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Design or spontaneity: Italian language manuals in World War II.

The following pages compare two language guides intended for use by United States military personnel in Italy during World War II, manuals published approximately a month apart. One is the product of governmental effort in our own country, and was developed in the context of works similar in nature. The other handbook is a unique compilation stemming from the labor of enterprising civilians within the Italian Peninsula--a lively document that came and went in a flash. The outlooks underlying these two texts differ to a meaningful degree.

The American book bears the date of publication "September 16, 1943," and was put out in Washington by the War Department. It is designated "Technical Manual 30-603" and titled simply Italian Phrase Book. Following a stringent note on the "[d]issemination of restricted matter" (appearing on both the cover and title page), this guide presents a mixture of full expressions and individual lexical items, grouped thematically. In nearly all sections there are three columns: one containing the English term, another (indicated as "Pronunciation") giving a roughly phonetic representation of the Italian equivalent, and the third showing this latter correspondent spelled conventionally. For example, the question "What army is here?" is followed first by "KWA-lay ay-ZAYR-chee-to see TRO-va KWEE?'--where capitalized syllables indicate primary stress--and then by Quale esercito si trova qui? (39). The motivation for provision of both latter renderings is made clear in a preliminary section called "How to Use the Phrase Book': "If the person you are speaking to knows how to read, you can point to the question in Italian and ask him to point to the answer: moSTRA-tay-mee la ree-SPO-sta KWEE (Mostratemi la risposta qui)" (7).

The other language-learning tool considered here wastes no time with preliminary introductory material. It carries the intriguing name What is sufficient to speak ah Italian, having as subtitles The small and modern polyglot and [Volume] II: English--Italian. Its date of issue is October 20, 1943, and the publisher is identified as "Rossi Bookseller" of Naples. While this document purports to be the second of a bipartite work, the character of the alleged first installment remains a mystery. Normally the mention of an English--Italian arrangement would mean that the other tome took the reverse tack, presenting first the Italian-language materiais and then their translations. The extant manual's inside back cover, however, gives prices for this "Polyglot" and for what is termed a "Dictionary," and then the cost for purchasing the two together. Thus it is logical to conclude that the phrasebook examined here was paired, if at all, with a lexicon. What is sufficient consists of two parts: one labeled "Selection of phrases" (1-21), and the other--making up nearly two-thirds of the text--enumerating what are referred to as "Words for matter" (22-63). Its pages offer only two columns, English and Italian, with no attempt at a phonetic transcription. Given the plethora of grammatical and orthographic transgressions committed in English renderings throughout the book, it is ironic to find immediately before the table of contents (64) a listing of errata under the heading "Correct," where among the allegedly emended versions of previously erroneous items are found "I swear you," "It sims to me," and "have good news arrived!" (63). (1) While, in general, British orthographic practice is followed, an examination of the guide's contents suggests that the intended consumers were members of both the American and English military. (2) The Italian expressions provided in the text are very much those of the standard national tongue, and reveal no hint of any influence by the composers' local dialect. It is interesting that this manual's redactors provide bilingual headings, in contrast to the English-only practice in TM 30-603.

The U.S. vade mecum under scrutiny--published, it will be recalled, in September of 1943--might profitably be compared to similar works whose existence evinces a tradition, albeit brief, of bureaucratic endeavor. TM 30-603 is the successor to an Italian Phrase Book put out by the War Department on January twenty-fifth of the same year and labeled "TM 30-249." There survives no documentation concerning why our government would feel the need to abandon so quickly one guide in favor of another. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to suspect that such action was taken due to the overly complete nature of the handbook numbered 249. In addition to the information contained in the succeeding publication (30-603), we find in the January opus an elaborate set of tables presenting Italian-language equivalents of English terms relating to such things as "Arms and Services" (8-9), "Nationalities" (19-24), "Ranks" (26-27), "Terrain Features" (27-31), and "Titles and Forros of Address" (31-33). While certainly of great interest to those needing in-depth knowledge of Italian, these copious data might well have merely overwhelmed the soldier in the field. Likewise, the phrases and vocabulary in this earlier version of the American guide are of a much greater scope, frequently offering expressions of potentially limited utility, such as "How would the pilot recognize the paratroops' landing field?" (Come farebbe il pilota a riconoscere il campo d'atterraggio per i paracadutisti?) (109), "Have there been any pioneers with pontoons here?" (Ci sono stati qui genieri con pontoni?) (130), and "What is the height of the hedges?" (Che altezza hanno le siepi?) (149). One problematic feature of 30-249 resolved in the subsequent document was the vertical rather than horizontal arrangement of the pages, because of which the book had to be read from top to bottom.

