Archive for the ‘blog’ Category

false friends, languages

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No. I’m not talking about real people, here. Although, I’ve had some friends who didn’t turn out to be real ones, but perhaps I can talk about them in another blog post. Here I want to talk about those words which look or sound similar in two different languages, but they mean different things. They are called ‘false friends’.

Imagine you’re in a foreign Country. You are learning the language of that Country, and clearly you don’t know everything. What can help in any situation when you don’t know the relevant words is: context and similarities between the new language and your own mother tongue.

These similarities are life-savers. There are many between Spanish and Italian, or French and Italian. But when it comes to English and Italian, sometimes they’re a bit tricky and you have to be a little careful, as you could end up getting the wrong end of the stick.

The first time I came to Britain, I was only 17 years old. It was summer and the weather in London wasn’t particularly good. I didn’t carry a dictionary with me as I made a conscious decision to try and understand new words by their context. So, while walking about London with my friend (who spoke no English), I would often see the words “Estate Agents” in shop windows. The word agents was fine as it’s similar to Italian, but the word estate kind of puzzled me. In Italian estate means summer. So I used to think “these guys are probably selling something to do with the summer, and it looks like it’s houses. Some of them have gardens, some haven’t . Are they properties abroad in sunny places?”

So I kind of guessed they were selling houses, but not the right ones.

My very first boss in London, Giancarlo, was always grumpy and stressed out. I shared an office with Tony, a lovely Irish guy, who often spoke to me and taught me a lot of new words in English. One morning he told me that Giancarlo was miserable. In Italian the word miserabile means extremely poor.   I disagreed with him, I told him that someone who drove a Mercedes and wore Armani suits could not be miserable. So we debated for half an hour on the subject until I realized that something wasn’t quite right.

The most confusing of all, for me, was the use of sensitive and sensible in English. They are a double-whammy. Sensible sounds like the word sensibile and in Italian it means sensitive. On the other hand, the word sensitive, which could be mistaken for sensitivo, in Italian means someone with a sixth sense.

You can only imagine the conversation I was once having with my boss, where he told me: “Dr X is very sensitive about these documents. We need to be sensible about them. They must be kept under lock and key.” I got the gist that the stuff was confidential and I wasn’t supposed to photocopy and spread the papers through the whole department, but the whole sensitive/sensibility thing went over my head at the time.

Perhaps the saddest misunderstanding of all was the black bins in London, with the wording “Litter” which sounded so much like “Letter”. I just assumed that is where you posted your cards and letters. I have sent a few post-cards from there, from lovely London all the way to Sardinia, and my cards never reached their destination. I blamed the Italian postal service at the time, but I later realized that I was the slow one.

Have you ever misunderstood words, either in your own language or in another language? I’d like to hear your stories.

 

image courtesy of esi.info

bad patch, blog, DIY, eating out, murphy's law

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It does happen: you have a bad day, every now and then. But a bad week? A whole week? How often does this happen?

As I mentioned in my first blog, the launch of my website was accompanied by a few  glitches. What I omitted to say was that, among the various technical difficulties, my PC also caught a virus. Now, you may think, what’s the big deal? This happens to everybody sooner or later. But this occurred at the worst possible time for me, which is when I was about to launch my new book and my website. Well, it took the Norton team sixteen consecutive hours to try and resolve the issue; various techie guys alternated each other, took control of my computer remotely and tried to get rid of the bug. After the ordeal, my PC seems to have been cured, but it’s no way back to normal. It’s fundamentally a bit sick, and quite a few things don’t work as they used to.

Last Tuesday, Phil (my husband) decided to take me out to dinner to celebrate my book launch. After all, it was a special occasion, so we went out to our favourite local restaurant. The food was delicious, but for some reason the chef decided to provide very small portions that evening, so we ended up leaving the restaurant still hungry. Which is something that hardly ever happens, as I’m not a big eater. The next evening, I had arranged to go out with my friend Liz for dinner. This had actually been booked months before, and I hadn’t been out with her for three years, so again it was a special occasion. So we went to my second favourite local restaurant. Surely this would make up for the evening before? Not quite. Our food arrived after 65 minutes of waiting. Our fish was so overcooked that it had shrunk around the bone and there was hardly any flesh left to eat. We discovered that the restaurant had changed management. Liz is French and I’m Italian: we ended up crying on each others’ shoulder for missing the days of eating out in our respective countries, where you know that good restaurants don’t let you down, don’t change management, or chefs, or waiters, or portions, they always make you happy.

Then there was the painting of our front door. Phil had been meaning to paint our front door for ages, but couldn’t get the time off from work during the summer. I was really annoyed about that, because that’s the kind of job you want to do when the sun shines out there, and when it’s warm. Anyway, he was finally able to take some time off last week, and guess what? It rained, not just one day, but most of the time. Well, he still proceeded to do the job between showers. Our door used to be red, but I wanted to change because lots of houses have a red door in our neighbourhood – so I wanted something different. We debated for ages and we finally agreed to go for a dark purple. Then we fell in love with a plum colour, which we tested on the door and it looked fantastic. But as Phil put on the first coat of paint, we noticed that the plum colour looked more like a dark pink. The writing on the tin said that it would get darker as the colour dried up. So we waited. Still pink. So Phil gave it a second coat, in the hope that it would get darker, but it stayed kind of pink. You can see the photo at the top.

