The American Election in the Italian Language: The Race

Oct 29, 2012


La corsa presidenziale

The Presidential Race

"Questa corsa è testa a testa” (This race is head to head—or, as Americans are more likely to say, neck-to-neck), La Repubblica reports. “Tutto si decide nelle prossime settimane.” (Everything will be decided in the coming weeks.)

Italian journalists generally concluded that President Barack Obama was the winner of the last two debates (dibattiti). "Se fosse una battaglia vera" (if it were a true battle), one paper noted, Obama "l'avrebbe davvero vinta in punta di baionetta" (would have won by a bayonet point — more colloquially, by  the skin of his teeth). However, the economic crisis has helped (la crisi economica ha aiutato) Governor Mitt Romney in national polls.

The big issues in the debates were work, taxes, the economy, green energy, the spread of weapons, immigration policies, and the disparity between the salaries of men and women (il lavoro, le tasse, l'economia, l'energia verde, la diffusione delle armi, le politiche per l'immigrazione, e la disparità tra gli stipendi di uomini e donne).

Wondering how some of the phrases that lit up Twitter and made headlines in the United States sounded in Italian, I culled a few examples of le gaffe (the gaffes or mistakes) and le battute spiritose (witty remarks):

*The 47 percent (il quarantasette per cento): These are the Americans whom, as one article put it, Romney sees as “parasites maintained by the government” (parassiti mantenuti dal governo). He has since clarifed that he cares about 100 percent of citizens (il cento per cento dei cittadini).

*Bayonets and horses (baionette e cavalli): Romney argued that the U.S. Navy has fewer ships than in 1916 (meno navi che nel 1916). To which Obama replied, “But Governor, we also have fewer bayonets and fewer horses.” (Beh, Governatore, abbiamo anche meno baionette e meno cavalli.)

*Bengazi (Bengasi): When Romney disputed Obama’s claim that he had referred to the assault in Libya as an “act of terrorism” (atto terroristico) the day after the attacks, he began to stammer (balbettare). "Just read the transcript" (basta leggere i verbali), replied Obama. Candy Crowley, the moderator (la moderatrice), then interjected that the President had indeed used the term within 24 hours (nel giro di 24 ore).

*The economic crisis (la crisi economica): “With Obama, we will end up like Greece" (con Obama finiremo come la Grecia), Romney argued, blaming the President for unemployment and debt (disoccupazione e debito).    Obama responded that his opponent wants only to lower taxes on the rich (solo diminuire le tasse ai ricchi).

For Italians, Romney’s turn to the center (la convergenza al centro) has been the greatest surprise of the race. “Obama vince ma convince?” (Obama wins, but does he convince?) asked a commentator. In a very short time, we will find out if the bayonets truly are enough to repel the cannons (basteranno davvero le baionette per respingere le cannonate).

Words and Expressions

politica estera –- foreign policy

il candidato –- the candidate

lo sfidante – the challenger

il sondaggio –- poll, survey

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

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