Archive for nizioleti

May
02

The Gioachin Question

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A sharp-eyed reader who read my recent post on Carlo de Ghega has written to the “Comments” page with the following salient observation:

Gioachin Erla? The marvelous iMaps+ doesn’t help, but the index to my typical Venice map lists a Gioacchino S Fm at E9, and there it is, at what iMaps calls Fondamenta San Giovacchino. No wonder he’s “famous”.

Checking up on street spelling might be as good an excuse as any to plan a stroll around Ghega’s native heath, but I will help those who are farther away by giving evidence here of the spelling on the nizioleto.

For anyone coming in late to this epic, which is beginning to resemble Ben-Hur mixed with Michael Strogoff and 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, here is the link to the Preface, Backstory, Prequel, Dramatis Personae, Nihil Obstat, or whatever one wants to call it.

Here is the nizioleto located five steps away from the plaque to Carlo de Ghega. The writers and carvers thereof were guilty of incising the name in that misbegotten half-Venetian, half-Italian which was one of several causes of the Great Nizioleti Uprising of 2013.

Here is the nizioleto located five steps away from the plaque to Carlo de Ghega. The writers and carvers thereof chose to spell the name of his street as “Gioachino,” that misbegotten half-Venetian, half-Italian lingo which was one of several causes of the Great Nizioleti Uprising of 2013.

Perhaps, for reasons unknown, the plaque-creators decided to copy from this nizioleto, rather than the other ones around, such as just across the little bridge to the right.

Perhaps, for reasons unknown, the plaque-creators decided to copy from this nizioleto, rather than the other ones around, such as just across the little bridge to the right.

I've always liked the fact that the Venetians named the fondamenta for Saint Anne and the bridge (and facing fondamenta) for her husband, Saint Joachim.  You know, "and in their death they were not divided."

I’ve always liked the fact that the Venetians named the fondamenta for Saint Anne and the bridge (and facing fondamenta) for her husband, Saint Joachim. You know, “and in their death they were not divided.”

Which brings me to a dead end in the cartographic road, so to speak.  Simply put, I cannot understand — and I’ve tried — why makers of Venice maps don’t write the street names to match what’s on the walls.  It’s so sublimely idiotic that even my brain, which idiocytropic, refuses to deal with it.  Where the matter of street-names-on-maps-differing-from-street-names-on-streets is concerned, my brain is like a cat examining a new product in its food dish, a product which even after a few minutes hasn’t yet inspired any urge to proceed. Sniffing, looking, and even licking haven’t produced any reaction at all.  Perhaps I have overdone this metaphor.  I haven’t really licked anything involving maps.

If anyone knows, or even imagines that he/she knows, or even has just a wild theory, as to why mapmakers publish street names which are not the same as the street signs in this extremely foreign country otherwise known as the most beautiful city in the world, I would be grateful to be told.

Then I could go back to looking and sniffing at other things.

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The color: Easy to discern without being objectionable.  The size: Adequate.  The clarity: As glass. The provenance: Mother Unknown.  Father, too.

The color: Easy to discern without being objectionable. The size: Adequate. The clarity: As glass. The provenance: Mother Unknown. Father, too.

Everyone has been so busy recently dealing with the nizioleti and washing and bleaching and ironing them, so to speak, that there hasn’t been much time to worry about anything else.

But now that we’re looking at the walls, we can see that something is going on that’s almost as disconcerting as the rewriting of the bedsheets.

It has to do with the yellow signs attached to assorted walls around the city whose arrows indicate the right direction to take in order to reach the major points of interest: San Marco, Rialto, Accademia, and a few other points near and far. There aren’t enough of these signs, and they’re not always positioned at the really necessary spot, though admittedly the intentions are good. But that isn’t the problem.

Unlike the nizioleti, which were in danger of being un-Venetianized, their yellow cousins represent a bureaucratic convolution which is much knottier than whether to use double or single consonants.  And these yellow cousins don’t even have a cute nickname, unless you want to call them “mystery” (giallo, in Italian — the same word as yellow).

