Stet by Ria Bacon

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bye-bye I'm back

In many languages, the same word can be used to say hello and goodbye (aloha, salut, shalom or dag, for example). In Italian, ciao has a similar double-ended function. Curiously, the word originates from Venetian and used to form part of the longer expression, "I am your slave". These days, it is the easiest word that everyone knows, and every phone call seems to end the same way:

Ciao-ciao ciao
Si mamma ciao
Si ciao

After his recent drubbing at the polls, Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, resigned yesterday ... and immediately began the horse-trading negotiations with his coalition partners to form a new government. Confused? Don't worry, it's normal. By national law, the government must fall before any reshuffle can take place. This is one of the reasons why there have been 59 governments since the Second World War and why this Mr B's coalition is the longest in power since Mussolini.

Continuing the theme of repetition, I have a funny anecdote for you.

My parents lost 150 Euros to a pair of confidence tricksters two days ago in the park behind the Colosseum. One little old guy came up to them with a big map and mumbled a question about getting to Castel Sant'Angelo. Immediately after, a second, burlier man approached and flashed his "police badge".

"Don't listen to this man," the policeman warned my parents, "He's a crook".

The "policeman" demanded the first man's ID and checked his wallet before shooing him away. He then asked for my parents' ID and wallet (?), checked them briefly and handed them back. It only took a second and my father swore he was watching him carefully, but after they went on their way, they double-checked their money and saw 150 Euros had gone.

So far, not funny at all.

The following day, my parents were waiting for me near our house when lo and behold the same little old man approached them with his big map. As the accomplice approached, my father shouted, "Oi!! I want my 150 Euros back!" The con men suddenly remembered ("Merda!!!") and ran off.

We imagined other ways it could have ended, but this was perhaps the simplest and the funniest.