A Nectarine is Glabrous, but a Peach is Downy.

Group Portrait of CCC Enrollees

A Nectarine is Glabrous, but a Peach is Downy.

Blast from the Past (83)

There are several words for ‘bald’ in Latin.


Calvus is the word that came down into the daughter Romance languages.


In French, a ‘bat’ is a chauve-souris, a bald mouse. Chauve is a descendant of calvus.


‘Baldness’ in French is calvitie.


Calvo means ‘bald’ in both Spanish and Italian.


Calvus was the common street word for ‘bald.’  Plautus used it.


The word calvus comes from Proto Indo European *kalw-  (“bald”). Cognate with Avestan (kaurva, “bald”), Persian کل (kal, “bald, hairless”), Sanskrit कुल्व (kulva, “bald”).


Another word for ‘bald’ in Latin is glaber.


Glaber means ‘without hair, smooth.’


Glaber is perhaps a more educated word than calvus.


Why would anyone conclude that glaber is the more educated word and calvus the more popular one?


The main reason is that calvus is the word that came down into the Romance languages, which always took the street word rather than the school word.


After all, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Sicilian, Romanian and the rest were all created by the way common people spoke Latin.


The word equus is the refined word for ‘horse’ in Latin.


From equus we get such words as ‘equine’ and ‘equestrian.’


The Latin street word for ‘horse’ was caballus, which had the connotation of, say, ‘nag.’


From caballus we get Spanish caballo, Italian cavallo, French cheval and such words as cavalry, cavalier, chivalrous, chevalier.


Calvus (bald) even came down into German, not a Romance language at all.


‘Bald’ in German is kahl, obviously from Latin calvus.


Another reason for concluding that glaber is the ‘educated’ word for ‘bald’ is that glaber is that the word that is used even today in the sciences and in the library.


Glaber comes from the Proto Indo European *gʰladʰros and is cognate to Proto-Germanic *gladaz and Old Church Slavonic гладъкъ (gladъkъ).


Number Singular Plural
Case \ Gender Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Feminine Neuter
nominative glaber glabra glabrum glabrī glabrae glabra
genitive glabrī glabrae glabrī glabrōrum glabrārum glabrōrum
dative glabrō glabrae glabrō glabrīs glabrīs glabrīs
accusative glabrum glabram glabrum glabrōs glabrās glabra
ablative glabrō glabrā glabrō glabrīs glabrīs glabrīs
vocative glaber glabra glabrum glabrī glabrae glabra


The German word glatt (smooth) comes from glaber.


I feel as if such words as glide, glassy, glabrous are related to glaber.


Gaius Claudius Glaber was the Roman praetor in 73 BCE. who failed to defeat Spartacus and his fellow slaves on Mt. Vesuvius during the Third Servile War.


It’s a safe bet that Gaius Claudius Glaber was nowhere near as hirsute as this puppet.


In botany and mycology, a glabrous morphological feature is smooth, glossy, having no trichomes (bristles or hair-like structures).


Glabrous features may be an important means of identifying flora species. Glabrous characteristics of leaves, stems, and fruit are commonly used in plant keys.


The term glabrous is only used for features that lack trichomes at all times. When an organ has trichomes that are lost with age, the term used is glabrescent.


Most mammals have some skin areas without natural hair.


On the human body, glabrous skin is external skin that is naturally hairless.


Glabrous skin is found on the ventral portion of the fingers, palmar surfaces of hands, soles of feet, lips,labia minora, and the glans penis.


Recently, the term glabrousness has been somewhat cavalierly applied to human fashions, wherein some participate in culturally motivated hair removal by depilation  or epilation (removal of the entire hair, such as waxing or plucking).


In many Western cultures men currently are encouraged to shave their beards and women are encouraged to remove hair growth on various areas.


Commonly depilated areas for women are the underarms and legs.


Underarm hair removal is sometimes called axillary depilation.


Of course, people who sell depilatory aids spend a lot of money on advertising to promote hair removal practices.


This commercial push has resulted in the Brazilian waxing trend involving the partial or full removal of pubic hair, since thongs worn on Brazilian beaches are so revealing.


What was once kept a personal secret now is discussed more openly, although still in carefully non-explicit language, as advertised in magazines and on television.


In ancient Egypt, depilation was commonly practiced to prevent infestation by lice and other vermin.


Typically, tweezers were used to pluck out individual hairs.


In both Greece and Rome the removal of body and pubic hair may have been practiced among both men and women.