Another War Department composition against which the September Technical Manual 603 might be balanced was published between it and the January Italian Phrase Book just mentioned--that is, in June of 1943. This text is numbered 30-303 and bears the appellation Italian: A Guide to the Spoken Language. As an introductory section makes clear (1-3), it is intended to be used in conjunction with a series of phonograph records, the goal of the consumer being to have memorized an initial set of "Useful Words and Phrases" occupying twelve pages (5-16). Noteworthy in TM 30-303 is the appearance of what are called "Fill-in Sentences," "each containing a blank space which can be filled in with any one of the words in the list that follows" (19); multi-purpose expressions given include, for example, "I want--" (Desidero--) (20), "Where is there--?" (Dove c'i--?) (25), and "We are--" (Siamo--) (28). These phrases--and constituents of the "Alphabetical Word List" taking up the second half of the book (35-61)--are more spare than those offered in the subsequent TM 30-603, and significantly less complex than those of the preceding January publication, 30-249.

Regarding the numerical designations used by the War Department, it may be recalled that the first set of numbers following the initials TM indicate the general field to which the work relates; in the cases we have been discussing, this "30" refers to Military Intelligence (Military Manual). The following sub-number further specifies the type of publication, with 300-level pamphlets constituting language guide books and 600-levels being phrase books (Hanesalo). This system appears to have been in place beginning only at the mid-point of 1943, since (as has been seen) the phrasebook published earlier in that year is labeled 30-249.

These technical manuals owe their existence to the United States Armed Forces Institute, an organization designed to promote educational advancement. (3) One branch of the Armed Forces Institute produced materiais devoted to foreign-language instruction, and was active from early 1942 through June of 1945. It carried on this work in conjunction with the Intensive Language Program sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies, as well as the Linguistic Society of America. For the last two years of its existence this important section of the USAFI was housed at 165 Broadway in lower Manhattan. It created bilingual dictionaries and language-learning guides, the latter group being divided into three classes according to the extent of their coverage. So-called 'Second Level' texts were designed to enable the learner to converse intelligently on a range of topics, while those at the 'Third Level' were meant to furnish a detailed analysis of the structure of the language in question, along with extensive vocabulary. While 'Second Level' resources were produced first for four of the Romance languages and subsequently for other systems, no 'Third Level' materiais actually saw the light of day.

The Italian Phrase Book on which we are focusing, TM 30-603, is an example of what were known as 'First Level' efforts. Such manuals were--in the words of one specialist tangentially involved in their composition--" 'linguistic first aid,' for use in situations involving initial contacts with speakers of the language involved, and containing little or no linguistic analysis" (Hall 155). They were prepared for a range of tongues spoken in Europe and various parts of Asia. In addition to these foreign-language tools, there appeared guides for the teaching of English targeted to specific groups of non-English speakers--books composing what was referred to as the 'Reverse English' series. In charge of this latter program was Dr. Vincenzo Cioffari (1905-1997), a Dante scholar and professor emeritus of Boston University. He was a native of the town of Calitri in the province of Avellino, located in the region of Campania, whose capital is--interestingly enough--Naples ("Cioffari, Vincenzo'). Cioffari was also responsible for the composition of the 'Second Level' instrument previously referred to: TM 30-303, which would be published commercially as Spoken Italian, first by D. C. Heath in 1944 and subsequently by Holt (Hall). (4) In addition, it appears certain that Cioffari was at least the chief author of the U.S. government's Italian-language technical manuals mentioned earlier--although, surprisingly, there does not appear to be any evidence verifying this assumption.