The problem is that they too need therapy — to be repaired, cleaned up, made uniform throughout the city, and generally titivated.  But they have no parents, no guardian, no adult supervision.  Nobody is responsible for them.  Nobody even knows who put them up, or when.

When you think of it, there are millions of intersections in the world where a choice would be useful, and even desirable. Here it mainly looks funny. (Photo: Bill Marsano)

When you think of it, there are millions of intersections in the world where a choice would be useful, and even desirable. Here it mainly looks funny. (Photo: Bill Marsano)

This more than usual strangeness came to light when a merchant wrote to the city to complain about another merchant who had made a little personal project of blacking out the words on certain normal signs, and installing a new yellow sign — example: “Per Rialto” — with an arrow pointing in the direction of his shop. This had been going on for six years, which I think demonstrates an amazing forbearance on the part of his competitors.

There’s a saying which describes this kind of behavior: “The devil makes the pots, but he doesn’t make their lids.”  Which is to say that something skulduggerous might very well succeed up to a certain point, but it cannot remain concealed forever.  You may be cooking along at a great rate on some sketchy project, but it will boil over, dry up and burn, catch fire, develop botulinum toxin, or otherwise eventually be discovered.

However, when the annoyed merchant wrote to ask the city to intervene to correct this delinquency, the city did not reply with the traditional comment no ghe xe schei.

Instead, the particular department (Urban Maintenance) informed him that “The Department of Public Works doesn’t install the yellow signs, and they don’t conform to the current regulations.  In all of the Historic Center a signage indicating the most usual touristic routes are the object of continuous variations and tampering. It is impossible to determine the pre-existence, provenance, or eventual proprietors of these signs.

“Whatever intervention,” the reply continued, “requested by citizens or commercial operators for maintenance, cleaning up, renovation, or new installation, can only be made after a decision shared by the assessori (councilors) of Public Works, Commerce, Tourism, and Productive Activity” (the same thing as commerce, but different).

To sum up:  We don’t know whose they are, but they’re not legal. We don’t know who put them there, but you can’t touch them. These are deep waters, Watson.

Sometimes there are so many they essentially cancel each other out in the typical tourist's overloaded brain.  Here we have four, one being also in Hebrew. (Photo: Bill Marsano).

Sometimes there are so many they essentially cancel each other out in the typical tourist’s overloaded brain. Here we have four, one being also in Hebrew. (Photo: Bill Marsano).

But Alessandro Maggioni, the assessore of Public Works, wanted to clarify the situation. “All of the public signage belongs to the administration, that’s a certainty,” he said, showing admirable pluck.  “If there is damage, the Public Works substitutes the individual signs, but it’s true that to touch their indications we have to have the approval of the relevant department, that is, Tourism, and I know that for a while now they’ve been proceeding with a project of reorganization of the old signage of the city.”

After the epic adventure with the nizioleti, I am waiting with my follicles tingling to see what this might turn out to mean.

Meanwhile, follow the arrows with more than your usual caution.  That, or just don’t buy anything along the way.

That’ll show everybody you’re not to be trifled with.

And then there are the locals -- presumably shopkeepers -- who rebel against being treated as information centers, and put up their own signs.  These are extremely helpful, but after a few big rains begin to lose their luster.  I have also seen names and arrows applied to walls with spray paint, but they can be hard to make out amid the other graffiti.  And so it goes.  Citizens try to resolve problems on their own but it makes the city look -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- silly.

And then there are the locals — presumably shopkeepers — who rebel against being treated as information centers, and put up their own signs.  (I noticed this as I sat waiting in the hair salon.) These are extremely helpful, but after a few big rains begin to lose their luster, or fall off. I have also seen names and arrows applied to walls with spray paint, which is more durable, but the words can be hard to make out amid the other graffiti. And so it goes. Citizens try to resolve problems on their own but the fact that they have been driven to do so makes the city look — what’s the word I’m looking for? — silly.

 

Categories : Venetian-ness
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The stage is ready, all we need are the people.

The stage is ready, all we need are the people.

Voila' -- people.