Both men and women were depicted without body or pubic hair on some of the red figure pottery from Greece.


Muslims have believed at various times that adult removal of pubic and axillary hair, as a hygienic measure, is also religiously beneficial.


Baptized Sikhs, on the other hand, are specifically instructed never to cut, shave, or otherwise remove any hair on their bodies. This is a major tenet of their faith.


Trichophilia is hair fetishism.


A merkin is a pubic wig.


I know a woman named Daphne Merkin.  She’s a writer for The New Yorker.


Daphne means ‘bay’ or ‘laurel,’ so Daphne Merkin could mean a pubic hair wig that is made from laurel leaves, so I enjoy seeing Daphne’s byline in my favorite magazine.  She’s a very good writer. I’ve kidded her about her name and she has taken it in good grace.


Merkins were originally worn by prostitutes after shaving their genitalia, and are now used as decorative items, erotic devices, or in films, by both men and women. This is a merkin worn at Burning Man.


The Oxford English dictionary says that the word ‘merkin’ was first used in 1617.


The word merkin came from a term for the “female pudenda,” apparently a variant of malkin in its sense of “mop.”


The meaning “artificial vagina or ‘counterfeit hair for a woman’s privy parts’ ” is attested from 1610s.


The custom of wearing a merkin dates from mid fifteenth century, and it was associated with prostitutes, and was to disguise a want of pubic hair, shaved off either to exterminate body lice or evidence of venereal disease.


This put a strange Whim in his Head; which was, to get the hairy circle of a Merkin …. This he dry’d well, and comb’d out, and then return’d to the Cardinall, telling him, he had brought St. Peter’s Beard.      A Complete History of the Lives and Robberies of the most notorious Highwaymen 1714   Alexander Smith


In Hollywood,  merkins can be worn by actors to avoid inadvertent exposure of the genitalia during nude or semi-nude scenes.


If a merkin were not worn, it would be necessary to restrict the shot to exclude the genital area.


With the merkin in place, brief flashes of the crotch can be used if necessary.


The presence of the merkin protects the actor from inadvertently performing “full-frontal” nudity. Some contracts specifically require that nipples and genitals be covered in some way — which can help ensure that the film achieves a less restrictive MPAA rating.


A merkin may also be used if the actor has less pubic hair than required, such as the nude dancing extras in The Bank Job or Amy Landecker in A Serious Man. In a nude sunbathing scene, her bikini wax was not common for the period (1967) when the film is set).


For the same reason (having less pubic hair than required) female slaves in Spartacus: Blood and Sand wore merkins.


Lucy Lawless was fitted for a merkin for Spartacus, but did not actually use it.


In an interview for Allure, Kate Winslet related how she refused to wear a merkin in The Reader.


Let me tell you, The Reader was not glamorous for me in terms of body-hair maintenance. I had to grow it in, because you can’t have a landing strip in 1950, you know? And then because of years of waxing, as all of us girls know, it doesn’t come back quite the way it used to. They even made me a merkin because they were so concerned that I might not be able to grow enough. I said, ‘Guys, I am going to have to draw the line at a pubic wig, but you can shoot my own snatch up close and personal.


At the São Paulo Fashion Week in 2010, design firm Neon dressed a nude model in transparent plastic. According to the designer, the model wore a pubic wig to make her appear more natural.


In the director’s audio commentary of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, director David Fincher discussed how a merkin was utilized for actress Rooney Mars, after she suggested to him that the character she portrayed in the movie was a natural red head in the book and actually dyed her hair black.


Consequently, the merkin Rooney Mara wore for the film was made in the color red.


The term merkin has been used in an obscene sense to refer to the vulva.


Merkins R Us:  In the UK, the term merkin has also been in common usage as a jocular term for an American since the 1960s.

Motor Car-Cadillac

Tea Party members call themselves a merkin.  ”Ah’m Amerkin.”


The Oxford English Dictionary reports that the term merkin has become common Internet slang for Americans or American English.

dsc00450.jpg Motor car 1931 V16 Cadillac

The popular saltwater fly fishing lure, used primarily in targeting bonefish, Del Brown’s Merkin, is named after the artificial hairpiece.   Bonefish?


The Merkin fly pattern represents a crab, which refers to the merkin’s historical use for pubic lice (crabs).

Woodrow Wilson Britain Visit

Del’s Merkin is tied with a disc of fuzzy yarn, imitating the crab’s shell, but also reminiscent of the fly’s namesake.


In Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel Lolita, Humbert Humbert confesses to the reader,  ”Although I told myself I was looking merely for a soothing presence, a glorified pot-au-feu, an animated merkin, what really attracted me to Valeria was the imitation she gave of a little girl.”


In Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 Dr. Strangelove,  the President of the United States, played by Peter Sellers, is named Merkin Muffley.


Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of American progressive metal band Tool, owns an Arizona grape vineyard by the name of Merkin Vineyards.


“The pain, disruption and distress, that the Sun inflicted by falsely claiming that I cheated on my girlfriend, in the context of such awesome corruption, is a pale liver-spot on the back of Murdoch’s glabrous claw.”          Russell Brand


“The Cyclops had a glabrous eyeball, glabrous as a piece of porcelain.”             Sam Andrew


She shaved religiously from an early age so that her vulva was perfectly glabrous both before and after she went through puberty.


Glabrous skin on the palmar aspect of the hands and the plantar aspect of the feet has special attributes.


These attributes define the skin on the palm, fingers, and sole as functionally and aesthetically different from skin on other parts of the body.


When there is a glabrous skin defect, it should be replaced with similar skin to restore function and aesthetics.


An author/physician reports his 12-year experience with the technique of glabrous dermal grafting for the reconstruction of palmar and plantar skin defects.


From 1992 to 2004, 13 patients with 14 defects underwent glabrous dermal grafting of either palmar or plantar defects.


Defects included nine hand and five foot defects.


Causes included nine acute burns, one secondary burn reconstruction, two delayed reconstructions of traumatic injuries, one congenital nevus, and one malignant melanoma.


Donor sites included 12 glabrous dermal grafts from the foot and two from the hand.


All glabrous dermal grafts demonstrated complete epithelialization and no incidence of complete loss.


Glabrous dermal grafting of palmar and plantar defects is the ideal way of reconstructing glabrous skin to restore both function and aesthetics and minimize donor-site morbidity.


Glabrous (nonhairy) skin surfaces (palms of the hands, soles of the feet, face, and ears) constitute a small percentage of total body surface area but contain specialized vascular structures that facilitate heat loss.


Cooling the glabrous skin surfaces is effective in alleviating heat stress and that the application of local subatmospheric pressure enhances the effect.


A line of shells, white and pink and glabrous in the bright sunlight, marked the line of the high tide.


They brandish weapons more befitting to their glabrous state: candor, transparency, directness and a kind of perceptive wonder.


Glabrous skin has an epidermal layer of about 1.5 mm in thickness and a dermis of about 3 mm. Hairy skin has an epidermal layer of 0.07 mm in thickness and a dermis of about 1-2 mm.


There are four different types of skin:  1. Mucocutaneous: at the junction of the mucous membrane, hairy skin, lips, and tongue.   2.  Mucous membrane: lining the inside of body orifices.    3.  Glabrous: skin without hair.    4.  Hairy: skin with hair.


Some ways to communicate the concept ‘glabrous’ in Spanish:   liso, calvo, llano, sin pelo ni pelusa


In Italian:  glabro, senza peluria, liscio


French:  glabre, lisse


German:   glatt    haarlos    bartlos    unbehaart


Greek:   άτριχος    This is a (not)  and trichos (hair)


Russian:    безволосый; гладкий; голый; лишенный волосяного покрова; неопушенный; оголенный    The second word ‘gladkii’ is from the root word glaber in Latin.


Swedish:    hårlös      glatt


Japanese:      無毛の(植物学, 動物学)  Notice that most of these languages are translating the idea of ‘hairlessness’ or ‘not hair’ as here.


“Two or three notabilities of Rockland, with geoponic eyes, and glabrous, bumpless foreheads.”   Oliver Wendell Holmes  1860


And hast thou shorn the Jabberwock? O glabrous day!


Watch for the new Gillette Glabrous.


Glabrous epidermis of Astrophytum asterias nudum


When she meets him, Elsa has the impression “that his body was more like that of a sea lion” – Finn is entirely glabrous.


The face, after all, includes another glabrous surface of the body, so cooling it with water might help stave off exhaustion.


Stem 2–4° high; racemes slender, panicled, ovaries mostly 5, glabrous; pods flattened, veiny, 6–8-seeded.


A Salix glabra is a glabrous willow.


In German this willow is called a Kahle Weide.  Remember that calvus (bald) in German is kahl.


