Jeanne Klein wrote to me yesterday asking about the meaning of an Italian rhyme. While trying to answer Jeanne’s question, I thought it might be interesting to write about the process we go through when we work out the meaning of non-English rhymes. Italian rhymes can be particularly hard to decipher since there are so many Italian dialects.
Here’s what Jeanne wrote…
My ninety three year old mother is looking for an English translation for an old Italian rhyme said to babies (kind of like patty cake). Here’s what we have (probably misspelled)…
I asked my colleague Monique of Mama Lisa’s World en français if she was familiar with this rhyme and here’s what she wrote…
It looks like this one I found on www.Filastrocche.it…
Pane e cacello
Pizze e ricotte
So Mascha masilla would be Macia macilla = Micia micella = feminine for micio micello: micio is kid talk and means pussy cat, micello is a diminutive = pussy cat, little pussycat.
Panna cazelle may be pane e cacello = bread and cheese. But cacelle may be a dialectal form. Unless it’d mean panna e cacelle. Panna is milk cream, the type you get on top of the milk when you milk a cow then let the milk rest for a few hours. It’s delicious on top of a blueberry tart… and stays on your hips for months (at the least).
Panna ricotta: Panna = see above. Ricotta: I think you have ricotta cheese in the US, the word means “cooked twice”. So this panna ricotta may mean “cream cooked twice” – I’d chose this one – or panna e ricotta = cream and ricotta cheese. Otherwise, it might be pane e ricotta = bread and ricotta cheese.
Tofala botta = tofa la botta : tofa is dialectal form of standard tufa from the verb tufare that means to dive, to plunge, to dip. La botta may be a dialectal form of il botte that means a cask = “the cask dives” = “the cask sinks”.
This rhyme is sung while the kid is sitting on the adult’s lap and at the end, the adult spreads his/her knees and the kid “falls down” or “sinks”.
I can’t help more than that. Maybe an Italian person from the Regione this lady is from would know more.
Thanks for your help Monique!
I wonder if the last line could be reversed in English and changed to “Dive in the cask”. Meaning the cat is diving in the cask that the cream or cheese is being made in. That seems to make sense in the context.
So, putting that all together, you might get something like…
Panna e cacelle
Tofa la botta!
Cream and Cheese
Cream and Ricotta
Dive in the cask!
If anyone can help out more with this rhyme, or can confirm the meaning in English, please comment below.
This article was posted on Friday, November 24th, 2006 at 12:43 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Italian, Italian Nursery Rhymes, Italy, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Questions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
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