The American Election in the Italian Language

Sep 4, 2012

American baloons

Politici, moda Americana

Politics, American style

As the American presidential campaign (campagna presidenziale americana) swings into high gear, I find it interesting to follow the coverage in the Italian press. The perspective is different and often cynical—not surprising when you realize that politico  translates as “politician” and  politicone (literally a big politician) as “schemer.”

Let’s begin with this explanation of le regole del gioco (the rules of the game) from an online primer on American politics:  

“Due partiti, due candidati.” Two parties, two candidates. “Il cittadino vota e sceglie chi lo governerà per quattro anni.” (The citizen votes and chooses who will govern him for four years.) To most Europeans, the American system seems un modello di semplicità (a model of simplicity). In fact, this is un mito completamente infondato (a completely unfounded myth).
The electoral process has an apparente trasparenza (apparent transparency), but behind it lies un sistema complesso, dispersivo, farraginoso (a complex, wasteful, cumbersome system).

Many get caught up in il fascino di una campagna elettorale lunga più di un anno (the fascination of a campaign longer than a year) con ritmi e passioni da evento sportivo più che politico (with the rhythms and passions of a sporting rather than a political event) e giocata tutta sotto i riflettori dei media (and played out completely under the spotlights of the media).

Per diventare presidente degli Stati Uniti basta davvero poco. (To become President of the United States takes very little). Or so it seems. According to the constitution, chiunque può candidarsi (anyone can be a candidate), as long as he or she abbia almeno 35 anni (is at least 35 years old), sia cittadino americano per nascita (is an American citizen by birth) and risieda da almeno 14 anni negli Usa (has resided for at least fourteen years in the United States).

In reality a presidential hopeful faces un vero e proprio percorso a ostacoli (a true obstacle course). To succeed, a candidate must have the backing of un'organizzazione potente e ben radicata nel territorio (a powerful organization well rooted in the community)—that, is, one of i due partiti maggiori, il democratico e il repubblicano (the two major parties: the Democratic and the Republican).

Occasionally independent candidates (candidati indipendenti), such as Ralph Nader, enter the race but non hanno alcuna possibilità di farcela (they don’t have a chance). La loro funzione è di puro "disturbo" per uno dei candidati, (their only function is to make a noise or disturbance for one of the candidates, who many then be able to sottrarre qualche voto (steal some votes).

There is one post that anyone of any age, liberal (liberale) or conservative (conservatore), can assume: politico da caffè  (a cafè or armchair politician).  And that is exactly what many of us will become in the next few months.

Words and Expressions

parlare di politica –- to talk politics

avere molta politica — to be crafty (have a lot of politics)

politicante –- worthless politician, dabbler in politics

politichese -– political jargon (derisive)

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

Subscribe here



La Passione
Mona Lisa
La Bella Lingua