Little has been written about the language-training efforts of the Armed Forces Institute during World War II. What comments do exist appear principally in the memoirs of those linguists directly involved in its activities (see, e.g., Cowan, Read, and Penzl). One of these specialists was Raven McDavid, a student of American dialectology, who intended to write a history of the operation housed at 165 Broadway (McDavid 19 n.2), but died before he could begin the task. Cornell University's Robert Hall (also now deceased) composed an article designed to carry out McDavid's project in its essentials, through consultation with former colleagues (see Hall). Although quite brief, it constitutes probably the most complete account regarding this subject. Noting the near impossibility of recapturing full details of the USAFI enterprise or even determining the ultimate disposition of what materials it produced, Hall comments, "[s]uch information would be available, if at all, only through the archives of the Department of Defense or the National Archives in Washington, D.C." (Hall 152 n. 2). This renowned polymath's narration makes for fascinating reading, and contains one compelling detail that relates directly to Cioffari's involvement. In his manual Spoken Italian, the Dante expert had used the pronoun voi and its associated forms in addressing one individual, rather than the Lei complex. Since the former was the practice favored by Mussolini's government, Cioffari was attacked by certain of his compatriots, working in America, as being a Fascist. As Hall notes, however, the professor chose voi because it predominated in southern Italy, where it was believed that American troops would land first (Hall 160 and 160 n. 12). It is to be noted that the use of this once controversial pronoun is not only found consistently in TM 30-603, but also predominates throughout the Neapolitan publication. (5)

Access to the War Department's Italian Phrase Book is possible through utilization of library resources or purchase from antiquarian shops. What is sufficient, however, is an exceedingly rare document. Besides the exemplar relied on in photocopy for this analysis, no other printing seems to have survived, nor is there any reference to the work in secondary sources. Sadly, even the one original of whose existence we can be sure has now disappeared (Weinberg, Telephone). It was owned by Florence Weinberg, a French scholar and wife of Kurt Weinberg, an expert in European literature. Of the guide's origin Florence provides this synopsis (Weinberg, Message):
 My husband, Kurt, fought in the American Army (after having fought
 the Nazis in the French Foreign Legion) during WW II. His outfit
 had battled through Sicily, then they landed at Napoli. Kurt, who
 always managed to seek out the funniest and most original aspects
 of any city he visited and who spoke Italian quite well, ran across
 a street bookseller who had just printed up the "Small and Modern
 Polyglot." ... Kurt, of course, couldn't resist it and bought it at
 once. Tome II [what is really meant here is the alleged first
 volume] was never published--at least to his knowledge. Kurt always
 maintained that the Napoletani are the quickest people in the world
 to grasp and exploit a fleeting business opportunity. The editors
 of the admirable work were, of course, semi-literate.... And that
 is the whole story as far as I know it.

In this phrase book, the address of Rossi Bookseller is given as "S. Anne [or 'Anna'] of Lombards street 50" (cover and inside back cover), and an advertising blurb asserts that the firm buys and sells a vast assortment of scientific and learned books, as well as furniture for book dealers (inside back cover). The printer named is "V. Mirelli" of "Portanova street 8." It has not been possible to find mention of any other individuais involved in the production of What is sufficient, much less listings of similar works for which they may have been responsible. In all probability, this was a spontaneous creation, very much the fruit of a particular set of circumstances. (6)

The body of Technical Manual 30-603 comprises the following divisions: "Emergency Expressions" (8-11), "General Expressions" (12-22), "Personal Needs" (23-38), "Location and Terrain" (39-43), "Roads and Transportation" (44-49), "Communications" (50-55), "Reconnaissance" (56-60), "Landing a Plane" (61-62)--a brief section, presumably of limited usefulness to most users of the booklet), "Numbers, Size, Time, Letters, Etc." (63-68), an enumeration of "Additional Terms" (69-77)--subdivided into those for "Personal Equipment (69), "Weapons and Ammunition" (70-71), "Cars, Tanks, Planes, Ships" (71-74), "Tools and Supplies" (74-75), "Communication" (75-76), and "Miscellaneous" (76-77)--and specifications both of "Important Signs" to be found in Italy (78-79) and of "International Road Signs" (80-81). A thirteenth chapter called simply "Index" makes up nearly one quarter of the guide (83-117), and lists principally individual terms appearing throughout the preceding pages.

