Every region and even most provinces of Italy have their own dialect or language. They developed from the original Pre-Roman tribes, or even more modern kingdoms and territorial divides. Piemontese is one of these many languages or dialects, really it is still being debated on what exactly to call it. Either way, once you hear it you will realize… it’s not really Italian.
You will hear Piemontese around Piedmont (the region where you can find Turin). It has an Italian influence, but also a heavy French one. Linguistically it is grouped with French, Occitan, and Catalan. This makes a lot of sense when you think about the geographic location, but also when remembering that Piemonte was French territory for most of her history.Piemontese was first documented in the 12th century. Currently, Piemonte is spoken by around 700,000 individuals, both throughout the region and borders AND in some parts of Argentina! *Ok side note: the history of Argentina and Piemonte/Italy crosses paths way more than you can imagine, this is due in part to our great hero Garibaldi, but more on this another time!* But, the language is not static throughout the area… in fact there are further accents and dialects between provinces- Asti, Cuneo, Saluzzo and Vercelli.
Today Piemontese is still spoken by older generations in conversation, has it’s own Wikipedia articles (over 10,000 of them!) and is classified by UNESCO as an endangered language.
Personally, I think this may have to do with the fact it is so difficult to pronounce. No seriously, if you aren’t born with the right accent, good luck. “Real” Piedmontese will love to call you out on your pronunciation also.
Some “Everyday” Phrases
- Boja Fauss- The number one saying sure to get you some Piedmontese friends in a split second! There isn’t an exact translation, it is more of an exclamation, but I guess the closest would be “Godamnit” This saying has a little of a historic story to go with it, the first being that “Boja” was an executioner, who also was a public official. The people added the name “Fauss” or false, because they could not believe someone could make money off taking human lives. The other explanation is that it was a way to avoid blaspheming, replacing the name of God with the executioner.
- Oh Basta là- best English equivalent: Are you kidding?
- E Bom- The Piemontese way of saying my favorite word “Basta”, meaning enough, or stop or “That’s All”. For example, if you are telling a story, or ordering from a store, to finish it off “e bom”
- Cum al’è? – How’s it going?
- Fuma ch’anduma? – Shall we go?
- Va bin – Another of my Italian favorites, Va Bene, or “Sounds Good” Really it covers way more than that, once you start hearing more Italian day to day, you’ll pick up this saying fast!
- Dabon? – Really?
- Sta ciuto! – Shut Up!
- Fiamengh (fiamenga) – Bellissimo(a), very beautiful
- Esse un barbis – one of my favorite little sayings, it means to be an expert, but the literal translation is to be a moustache. Can’t you just imagine a professor type with a mustache lecturing?
10 Piemontese Proverbs
- Ël vin e i segret a peulo nen vive ansema- Wine and secrets can’t live together. Oh, don’t we know it.
- S’a l’é nen ëstàit bon vin a sarà nen bon asil– If it wasn’t good wine, it won’t be good vinegar. Basically, if things started bad, they won’t easily be fixed.
- Anleva i to fieui da pover s’ì-t-i veuli rich e cuntent– If you want your sons to be rich and happy, raise them poor.
- Trové Nosgnor ant l’òrt – Finding God in the garden. Meaning to have a great stroke of luck!
- A va come (‘me) na barca ant ën bòsch – I’m going like a boat in the woods. meaning things aren’t really going well, just like a boat won’t go anywhere so far out of water.
- L’aja l’è le spessiàri d’i paisan- Garlic is the peasant’s pharmacist. Garlic is always the answer, once you’ve tasted Bagna Cauda you may understand this a little better.
- Par paghè e mori j’è sempar temp- To pay and to die, there is always time. Agreed, YOLO right?
- Doe fomne e n’òca a fan ‘n mërcà- Two women and a goose make a market. Saying, we are really loud.
- Ij brigant at pio la borsa ò la vita, la dòna at je pija tute e doe- Brigands take your wallet, or your life, a woman takes both.
- As comensa a meuire quand as nass- You start to die when you are born. Universal saying, but now you can impress your friends in Piemontese.
Want to keep learning Piemontese? I did not find many resources for English to Piemontese, other than Wikipedia. But if you already have a good grasp on Italian, you can check out this amazing site: http://www.piemunteis.it/