‘I am bound by precedent,’ said the First Lord, turning a vast glabrous expressionless face from Harte to Sir Joseph. — Patrick O’Brian, HMS Surprise   1973


Adriaan rose, pulling out his limbering glabrous cock, his eyes happy. — Guy Davenport     Tatlin!   1974


Acomoclitism (from Greek κομη = hair, negation prefix α-, and κλιτικος = having a preference, from κλινειν = to lean, κλιτυς = a slope) is the technical term for a preference for hairless genitals. The related adjective describing anyone with this preference is acomoclitic.


Acomous, bald, depilous, glabrate, glabrescent, leiotrichous, tonsured


Everyone’s favorite glabrous, middle-brow, populist television commentator is back for this world cup.


To be glabrous in school can be quite a fashion or a nightmare, depending upon your ability to carry off the bald look.


WEST PALM BEACH:      G-l-a-b-r-o-u-s spelled success for a trio of super spellers from Scripps Research Institute and Duffy’s Sports Grill.


The three-person team of Alicia Brantley, Becky Mercer and Lisa Huertas correctly spelled their 10th and final word this evening to win the Great Grown-Up Spelling Bee at the Harriet Himmel Theatre at City Place.


The Scripps/Duffy’s team outlasted runners-up Palm Beach State College and the Gunster law firm with their correct spelling of “glabrous,” an adjective that means having an outer layer of skin that is devoid of hairs or down.


The antithesis of hirsuteness, glabrous is the logophile’s alternative to bald.


By the age of fourteen, Omar stood at a man’s full height and his upper lip bore a dark and lustrous moustache. The other boys, shamed by their glabrous jowls and chins, avoided him.


Glabrous vermicelli


We’ve always regarded slipper lobsters with a modicum of respect because they are hardy and interesting. Slipper lobsters have no pincers and they are welcome in both fish and reef aquariums since they don’t harm anything.  When we saw the glabrous fan lobster, Ibacus bruceii, which immediately reminded us of Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, we were truly astounded.


The glabrous fan lobster comes from New South Wales, Australia, and it was originally discovered from specimens that were collected at a depth of nearly 500 feet.


The glabrous skin on Joe’s feet was tough because he often went barefoot.


A talented gardener finds that some of his bean plants have pubescent leaves and others have glabrous leaves. He crosses plants and observes the results.


This species has a bluish-tinged body completely covered in white flecking in the typical species, though one may see completely glabrous green variants without any of the body flecking.

EPSON scanner image

Lips, palms and the soles of the feet are examples of glabrous skin in humans.


Think of the éclat when Sergei, resplendent, clean-shaven, glabrous and glorious, returns from his bearded sojourn!


We resisted the rebarbative redneck’s demands on us and we vouchsafed to buy the glabrous old hillbilly a proper hairpiece.


Britney’s glabrous scabbard in all of its shiny and smooth glory was a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.


It was as glabrous as a baby’s bottom.


He was thrilled about having pancakes with Teri, but, after all, he was as glabrous as a bowling ball.  What chance would he have with her?


He had a glabrous dome and a crooked smile that would have done credit to a crocodile.


Cognates of GLABROUS (without hair) at Indo-European “root” gladh (smooth) are GABRO and GLABELLA.


Other Indo-European “root”s meaning baldness are kelewo and klewo, giving us CALVARIUM, CALVINIST, CALVARY and CALVITIES.


GLABROUS deserves mention at Indo-European “root” gal (bald, naked) along with CALLOW.

Dale Burkhardt 22 Feb 2014

Goliboda is a Polish barber.

Jack Perry 22 Feb 2014

Other “gol” words in Polish are golarnia (barbershop), golec (naked man…poor wretch), and golo (naked, bare, in the open air).


See you next week?

Sam Wesley Freeman 22 Feb 2014


Sam Andrew                              Wesley Freeman


The Italian Language

grazie prego


Solo il 1 febbraio è al Fillmore Auditorium



No, no, Jimi è a Winterland.


Ma noi come siamo giunti l’altra volta al 2 e al 4 febbraio? devo vedere un’altra lista di concerti….avevamo incrociato le cose e avevamo pensato che fosse possibile che quel giorno entrambi si trovassero nella stessa città in due diversi locali e che uno dei due potesse essere in visita..perchè al winterland si sono incrociati niente mi pare….o sbaglio? non ricordo più ahahhahahha


Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Somalia, Libya, Ethiopa and Eritrea, and by expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. If you’ve ever stayed in Italian villas, you’ll have heard the language in all of its glory.

voglio venire anch'io al caldo con voi

Voglio venire anch’io al caldo con voi.