What is sufficient subdivides more minutely the body of phrases contained in "The First Part." What follows are the sometimes eccentric English rubrics, along with their Italian correspondents: "The Inquiries" (Informazioni) (1), "To the post-office" (Alla Posta) (1-2), "To the telegraph-office" (Al Telegrafo) (2), "Before to share'--which really should be 'Before departure' (Prima di partire) (3), "Questions and Inquiries on the sway to make" (Domande e informazioni su'la via da fare) (3-4), "To the station" (Alla Stazione) (4-5), "In waggon" (In vagone) (5-6), "On arrival" (All'arrivo) (6), "On hotel" (All' albergo) (6-7), "Dinner and break fast" (Pranzo e colezione) (7-9), "Fallings witt a person" (Incontri con una persona) (9-10)--which gives phraseology appropriate to interpersonal interactions, "A visit" (Una visita) (10-11), and a lengthy segment entitled "The usuals phrase" (Frasi usuali), containing interrogative and affirmative expressions that cover a gamut of social situations (11-21). The resource's second main part presents individual word lists, not in alphabetical order, headed as follows: "The house and the domestic obiects" (La casa e gli oggetti casalinghi) (22-25), "Utentsil of kitchen" (Utensili da cucina) (25-26), "Pots and pans" (Stoviglie) (26), "The foods" (I cibi) (26-29), "Drinks" (Bevande) (29-30), "The relatives" (I parenti)--which furnishes an impressively detailed collection of possible relationships (30-32), "The servitude" (Servitu) (32-33), "The clothes and objects by toilet for man and woman" (Indumenti ed oggetti da toeletta da uomo e da donna) (33-36), "For the work of the women" (Per il lavoro delle donne) (36-37), "The study of scrivener" (Lo studio dello scrivano) (37-38), "For who traveis" (Per chi viaggia) (38-40), "The seasons and months and days of the week." (Le stagioni e i mesi e giorni della settimana.) (41), "The essentials holidays of year" (Le principali feste dell'anno) (42), "Forms and dimensions" (Forme e dimensioni) (42-43), "Age" (Eta) (43-44), "Parts body's human" (Parti dei corpo umano), containing a wealth of detail (44-47), "The senses" (I sensi) (47-49)---offering such jewels as "an exquisite savour" (un sapore squisito) and "bitter tears" (lagrime amare), "The colours" (I colori) (49-50), "Going for the city" (Camminando per la citta) (50-51)--which contains the names of items found within such urban areas, "The christianity and dresses sacreds" (La cristianita e gli arnesi sacri.) (51-53), "In hotel" (Nell' Albergo) (53-54), "The animals" (Gli animali) (54-55), "Arts and trades" (Arti e mestieri) (55-57), "The agriculture" (L'agricoltura) (57-58), "The cardinal and ordin prumber"--where the last part should be, of course, 'ordinal number' (I numeri cardinali e ordinali) (59-62), "To count the hours" (Per contare le ore) (62-63), and "To count the years" (Per contare gli anni) (63). (7)

