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Raining Tuna

October 30, 2015

I am by most accounts fluent in many languages. I speak eleven languages with varying skill and consider myself well prepared for a conversation in many tongues. I am not perfect but I am competent…. normally.

However, I am also an American and like so many of my brethren, I am a bit linguistically lazy. Having lived in northern Italy for many years, I consider myself completely fluent in the Italian language. Where we live, you have to be fluent in Italian, German and Nonese (local dialect) just to buy bread.

This brings us to why it is often raining tuna. In Italian, tuna is “tonno” and thunder is “tuono.” My unflappable American accent often forces me to say, “Guarda su, arriva tonno!” (Look up, the tuna is coming!”) My Italian friends often respond with a snicker, “How many?” This has been a local joke for a decade. I honestly know the difference but my mind often doesn’t tell my mouth what to say.

In my enthusiastic rush to conversation, I seem to always say “pesce” (fish) when I mean to say fish or peach (pesca). I have asked more than once for a kilo of pesce at the local fruit market only to be reminded that fish don’t grow on trees. “Lo so, lo so, lo so,” I mutter as I pay for the damned fruit.

Likewise, I once said that I found it very interesting that a German tourist had eaten “marmellata di viga con formaggio” for dessert (vagina jam with cheese). Oops! I meant to say “fichi” (figs). In the midst of old ladies hurriedly crossing themselves and gasping “Madonna,” I repeated the statement twice as I was sure of my diction. Finally, a cousin approached and whispered, “You make-a big-a mistake-a!” Yes, he was most definitely “right-a.” This difference I learned on the spot. But I still carry the memory like a red badge of stupidity.

Last, but certainly not least is “scopatore.” A “scopa” in Italian is a broom or mop. If a “attore” is an actor based on the noun “atto” (act), I figured adding “-tore” would work as well with any noun. So for the last ten years, I have told everybody here that I do the mopping in our house while my wife vacuums. Jokingly, I have said that my wife “mai imparata la scopa” (never learned how to mop). Therefore, with false pride I have repeatedly stated that I am a “grand scopatore” only to recently learn that I was saying in idiom that “I am a big fucker.” Ouch! No one ever bothered to tell me what I was saying until a friend recently laughed his ass off over dinner and laid the truth on me like a hundred pound salami. Apparently my way of applying logic to idiom doesn’t work hereabouts. It does make good fodder for my local friends who like to kid me a lot. (Well okay, unmercifully!)

Tonno or tuono: Only an Italian would know for sure. Being a poor immigrant, I continue to exclaim that the tuna are coming every time I hear a thunderstorm approaching. In somma, Io sono un grand scopatore che mangia pesce e pesca ma non mangia la marmelatta di viga con formaggio. Dico sempre quando arriva temporale, “Guarda su, arriva tonno!”

Mi dispiace…. la lingua è difficile.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

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  1. cecilia permalink

    Hello Allen, I read that whot you write about the tunnfisch o tonno….I need moor time to anderstend ewerithing thet you writ. I wont buy the horse whispere. I like read you! Bey Cecilia.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. allenrizzi permalink

    Grazie mille Cecilia,
    Ti mando un abbraccio forte, Credo che il libro sarebbe farti piacere, soprattutto le foto.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on allenrizzi and commented:

    A little late night humor for all of you polyglots…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. L.Roach permalink


    Liked by 2 people

  5. Interesting Post Sir, it takes a Big Man to admit he is mistaken! On here I often feel the lack of not having learned at Least French, Italian, German, It is the failure of our American Education System…..It is always interesting to me to find new Writers here on Word Press, I am finding so many New Friends that I cannot possible keep up^ with them all, although I am trying hard to RSVP them all…..Keep Writing Sir…..

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Such a fun read! 🙂 It is wonderful that you are fluent in so many languages. It is easy to be thinking in one language, and then, blurt out something different when you are speaking. I only speak English, and I know a little Spanish. I have heard so many stories from people about saying the wrong thing…just one word makes all the difference!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was a hoot to read. I’ve heard of toe jam but this is a first for vagina jam. It’s a wonder the old ladies did not skewer you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fortunately, the old ladies were all relatives and took some pity on the poor American wretch. However, they did wear out their rosaries.

      Liked by 1 person

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