, little bells
Fuchsia are also called ciondolini

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