As has been seen, Weinberg describes those who compiled the Neapolitan text as "semi-literate." Nonetheless, such judgment must apply, if at all, only to their command of the English language. In fact, typographical errors in the Italian equivalents provided in this guide are rare, and there are no grammatical peccadilloes whatsoever. (8) Within the individual word lists, lapses in English-language renderings seem to stem principally from the authors' having slipped momentarily into their native phonetic, syntactic, or lexical habits, such as are apparent in "an hairs-brush" (una spazzola per capelli [24]), "a vegetable slaughter" (un tagliarape [25]), "some tunny picked" (del tonno marinato ['pickled;' 28]), "to ai-orn" and "ai-orningh" (stirare and la stiratura [37]), "a to be cold for letter" (una lettera fermo posta [38]) and "the worm season" (la stagione calda [41]). (9) While in the formation of such enumerations our writers most likely relied on whatever bilingual dictionaries were at their disposal, it was evidently more difficult for them to create well-developed English expressions evincing great linguistic control. The often charming mistranslations of certain questions and statements make the reader wonder exactly where and how they learned their particular variety of the foreign tongue. (10)

In the first section of the Italian volume, termed "Selection of phrases," we frequently find suggestions of real conversations that follow a logical sequence, permitting a recreation of the composers' mental processes. For example, under the rubric "In waggon" (In vagone), it is possible to imagine an actual social encounter, as we run through the following dialogue:
 This compartment is already too full. Here there is only one place.
 Please you to put the carpetbag under the bench. Shall we change
 places? Show me another compartment. Where is the ladies
 compartment? The doors are now going to be scend. Ladies, will you
 allow me to light a sigar? If you wish it, I will put my sigar out.
 We are on the point of starting. Now the engine is whistling. Why
 does the train stop suddenly? Ask you it to the conductor. From the
 next station thex have telegraphed to stop. The train has get out
 the rails. When shall we start again? Do we change carriage?
 Please, gentlemen, your tickets. I think to have lost my ticket.
 How long do owe remain here? We have no time to descend, we are on
 the point of starting. (Questo scompartimento e gia troppo pieno.
 Qui vi e un posto solo. Vi prego di mettervi il sacco da viaggio
 sotto la panca. Vogliamo cambiarei posti? Indicatemi un alto
 scompartimento. Dov'e il compartimento riservato alle signore?
 Adesso si chiuderanno le porte. Signore, permettono che io accenda
 un sigaro? Se lo desiderano, spegnero subito il sigaro. Partiremo
 subito. Ecco la macchina che fischia. Perche il treno si ferma
 all'improvviso? Domandatelo al conduttore. Dalla prossima stazione
 e stato telegrafato di fermare. Il treno ha deragliato. Quando
 potremo ripartire? Cambiamo vettura? Signori favoriscano i
 biglietti. Credo di aver perduto il mio biglietto. Quanto ci
 fermiamo qui? Non c'e tempo da scendere, ripartiamo subito) (5-6).

A similar theatrical treatment may be seen in the part titled "A visit" (Una visita):
 Somebody ringh the door. Do o and see who it is. Go and open the
 door. Is mister at home? Yes, sir. No, sir. I shall return later. I
 wish to speak with mister. Please to come in. How do you do my dear
 mister? Pretty well, thank you and you? I am very well. And how is
 all your family? Thank you all well. May I offer you a sigaret?
 Thank you, not smoke. I have come to you to speak about a business.
 Peak, if you please. Without any ceremonies. Then good bye. You see
 to be in a hurry. I have at this moment many affaires. Another time
 I shallremain longer. I thank you very much for your visit. To this
 evening. Good bye. We meet again. Good morning. Good evening. Good
 night (dopo le otto). (Qualcuno suona alla porta. Andate a vedere
 chi e. Andate ad aprire la porta. Il signore e in casa? Si,
 signore. No, signore. Tornero piu tardi. Desidero parlare col
 signore. Compiacetevi di entrare. Come state mio caro signore?
 Abbastanza bene, grazie e voi? Sto benissimo. Come sta la vostra
 famiglia? Grazie tutti bene. Posso offrirvi una sigaretta? Grazie,
 non fumo. Sono venuto a vedervi per parlarvi di un affare. Dite
 pure. Senza cerimonie. Dunque arrivederci. Pare che abbiate molta
 fretta. Ho in questo momento molti affari. Un'altra volta restero
 di piu. Mille grazie per la vostra visita. A stasera. Addio.
 Arrivederci. Buon giorno. Buona sera. Buona notte) (10-11). (11)

