The American Election in the Italian Language: All the President’s Women

Oct 10, 2012

Blog Obama women

Le donne del Presidente

The President’s Women

The enthusiastic support (il forte sostegno) of American women for President Barack Obama fascinates the Italian press. The president certainly isn’t the first politician who warms women’s hearts (il primo politico che scalda i cuori femminili),  but he is a different type of “ladies’ man” (which doesn’t quite translate into Italian—although un rubacuori, literally heart-stealer, or un Casanova come close).

Obama is not a seducer (non è un seduttore), Vittorio Zucconi recently wrote in La Repubblica, who knows how to hypnotize women with charm (che sappia ipnotizzare le donne con lo charme), with the ability to make them feel the center of the universe for even a few seconds  (con l’abilità di farle sentire al centro dell’universo anche per pochi secondi) as Bill Clinton did.

However, the President clearly feels at ease among and with women (a proprio agio fra e con le donne). He grew up in a universe of grandmother and aunts (cresciuto in un universo di nonne e zie), formed and influenced by women (formato e influenzato da donne).

Like almost half of American children, Obama came from a home headed by a single mother (madre sola or single), whom Italian papers describe as “un pò scapestrata e vagamente hippie” (a bit wild and vaguely hippie).

His maternal grandmother (la nonna materna), deputy director of a bank in Honululu, told him that he was destined for great things (destinato a grandi cose). Instead of fairy tales and books of adventure (delle favole e dei libri di avventura) when she tucked him in bed in the evening, she read passages from the Constitution and Declaration of Independence (Costituzione e della Dichiarazione di Indipendenza).

His married life (la sua vita matrimoniale) seems impeccable (inappuntabile). No shadow of gossip (nessun’ombra di pettegolezzo) has ever touched him and Michelle. After 20 years of marriage the "first couple" (prima coppia) still seem as happy and in love (felice e innamorata) as the early days of their marriage.

The Italian press finds it surprising that Obama has welcomed — it is said with enthusiasm (si dice con entusiasmo) — his mother-in-law (la suocera), the seventy-four-year-old (settantaquattrenne) Marian Robinson, to serve as "babysitter in chief." It definitely helps, reporters observe, that the White House has 132 rooms, five private apartments, 35 bathrooms and 412 doors that can always be discreetly closed (132 stanze, cinque appartamenti privati, 35 bagni e 412 porte che possono essere sempre discretamente chiuse).

There is another woman in Obama’s world (nel mondo di Obama) but one who moves in her own orbit (secondo una propria orbita): Secretary of State (Segretario di Stato) Hillary Clinton.  Perhaps in four years (fra quattro anni), at age 69, she will change the conversation. No longer will we talk about one of the women of the President (una delle donne del Presidente) but about the woman President (la donna Presidente).

Words and Expressions

First Lady — Italians generally use the English since prima donna can have a negative meaning

Casa Bianca –- White House

coppia presidenziale –- Presidential couple

votante femmina, elettrice – female voter

femminismo –- feminism

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.

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