Learn italiano

by Samuele Sodini

Learn italiano: a cat's tale

Learn italiano: a cat’s tale

The cat felloff 3rd floor window still last month so we dashed to the animal hospital at three in the morning. Sitting in the waiting room my mind was assailed by a long forgotten saying “tanto va la gatta al lardo che ci lascia lo zampino” (if you keep tempting danger, you’ll eventually pay for it).
Any thought of curiosity k…the cat was of course immediatly banished. For weeks she’d been making a beeline for that open attic window but her path had been barred just in time. And now here I was paying not a zampino (a paw) but an arm and a leg for her hip operation.

As she plunged to the concrete path below aat the human equivalent age of 65, I wonder if she thought “sono del gatto” ( essere del gatto: to have had it, no way out). And when I discovered her hidden near the frront door, lying in frightened silence, refusing to come in I thought to myself “gatta ci cova” (something’s up). It had in fact taken ages to find her as “al buio tutti i gatti sono bigi” (all cats are grey (alike) in the dark).

After the operaton she stayed ina  cage for three weeks. It was a small rabbit compound and she would have been excused for commenting that there was “no room to swing a cat” (and here I admit to being stumped -can any readers supply a good equivalent in Italian? We forced antibiotics down her unwilling throat. Unpleasant pink stuff which could have made her “fare i gattini”. No not have kittens but to vomit, throw up.
In the roasting 35 degree heat of July she went for a check-up. At three in the afternoon the streets of San Concordio were deserted and in the hospital there were suitably enough “quattro gatti” i.e. hardly anybody.

On week four she was finally allowed out, and watching her adjust to semifreedom it was abvious why Italian babies learn to “gattonare” (crawl) before they can walk.
Week five: doctor’s order “leave her free ina room with no furniture (well, we all have one of those…) and no possibility of jumping”. that’s was a real “gatta da pelare” ( literally a cat to skin, in the sense of a really hard task that nobody else wants). The only solution was to trail after her- thank heavens to laptop is wireless-nipping all climbing efforts in the bud. Now I know what it is to be in “gattabuia” (prison).

She’s last improved leaps and bounds (sorry) but outside roaming is till off limits. So to give her some exercise I take her round the garden on a long leash. Any casual passerby must think “quella signora fa ridere i gatti” (some woul d say “polli”) “hat woman would make a cat laugh”. I’m taking no chances, the first weeks were “una vita da cane” ( a dog’s life).

Then there are near hits. The straight translation would be understood. “When the cat’s away, the mice will pay”, well in Italy they dance. “Quando il gatto non c’è i topi ballano!” Pity that “to let the cat out of the bag” can’t be “far sfuggire il gatto dal sacco” instead of “far sfuggire il segreto”. Far too tame. And lastly there’s the so near but too far category. in the very first Italian “Big Brother” a quiet, well spoken but sinously beautiful girl had the abit of feigning total disinterest in any unavailable male contestant only to pounce when his guard was down. The other girls nicknamed her “la gattamorta”. Very catty! But dead cat? Did she wear a tatty old fur collar? Those two sharp english syllables convey some of the name’s meaning but lose the sensuous danger of the long drawn out italian syllables which take full advantage of the female use of the world. Trust the italians to distinguish between “il gatto e la gatta”.

Now did I hear somebody say cat’s cradle?

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