The Napolitano (Neapolitan) Dialect

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My parents are from southern Italy and traveling “home” during vacations as a young girI I was introduced to great food and the lovely Neapolitan language. Unlike regional accents in the US, Napolitano is not a variant of Italian but rather is its own language. Napolitano is based on Latin but is also mixed with the languages of the early inhabitants of Naples: Greek, Norman, French and Spanish. Due mostly to the heavy use of the Neapolitan dialect in popular Italian song, it is the best known dialect aside from the standard language.

Napolitano was the official language of the kingdom of Naples in the 1400s. Even though it also has a long and prestigious literary tradition, it’s famous for its music. Even Americans can’t get enough of Neapolitan music! Recently a 1950’s Napolitano song “Tu vuò fà l’americano” turned techno and has been heard on TV commercials and even featured in Time magazine’s Top 10 Talented web videos. This YouTube video captures the Neapolitan song and talented hands perfectly!

I just love Napolitano expressions and I’d like to share some with you:

Una cape squatrate che devo fare rotundo!
A square head that needs to be made round 
I laughed when I heard my Aunt use it to describe getting my cousin tutored!

Chi  ten’ a lingua va in Sardegna!
Who has a tongue can find their way to Sardegna! 
By speaking up you can get anywhere!

Buono buono, la terza volta buono si fesso!
Good once, twice, the third time good you are an idiot! 
My mom would tell the story of her teacher in Ischia who happened to be a Franciscan monk.  Whenever he lost his patience in class he would often use this expression. He always gave the class 2 chances and then he would blow up that he wasn’t going to be an idiot and give them a third chance!

Che si dic….
What do you say?
This is a typical greeting in Monte di Procida. Sort of like the way we use “What’s new?”

Ta gia fa a cape con cipolle!
I am going to fry your head with onions! 
My Nonno (grandfather) on my mom’s side, an Ischitano, would say this all the time when I was being a bratty kid.

Mi fa sci ra denti gl’occhi!
You are making it come out of my eyes.
When I was little I took this expression literally when the grownups would say this to each other in raised voices.  I used to watch their eyes to see if anything really did come out of them!

Va fa il paese di policinella!
Go relieve yourself in the town of clowns 
My dad would use this expression when he was trying to be discreet around us kids) (You want to hear how naive I am? I always this expression was vulgar but I didn’t realize that it meant go to hell.

Va fa Napoli!
Go relieve yourself in Naples!
It actually means go to hell.

A putanna di mammete!
Your mother’s whore.
Now this is one of the worst of the worst expressions. To this day my mom denies ever saying it to me. I tease her by telling her that she said this so many times to me that I used to think it was my name! She throws a fit when I tell her this! Hahaha…