As may be obvious from the section headings given above, the U.S. language guide is straightforward in its presentation and deals principally with the demands of military life. The amount of space dedicated to the less formal aspects of a GI's presence in Italy is relatively small. Indeed, it is only in the part entitled "Personal Needs" that we discover what sorts of expression the War Department deemed useful for more intimate association with Italian citizens. The subdivisions here are "Food and Drink" (23-27), "Lodging" (27-29), "Medical Attention" (29-33)--where we find a somewhat gruesome enumeration of places on the body that might receive wounds--and "Buying and Personal Services" (33-38), which includes Italian-language equivalents for such phrases as "This is American money" (Questo e denaro americano), "Give me a receipt" (Datemi una ricevuta), and "The U.S. Government will pay you" (Il governo americano vi paghera). Even the anthology of "Additional Terms" mentioned earlier presents items mainly of an impersonal nature; here the emphasis is overwhelmingly on material components figuring prominently in a soldier's generally less than ideal existence. An examination of the book's extensive "Index" makes clear that TM 30603 is geared almost exclusively toward aiding the consumer in carrying out the duties incumbent on an occupying military force.

What is sufficient, on the other hand, appears to foresee a much greater interaction between Allied troops and the local populace. Its lexicon--offered, as we have seen, in the guide's second division--covers an extremely wide range of topics of a private, rather than public, character. Particularly noteworthy are designations for a great number of objects to be found in civilian homes (22-26), terms concerned with participation in religious services (51-53), and items pertinent to various professions, farming, and animal husbandry (54-58). Similarly, phrases included in the volume's first part imply that the user will have more than momentary contact with the Italians he might come across. For example, in a section treating face-to-face encounters, we find expressions such as the following: "How beautiful you are." (Quanto siete bella.), "I love you. And you?" (Io vi amo. E voi?), "How content i should be to marry you." (Come sarei contento di sposarvi.), "Have you a bride-groom?" (Siete fidanzata?), "Will you come with me to America? to England?" (Volete venire con me in America? in Inghilterra?), "Where have you been all that time?" (Dove siete stato tutto questo tempo?)--of such apparent importance that it is recorded twice--"Did you enjoy yourself yes terday evening?" (Vi siete divertito ieri sera?), "And what have you been doing all this time?" (E voi che avete fatto tutto questo tempo?), and "Good appetite." (Buon appetito.) (9-10).

One heterogeneous section previously alluded to, bearing the heading "The usuals phrase" (Frasi usuali), also focuses on the intimate dimensions of Peninsular existence. Included here are such items as "Have you relations in italy?" (Avete parenti in Italia?), "Have you riceived money from this man?" (Avete ricevuto danaro da quest'uomo?), "I drink your health." (Bevo alla vostra salute.), "What is thi mutter with you?" (Che cosa avete?), "How do you dare tell me these words?" (Come ardite dirmi queste parole.), "At whose shop have you bought this obiects?" (Da chi avete comprato questi oggetti?), "On what side will you go?" (Da che parte volete andare?), "It is easy to make this thing." (E facile fare questa cosa.), and "Does he make god business?" (Fa egli buoni affari?). Also present are "Have done, i said." (Finitela, vi dico.), "Give him this pen." (Gli dia questa penna.), "I promise you." (Le prometto.), "I am very glad of it." (Me ne rallegro.), "O thought has straink me." (Mi e venuta un'idea.), "Offer him this obiect." (Offritegli questo oggetto.), "Because i have not had any time." (Perche non ho avuto tempo.), "You shall lose your patience." (Perderete la pazienza.), "Some friend is not faithful." (Qualche amico non e fedele.), "If you will see him i shall call him." (Se volete vederlo lo chiamero.), "It is know (that) the king will came here this month." (Si sa che il Re verra qui questo mese.), "All the town is speaking ebaut this event." (Tutta la citta parla di questo avvenimento.), and "It is better to do something than rimain idle" (Val meglio far qualche cosa, che rimanere ozioso.) (11-21).

