Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nothing is "helpful" in Italian

In 1981, attorney Anita Hill accused aspiring United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of something called “sexual harassment.” It was not the very first time the phrase had ever been used, and it was certainly not the first example of the phenomenon in America. But it coined the phrase for popular usage in America. This being an obviously negative concept, it brought progress towards reducing the problem in America’s work places, or at least i think this is how the story is commonly told.
There is one very helpful concept that has no word with which to be expressed in the Italian language. It is not something that is completely non existent in Italy, but is a positive concept that everyone on the Italian peninsula would benefit from its development and proliferation. What is this word that Italian language is missing?
It is “helpful.”

And correct me if i’m wrong, fellow expats or Italians, but after 7years of observation and research i believe that there is no adjective that describes something to be what we English speakers understand as “helpful.”
Again, not to say nobody in Italy is helpful. There are certain situations here in which you can expect people to always be helpful. 1. They already know you and love you. 2. You are paying them for this helpfulness (either in money or promise of some other reward). And then there are always exceptions.
Putting “helpful” into an online translator from English to Italian results: “utile,” which comes from the Italian verb utilizzare, which means to utilize. This Italians are willing to do. They will utilize or use you happily. And this does not apply just to the treatment of foreigners and tourists, but also among Italians. Doing something to help someone you don’t know, something that is full of help, is so rare that they do not even have an adjective to describe such a person or thing.
i wish Italians would adopt or create a word for this purpose, i think it would help develop existence of the concept. Perhaps they could make an adjective of the Italian verb to help, “aiutare” and say something like “aiutente.” Maybe they could just adopt the English word and say ‘elpfuul to acts intended to benefit others.
But don’ta woorrrryy, no problemeh, just stick to your friends and pay the people you don’t know and things will go along easily:-)
Am i the only one to observe this, is it pure cynicism, or is there an actual cultural difference here?

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