The I words are full of imperfections

Reading through the I section of an English dictionary is not exactly a barrel of laughs. There you are confronted with in-laws, incompatibility, interference, incontinence, impotence, insomnia, insanity, impoverished, incensed, inappropriate, inferno, illness, irritation and other issues. Are there any positives? Well, there is inspiration, idyllic, ice-cream, intelligence, inns and the Irish. 😀

So, are things any better in my five Romance languages?

  • SPANISH: Many of the I words in Spanish are similar to their English equivalents (impotencia, imprecisco, etc.) Probably the most important I word is ir (to go) – likewise in Portuguese – but that’s something that needs a whole blog post to itself. Here, we will go for something simple: una inocentada is a practical joke. Gastarle la inocentada a alguien is to play a trick on someone. This seems to implay that Spanish practical jokes have a certain innocence (inocencia) about them, which of course often isn’t the case.


  • PORTUGUESE: ignorantona is, as you might guess, an adjective meaning very ignorant or stupid, and there is a noun uma ignorantona, which means a stupid woman. But this is the thing – there is no male equivalent! What does this tell us? Is this an example of misogyny in language? Or is it a given that all men are stupid so you don’t need a word to single one out? But that’s by the by. The quirky vocabulary I wanted to point out was insossar, which means to prepare without salt or seasoning, to make tasteless. There’s many a chef who knows how to insossar. The adjective is insosso, meaning unsalted or dull. There is an expression in Brazilian Portuguese, comer insosso e beber salgado (literally, to eat dull and to drink salty), meaning to have a tough time, to endure hardship.
  • ROMANIAN: I’ve already told you what is by far the most important I word in Romanian…  îngheţată.This is a must have in your vocabulary. If you have forgotten what it means, read my post Vital words for survival in Romania. Here’s another one that would be good to have on your travels: ieftin (ieftină in the feminine form) means cheap or cheaply. a ieftini means to discount or reduce the price of, and a se ieftini means to become cheaper. Ieftinit or ieftinită means discounted or reduced.
  • no-smoking-154052_640FRENCH: If you go to France you might find that a lot of things are interdit or interdite, depending on whether they are masculine or feminine, which means they are banned. For example, entrée interdite means you are not allowed to have an entrée in the restaurant. No, no, that was a joke (une blague) – it means no entry or no admittance. Interdire means to ban. Il est interdit de fumer means smoking is not permitted. (Another way of saying this is défense de fumer) However, the reason why I am putting this word in the Quirky Vocab series is because of the expression être interdit or rester interdit, which mean to be dumbfounded.
  • ITALIAN: An important but non-quirky world that you should learn in Italian is imparare, which means to learn. Hence sto imparando is I am learning. But there are some quirky bits too. For example, così imparari! is that’ll teach you! And there is the proverb sbagliando s’impara which is the equivalent of practice makes perfect (sbagliare means to make a mistake, from which hopefully one learns something).



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