An instructive comparison might be made between the treatments the manuals afford one universal aspect of existence marked by its intrinsically domestic nature: food and drink. TM 30-603 opens this discussion with phrases that could be useful to one in need of sustenance, including "I am hungry" (Ho fame), "Where is a restaurant?" (Dove c'e un ristorante?), and "I want to buy food" (Voglio comperare della roba da mangiare) (23). There follows a glossary of comestible items, arranged by type of viand or beverage. This collection contains few surprises, and takes into account the principal meats, vegetables, and fruits to which a GI might be expected to have access, together with methods by which these things might be prepared (e.g., "well done" [ben cotto], "baked" [al forno], and "fried" [fritto] [26-27]). Interestingly, this division of the American text ends with a consideration of the needs of horses (27). Elements of food and drink portrayed as necessary by the Neapolitan document, on the other hand, are more exotic and are frequently accompanied by adjectives of great specificity. This section, too, begins with a phrase--"Give me, please" (Datemi per cortesia) (26)--but goes on to list articles such as the following: "stale bread" (pane raffermo), "a young-fowl" (un pollastro), "a roasted pigeon" (un piccione arrosto), "a sweetbread" (un'animella), "some lean soup" (della zuppa di magro), "some craw-fish rumpus" (dei gamberelli di mare), "some earthen stew pan eggs" (delle uova al tegame), "french cleans [this is perhaps really 'green'] beans" (fagioli verdi), and "some dutch cheese" (del formaggio di Olanda) (26-29). Likewise, while the United States redactors saw fit to include after "Bring me--" (Portatemi--) (23) only the liquids "water" (dell'acqua) (26) and "beer, boiled water, brandy, coffee, coffee with milk, cream, drinking water, milk, tea, wine" (della birra, dell'acqua bollita, del cognac, del caffe, un caffelatte, della panna, dell'acqua potabile, del latte, del te, del vino) (23, 25-26), we find in What is sufficient a much longer enumeration, including the following beverages that are given after the request "Hand me, please," (Porgetemi per cortesia): "some sparkling" (dello spumante), "some Marsala wine" (del marsala), "some curacao (Curassao)" (del curaco), "some caffee and cream" (del caffe e crema), "a drop of brandy" (una goccia di acquavite), "an effervescing lemonade" (una limonata gasosa), and "an orgeat (barley water)" (una orzata) (29-30).

Clearly, the editors of the Neapolitan guidebook incorporated in it terminology with which they were familiar, and were either ignorant of, or unconcerned with, military affairs. What is sufficient gives no hint of the seriousness evinced by the U.S. publication, which contains the sobering note mentioned earlier regarding how classified materials are to be handled. It is stated there that while the American phrasebook's contents will not be shared with the public or press except by authorized agencies, the information it presents "may be given to any person known to be in the service of the United States and to persons of undoubted loyalty and discretion who are cooperating in Government work" (cover and 1). It is a virtual certainty that those who composed the Italian counterpart could hardly conceive of the need to limit access to their own language resource.

It may be interesting to consider the time period during which these two guides were written. Following the overthrow of Mussolini on July 25, 1943, the Allies sign an armistice with Italy, which is made public on September 8. The U.S. Fifth Army, composed of the British X and American VI Corps, assaults Salerno the next day. On September 16, the date of publication of TM 30-603, the crucial battle for this beach-head is considered over, and American troops begin an outward expansion. Advance units of X Corps reach the outskirts of Naples on September 30, and the city is taken one day later. On October 22 of that year--as our Neapolitan entrepreneurs are engaged in printing their handbook--the English Eighth Army is crossing the Trigno River on the Adriatic coast, as part of its planned assault on Rome (Dupuy and Dupuy 1199-1202, Goralski 273-86, World Almanac 221-34). Given that the American document we have been considering has a predecessor dating from January of 1943, it clearly was the outcome of a significant period of meditation on the part of individuals accustomed to preparing materials for language instruction. The Italian guide, on the contrary, in all likelihood was composed in great haste, after its nonprofessional authors became aware of the certainty of invasion by troops from nations officially their enemies. Despite their marked differences, both the Italian Phrase Book and What is sufficient to speak an Italian are capable of evoking vivid memories both of what such soldiers may have experienced, and of the daily life of southern Italian citizens some sixty years ago. Taken together, these texts can serve as complementary living witnesses to a most significant moment in world history.