Voila’ — people.  Jammed into the refreshment corner, but they did listen to the speeches first.

The votes are in, but they’re still being counted.  So far, though, the number of ballots on the spelling of the nizioleti has exceeded 1,500.  And they are unanimous in favor of bringing back the old spelling, the old words, the old way, period.

This information was imparted by Tiziano Graziottin, from the Gazzettino, to a happy gathering last Sunday on a cold, rainy morning in the Fish Market at the Rialto.  I was interested to see maybe 50-70 people show up — perhaps more might have come if the weather had cooperated — and I was even more interested to see that only two people from the boating world (besides Lino and me) were there.

Why is this interesting?  First, because I hardly ever see people in groups who are not of the boating ilk. Second, because for the past several years, the president of the Coordinating Committee of the Rowing Clubs, a certain Giovanni Giusto, has made it his own highly emotional, high-volume mantra that Venetian rowing is one of the last holdouts –perhaps the last holdout — of true venezianita‘, or Venetian-ness.

If that’s the case, I would have assumed (Zwingle’s Fifth Law: Never Assume) that boating people would have showed up in a solid, even if small, block of solidarity.  But no.  Let’s say that the weather prevented coming by oar — which it did — people who cared could have come by foot, just like us.

But the boating world was not to be seen.  That particular piece of Venetian culture and heritage is apparently floating around sealed inside its own bubble, and the other piece of V.C. and H., i.e., the nizioleti, is doing likewise.  In a city this small, it seems bizarre that there should be no contact between these two tracks carrying the same train.

As I looked around, I tried to guess from which quadrant these people emerged.  The universities?  The art world?  The music world? The world of linguistics?  The world of free snacks? I could only be sure about the last.

The new group is a fusion of two Facebook groups dedicated to the above-named elements of Venice's corporeal being.  Joining forces seems like a great thing.  Next, I think they should make enough shirts so anybody who joins (me, for example) could get one.  Or at least have the chance to buy one.  So far, these are only for the staff.  So fine: Make me staff!

The new group is a fusion of two Facebook groups dedicated to the above-named elements of Venice’s corporeal being. Joining forces seems like a great thing. Next, I think they should make enough shirts so anybody who joins (me, for example) could get one. Or at least have the chance to buy one. So far, these are only for the staff. So fine: Make me staff!

IMG_8319  nizio

The general sentiment of the occasion — of the project, mission, crusade — was expressed in Venetian on the sign shown above.  Translation by me:

How many centuries of history are in this nizioleto,

Names of streets, written in dialect,

Squares, little squares, parishes and streets,

From the Bridge of the Beret-Makers to the Bridge of the Breasts,

But these names weren’t given by chance,

But according to strict criteria.

Each street we walk along reminds us of some fact (deed),

And, why not, even an ugly crime,

The Riva of Biasio, the Rio Tera’ of the Assassins,

As reported by the great Tassini …

To say nothing of the ancient trades,

Like the milk-seller or the barrel-maker,

Walk around the city with your head held high,

Every nizioleto is a truth.

And beware anybody who touches them

Or writes them in Italian,

Because we’ll bite their hand.

Poor nizioleti, old and worn,

And to fix them, there’s never any money.

The purpose of the festa wasn’t only to report on the voting, but also to promote (in a very soft way), the new organization known as “Masegni e Nizioleti.”  (The masegni are the old trachyte paving stones, which have been endangered for the past several years by replacement by blocks of some other substance.  I think it’s a kind of stone, but once it’s on the ground, it looks to the street the same way Italianized words look on the nizioleti: Strange, out of place, and uninvited). The sheets and the stones groups decided to join forces and it appears, at least in the honeymoon stage, to be a happy marriage.

I pulled out 10 euros and signed on as a member of Masegni and Nizioleti. I have no idea how far the group is going to get, but I do know that on May 25, squads will be organized to clean graffiti off the walls.  I will take a break from whinging, put on my rubber gloves, pick up my bucket and brush, or sponge, or broom, and get to work, EVEN THOUGH I know that a week later graffiti will reappear.