Needless to say, this is nowhere near like the test-colour we applied on the door before we painted it and we have no idea of what happened there. Phil was furious and I couldn’t help but smile. As, strangely enough, this shade is very similar to the one on my “Incompatible Twins” book cover.

But the mishaps didn’t finish there. On Saturday morning I was getting ready to take our daughter Sofia to her friend Lauren’s birthday party. This party was taking place at Milton Country Park and was supposed to be full of outdoor activities for children. I’d never been to this park before, so while I was wrapping Lauren’s present, I was asking directions to Phil. At the same time we were also discussing the colour of our front door and what we should do about our sick computer. Before I put Sofia in the car, I checked the timing and the place again: 10:30, Milton Country Park, then we set off. After a twelve mile trip, we arrived at our destination. We were fifteen minutes late. I wasn’t too concerned as we were walking towards our meeting point.  I thought “this is a kids’ party, not a job interview”. But then, when we got there, there was not a single child in view, or at least, none of the ones I expected to be there. I was perplexed: “Perhaps, they’ve already gone off and wandered in the forest, what shall we do now?” So I called Lauren’s mum on the phone, but there was no answer. I started blaming myself for always being late and Sofia was pulling my arm saying “Mummy, where is everybody? Where is the party?” I felt a little confused and disoriented. So we wandered around the park, looking for any familiar face, but saw none. Eventually I headed to the visitors’ centre and asked if they knew about Lauren’s party and the guy told me “Oh, there was a party booked for this morning, but it got moved to this afternoon.” Oh great! I was furious. They moved the party and no-one had bothered to tell me. I had driven twelve miles for nothing. So I packed Sofia in the car and travelled back home.

I found Phil who was laying another coat of paint on our front door. It still looked pink. “You’re home early!” he said. “No-one was there! I have no idea of what’s happened.” I was really annoyed as I was taking my coat off. “Are you sure you got the right date and time?” he asked. “Of course.” I picked up the invitation. I read it aloud. “Milton Country Park, 10:30. Sunday 15th September.” Then it hit me. Sunday, 15th September. That day was Saturday, 14th September, not Sunday. Oh dear. I got the place and the time right, but I got the day wrong! The thoughts that went through my head cannot be repeated. That was just it, the coronation to a perfect week. I had to promise Sofia that I would take her to the party again the next day, which I did.

To finish off beautifully, I seem to have a caught a bug myself now. I have a nasty cold, perhaps I’m just trying to be sympathetic towards my computer. But I think that’s it for now. The week is over and I’m hoping no more bad luck. But I was wondering, have you ever had a spell where things just keep going wrong?

We made it!

Sep
2013
09

blog, website design, Wordpress

7 comments

The title says it all. Notice the use of ‘we’. I didn’t say “I made it!”, but “We made it”. I’m referring to the launch of my new website.

I couldn’t have it done on my own. OK, I had a clear idea of what I wanted on it, but actually getting it done is another thing. I’ve been thinking about having a website dedicated to me as an author (rather than to a specific book) for ages.

The easy part was the content: I knew what needed to go in there; the tricky part was how to present it. There are so many options out there, the choice is huge, where do you even start? So I started by browsing hundreds of WordPress themes: one was better than the other, and the next one was even more alluring, it was overwhelming. What could work best for me?

My brother Ferruccio, in the end, picked the theme  – just as well. He designed the draft website and presented it to me. Then the whole “maybe I’ll have this bit instead of that” or “maybe I’ll try something different here” started. Well, he was fantastic and very patient with me. I changed my mind several times, over the colours, the layout, the images, the slider, everything, really. I’m sure that, after a while, every time he heard from me via email or text, his heart started to race. That’s big sisters for you.

My friend writer Stefania Mattana was of immense support over some technical glitches. Because things never go as smoothly as you think. You do everything by the book, you follow each step carefully, then you check everything, and double-check, just in case. All seems well. You finally do the testing with the newsletter signup or the blog posting, and what happens? There’s a problem. Really? Are you sure? Yes. What do I do now? Call Stefania. She’ll fix this. And she did. I am really impressed with her. Because she’s not only a very talented crime writer, she’s also a bit of a techie too.

Last but not least, my friend Siv Lien, who designs my book covers, provided some wonderful advice on the general look of the website. She’s a graphic designer, so she’s definitely qualified for the job. I think that her input gave it that extra spark that it was missing before.

So, all in all, this was a fantastic team effort. We made it! At the end of the day, though, it’s you guys who will be the final judges. Have a look around and let me know what you think.

 

Image courtesy of: space.dawsoncollege.qc.ca