Cioffari, Vincenzo. Spoken Italian. Boston: Heath, 1944. Print.

--.--. Ithaca, NY: Spoken Language Services, 1976. Print.

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(1) Peculiarities of spelling and punctuation in the following pages reproduce those of the original Italian text, and will not be indicated.

(2) Besides Italy, the only nations referred to in the document are "America" and England (e.g., 9, 11), and the advertisements offered by the publishers give prices in shillings (inside back cover).

(3) The USAFI lasted until the early 1970s, at which time its functions were taken over by a program known as DANTES, for 'Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support' ("Q: What is DANTES?").

(4) This book's title page affirms that it provides a "basic course identical with the edition published for the United States Armed Forces Institute" (Cioffari, Spoken 1944), and, like the original, was accompanied by recordings (Cioffari, Spoken 1976).

(5) The U.S. manual uses only voi, presumably for greater simplicity of ex pression. The Neapolitan creation, however, employs this pronoun for one individual in most situations, but does show instances of Lei (as in Favorisca entrare ["Please to come in;" 15] and Gli dica ["Tell him;" 16]). While voi is overwhelmingly preferred here in the case of multiple interlocutors--e.g., Che frutta desiderate, signori abbiamo mele, pere, pesche, albicocche e un po' d'uva. ("Uat dessert du iu uant, gentlemen, ui hav appls, pers, pices epricots end olso e littl greps" (8)--there are three examples of Loro forms, appearing together in the section entitled "In waggon" (In vagone): permettono, desiderano, and favoriscano (5-6). Such mutability may be due to the co-participation of authors having different preferences in regard to forms of address.

(6) While Naples' Via Sant' Anna dei Lombardi continued to house book shops, what had been our typographer's studio was for a time a lesbian bar (Dove trovare i libri Urra, Pagine lesbiche, Pitagora editrice). There appears to be no relation between the World War II-era Rossi enterprise that produced What is sufficient and a publisher of similar designation in New York City.

(7) This last section ends with the optimistic assertions, "he is seventy-five" (ha settantacinque anni) and "he is a hundred" (ha cent'anni) (63).

(8) Such accuracy is seen even in cases where native speakers--particularly those more proficient in a local dialect than in standardized Italian--have been known to err, such as that of irregular plurals (e.g., le labbra doppie ["the thick lips;" 45] and le ossa ["the bones;" 47]).

(9) On rare occasions, however, the mistakes indicate a total breakdown in translation: e.g., "an armadilla" (un armadio [23]), "e scarp" (una scarpa [35]), "the carnation" (la carnagione [48]), "the vangel" (il vangelo [53]), and "chirsm" (la cresima [58]).

(10) Grammatical eccentricities provide no answer to this question. Within the individual word lists, however, some items speak clearly in favor of the authors' exposure to the English of Great Britain: for example, "a public hause" (un'osteria [50]), "the ordinary" (la tavola rotonda [54]), and "The corn" (Il grano [57]). Other usages, however, appear to indicate a familiarity also with French, as in "a press papie" (un fermacarte, the translation coming from presse-papiers [38]), "e drink-money" (una mancia, the English stemming probably from pourboire [40]), and the spellings "light-bleu" and "dark-bleu" (azzurro and turchino [49]).

(11) Although TM 30-603 groups useful phrases thematically, we find nothing that compares with the lively presentation afforded in the Italian handbook.


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Author:Ward, Michael T.
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Date:Mar 22, 2013
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