More about the masegni themselves in my next; they are a story in themselves (as are we all).  But this is enough for one day.  Steady the Buffs!  Tote that bedsheet! All hands to the pumps, and see you on the barricades.  Bring refreshments.

And there are a good number of nizioleti whose primary problem isn't spelling -- it's having letters at all.  There's so much work to do

And there are a good number of nizioleti whose primary problem isn’t spelling — it’s having letters at all.  Gad.

 

Categories : Problems, Venetian-ness
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Mar
15

Rewriting the bedsheets

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A case in point.  "Ole" in Venetian are (or were) terracotta containers for cooking food.  I think "terracotta container for cooking food" would sound just as awkward in Italian.  And "tandoor"  wouldn't be much of a step in the right direction, either.

A case in point. “Ole” in Venetian are (or were) terracotta containers for cooking food. I think “terracotta containers for cooking food” would sound just as awkward in Italian as it does in English. And “tajine,” “chatti,” “shaguo,” “donabe,” “palayok,” or “Romertopf” wouldn’t be much of a step in the right direction, either. This would definitely be one nizioleto to leave alone.

The bedsheets, as you recall, are known as nizioleti here, and are the characteristic street signs with their often-exotic names in the Venetian language.

But hidden within them was a problem which nobody had ever noticed — nobody except Tiziana Agostini, the Assessore (person officially responsible) for Place Names.

The nizioleti are in Venetian, but she thought they should be in Italian. Time to move on, leave that quaint little old past behind, step up the game. Was she ever surprised last December when she discovered that the Venetians were massively opposed to this cultural non-improvement. A citizens’ group quickly formed to stop the madness and promote the repairing and repainting of the good old names that were already in place and doing just fine as they were, thanks so much.

Citizens’ groups here can’t count on accomplishing much beyond letting their dudgeon be known, but in this case the response came from everywhere, it seemed, and it was unanimous: We want the old names back.  Don’t fix the names.  Leave the names the hell alone.

And the outcry seems to have worked.

Ms. Agostini came out from under her desk when the bombardment stopped, and has been meeting with the core citizens’ group with the intention of reviewing and correcting the situation. Fancy way of saying “Put the words back where they belong.”

Meanwhile, the Gazzettino has undertaken a poll of its readers. Every day for about a week (the last day will be March 16), the same list of names is published in the paper, and the reader can indicate his/her preference by ticking the appropriate box.  Then one merely has to cut out the little survey form, and take it to one of the drop-off stations.  Happily, one of them is right here in via Garibaldi, though I would have gone all the way to the train station if that were my only option.

Naturally I’ve been ticking all the boxes on the right every day, and will keep on doing so till the end.

Then we’ll see if it ever made any difference.

This is the survey form, correctly filled out. I'm not, in fact, in favor of their writing "San Zanipolo," as everyone knows, but I voted for it on principle.

This is the survey form, correctly filled out.  The left column lists the words in Italian — on the right, their Venetian equivalents. I’m not, in fact, in favor of their adopting “San Zanipolo,” as everyone knows, but I voted for it on principle.

Brief, to the point, and in perfect Venetian.  Note the lack of double consonants, which is your first clue. You could make "salizada" more Italianesque by writing "salizzata," I suppose, but the correct corresponding word would have to be "selciato," or "stone-paved street." Not progress.

Brief, to the point, and in perfect Venetian. Note the lack of double consonants, which is your first clue. You could make “salizada” (paved) more Italianesque by writing “salizzata,” I suppose, but the correct Italian term would have to be “selciato,” which isn’t progress. “Streta” means “narrow” (in Italian, stretta).  Anyway, it’s fine like it is already.

The Street of the Little Fig Tree. In Italian, it would be "del piccolo fico."  But this is so much more appealing.  The tree itself seems smaller in Venetian.

The Street of the Little Fig Tree. In Italian, it would be “del piccolo fico.” Fine, but this is so much more appealing. The tree itself seems somehow smaller in Venetian.

 

 

 

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Categories : Venetian-ness
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