As I have mentioned, I’ve just returned from a vacation in Italy, and some posts will be a little off-topic for the next few days. Somewhere along the line I acquired Italian phrasebooks by the Rough Guide and by Langenscheidt, and we took these with us as a hedge against pointing in the supermarket and babbling “that one.” The Langenscheidt got no use, except for one evening when I pulled it out and soon found myself convulsed with laughter.

According to Langenscheidt, “This phrasebook contains all of the most important expressions and words you’ll need for your trip.” In that case, what a trip it will be! Imagine yourself with no knowledge at all of Italian and armed only with phrases such as the following (which I have assembled into a brief narrative, occasionally adding my own punctuation –the ellipses, however, are Langenscheidt’s — but retaining the phrases otherwise unaltered).

Good afternoon. Please help me. The engine sounds funny — I need a pair of pliers. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault. I had the right of way. You cut the corner. You were following too closely. You were going too fast.

I don’t feel well: I feel nauseous, I’m dizzy, I’m from the United States. What is your name? Are you married? Could you repeat that, please? How old are you? Do you have children? What sort of work do you do?

It was a misunderstanding. I need someone to accompany me. I’d like to come with you. May I sit here? I like it very much. This is my address. Shall we meet this evening? I’ll take you home. I’d like to invite you to . . . What does . . . mean? I like that.

What is this called in Italian? It’s very good, thank you — satisfied! Did you like it there? Thank you for inviting me. Thank you for a lovely evening. Will I see you again? Do you mind if I smoke? I have not been vaccinated against . . .

Is there a nice bar around here?