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Talking about the il coronavirus in Italian

The main topic of conversation in lots of places right now is "coronavirus." We hope that it won't last too long, because in addition to making people sick, with some people even dying, it's also wildly disrupting the life of many people around the world. 

 

Italy has been hit particularly hard and is consequently in the spotlight, so let's look at some of the words people and newspapers are using to talk about it.

 

In English, we talk about "lockdown" to describe the measures Italy is taking to try to prevent the spread of the virus. There are a few options for an Italian translation: l'isolamento (the isolation), il blocco (the blocking, the closing off), blindare (to lock down) blindato (locked down). 

 

Let's talk about some of the vocabulary Italians are using to talk about what's going on.

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To begin with, let's look at a headline from Sunday, March 8, when new rules went into effect for the zone rosse (the red zones, or epicenters), including Lombardy, the Veneto, and other regions. 

 

Covid-19, nuove regole: evitare ogni spostamento nelle zone colpite

(Covid -19, new rules: avoid any traveling/moving around in the affected areas). 

 

Let's look at the words in the headline.

Nuove regole (new rules)

This is pretty self-explanatory. The two words are similar to their English counterparts: the adjective nuovo (new) and the noun la regola. In this case, it is a feminine noun in the plural — le regole. The adjective nuovo has to agree with the noun, so its "o" ending changes to "e" the feminine plural ending.

Evitare (to avoid)

Here, evitare  is basically intended as a command although it's not in the imperative. Using the infinitive form of the verb is simple and effective and can apply to everyone. It's the explanation of one of the nuove regole (new rules). Other ways to use this verb in the imperative: evitate (avoid — second person plural), evita (avoid — second person singular imperative [informal]), eviti (avoid — second person singular imperative [formal]).

 

usare i pronomi relativi "quale" e "quali", per evitare possibili ambiguità,

to use the relative pronouns "quale" and "quali," to avoid possible ambiguities,

Captions 7-8, Corso di italiano con Daniela Pronomi relativi - Part 5

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Ogni (each, every, any)

This easy, common, and useful adjective never changes. it's worth looking up in your dictionary of choice because it can be used in such a variety of ways. One common expression is ogni tanto (every now and then).

E ogni tanto, però, parlavamo di cose serie.

And every now and then, though, we talked about serious things.

Caption 32, Silvana e Luciano Il nostro incontro

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In the headline, of course, we are talking about "each and every." In other words, "Avoid unnecessary travel." "Avoid all cases of moving around the area."

Lo spostamento (the moving around, the re-positioning)

This interesting noun comes from the verb spostare, also an interesting word. It's interesting because there is no specific equivalent in English,  yet once you learn it in Italian, you'll wonder how you could do without it. Did you detect another word inside the verb spostare? Yes, it's posto, the noun, il posto (the place, the position, the location). So spostare, with its telltale "s" prefix, means to take something away from its place. And it can be used reflexively when you are the one moving yourself away from a place. What a wonderful verb! Usually, we use the verb "to move" to translate spostare, but sometimes it's "to shift," "to re-locate," "to transfer," "to move around." In short, if you live in the zona rossa (red zone) you should move around the area as little as possible.

Il verbo "andare" indica uno spostamento verso un luogo ed è seguito da diverse preposizioni a seconda del nome che lo segue:

The verb “andare” indicates a movement towards a place, and is followed by various prepositions, according to the noun that follows it:

Captions 31-33, Marika spiega I verbi venire e andare - Part 1

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Le zone (the areas)

This is an easy noun with a "friendly" English cognate. Just remember that the original noun is la zona. Zone is plural. La zona is often translated with "the area."

 

Colpite

This past participle comes from the verb colpire (to hit, to affect, to make an impression on). Since it's a headline, all the little words that tell you it's a past participle are missing:

Le zone che sono state colpite (the zones that were hit). Colpire can have literal and figuarative meanings of different kinds. 

Poi un'altra cosa che mi ha colpito molto è che io vengo da una terra dove l'acqua è un bene prezioso, non ce n'è molta.

Then, another thing that made a strong impression on me was that I come from a land where water is a precious resource, there isn't much of it.

Captions 43-45, Gianni si racconta Chi sono

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In the headline, the connotation of colpire is "to affect."

Let's have just a quick look at some of the other rules:

 

Quarantena: vietato uscire di casa (quarantine: leaving home is prohibited).

Divieto assoluto di uscire dalla propria abitazione per chi è sottoposto alla quarantena o è risultato positivo al virus.

If you have been quarantined or if you have tested positive to the virus, you must not leave your home.

 

The verb vietare (to prohibit, to ban) and the noun il divieto (the ban) are related.

Ma cos'è questo fumo? Hm. -Perché mi guarda così? Perché qui è vietato fumare.

But, what is this smoke? Uhm. -Why are you looking at me like that? Because here smoking is prohibited.

Captions 20-22, Psicovip Il fulmine - Ep 4

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Stop a eventi e competizioni sportive (no sporting events and competitions)

Stop is pretty clear! In the explanation that follows the rule, however, the Italian word sospesi (suspended) is used.

Sono sospesi gli eventi e le competizioni sportive di ogni ordine e disciplina... (sporting events and competitions on every level and of every kind have been suspended...)

Favorire congedo ordinario o ferie (encourage leaves of absence and vacation days).

 

Favorire is another verb that is partly a true cognate, but often means "to encourage," "to foster."

 

Chiusi cinema, teatri, pub, discoteche, sale bingo (movie theaters, theaters, pubs, clubs, bingo halls are closed)

Chiuso (closed) is pretty clear —from the verb chiudere (to close).

 

Chiuse scuole e università (schools and universities are closed)

These same rules have been applied to museums, gyms, spas, ski resorts, and many other centers.

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The list goes on, but we have covered some of the important rules here and the vocabulary associated with them.

 

Further vocabulary to know regarding the virus:

  • contagioso (contagious) This adjective (a true cognate) comes from the verb contagiare (to infect).
  • diffondere (to spread). This verb is both transitive. Diffondiamo questa informazione (let's spread the word) but it is also reflexive.  Il virus si diffonde facilmente (the virus spreads easily). 
  • il disinfettante (the disinfectant, the sanitizer). Disinfettante can also be an adjective (disinfectant). We need to have il disinfettante per le mani (hand sanitizer) handy these days.
  • un metro (a meter) Do you know how much a meter is? A little more than a yard — 39.37 inches. That's what is considered a safe distance to keep from other people when in public places.
  • sano (healthy)
  • misurare la febbre (to take one's temperature). 98.6° F is equal to 37° C. Lots of folks say 37,5° C is when you can say it's a fever.

 

Things are tough for Italians (and many others!) right now. Besides the virus itself, everyday life has become complicated for lots of folks. Those of us who work remotely feel fortunati (lucky) to be able to do our jobs in a normal way, but we might have kids underfoot who would ordinarily be in school! If everyone cooperates, taking the right precautions, hopefully, we can beat this thing.

 

La speranza è l'ultima a morire (hope is the last to die — hope springs eternal).

If you have heard or read things in Italian about the virus that you aren't able to understand, let us know and we'll try to help. Write to us at newsletter@yabla.com

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