Many of these people speak both standardized Italian and other regional languages.


Italian is spoken as a native language by 59 million people in the EU (13% of the EU population), mainly in Italy, and as a second language by 14 million (3%). English is a far more common second language. If you are trying to master your own English skills then this PTE Practice test online will be of great help to you.


Linda foto


Including the Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland and Albania) and on other continents, the total number of Italian speakers is more than 85 million.

antea anna barban

Bellissimee! Bacionii!


In Switzerland, Italian is one of four official languages.


Italian is studied in all the confederation schools and spoken, as a native language, in the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Grigioni and by the Italian immigrants that are present in large numbers in German- and French-speaking cantons.


Il Sole non termina con la fotosfera e la cromosfera, ma continua in una nebulosità chiamata corona. Quest’ultima si estende oltre l’orbita di Mercurio, di Venere e della Terra…sicchè in realtà noi siamo dentro il Sole.

lupo alberto

Italian is also the official language of San Marino, as well as the primary language of the Vatican City.


Gnoccolitudine che avanza…


Italian is co-official in Slovenian Istria and in Istria County in Croatia.


Gli occhi molto belli sono insostenibili, bisogna guardarli sempre, ci si affoga dentro, ci si perde, non si sa più dove si è.

a wish

The Italian language adopted by the state after the unification of Italy in 1861 is based on Tuscan, which was a language spoken mostly by the upper class Florentine society.


The development of the national language was also influenced by other Italian dialects and by the Germanic languages of the post Roman invaders.


Italian is descended from Latin, and unlike most other Romance languages, retains Latin’s contrast between short and long consonants.


As in most Romance languages, stress is distinctive. Italian is the closest language to Latin in terms of vocabulary.


Italian as a language used in the Italian peninsula has a long history. The earliest surviving texts that can definitely be called Italian (or more accurately, vernacular, as distinct from its predecessor Vulgar Latin) are legal formulae from the province of Benevento that date from 960–963.


What would come to be thought of as Italian was first formalized in the early fourteenth century through the works of Tuscan writer Dante Alighieri, written in his native Florentine.


Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita,
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita.


Dante’s epic poems, known collectively as the Commedia, which another Tuscan poet Giovanni Bocaccio called Divina, were read throughout Italy and his written dialect became the “canonical standard” that all educated Italians could understand.


Dante is still credited with standardizing the Italian language, and thus the dialect of Florence (Tuscan, toscano) became the basis for what would become the official language of Italy.

c'è dentro

Italian often was an official language of the various Italian states preceding the nineteenth century unification, slowly usurping Latin, even when the country was ruled by foreign powers such as the Spanish in Naples or the Austrians in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia.


The great mass of people in the peninsula spoke primarily vernacular languages and dialects.


Italian was also one of the many recognized languages in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


Italy has always had a distinctive dialect for each city, because the cities, until recently, were thought of as separate countries, as city-states.

cento miliardi

The regional dialects of Italy have always had great variety, and many/most of them are mutually incomprehensible.

cerchio di gesso

As Tuscan-derived Italian came to be used throughout Italy, features of local speech were naturally adopted, producing various versions of Regional Italian.


Tanti bei ricordi.


The most characteristic differences, for instance, between Roman Italian and Milanese Italian are the gemination (‘twinning’) of initial consonants and the pronunciation of stressed “e”, and of “s” in some cases. Va bene ”all right” is pronounced [va ?b??ne] by a Roman (and by any standard-speaker), [va ?bene] by a Milanese (and by any speaker whose native dialect lies to the north of La Spezia-Rimini Line.


A casa ”at home” is [a ?k?asa] for Roman and standard, [a ?kaza] for Milanese and generally northern regions.


In contrast to the northern Italian, southern Italian dialects and languages were largely untouched by the Franco-Occitan influences introduced to Italy, mainly by bards and trouvères (troubadours) from France during the Middle Ages.


After the Norman conquest of southern Italy, Sicily became the first Italian land to adopt Occitan lyric moods (and words) in poetry.


Scholars are careful not to overstate the effects of outsiders on the natural indigenous developments of the languages even in the case of northern Italian.


Ho conosciuto l’amore, in tutte le sue vivaci forme d’espressione… E non mi sono mai meravigliata di niente!


The economic might and relatively advanced development of Tuscany in the late middle ages gave that dialect weight, although the Venetian language remained widespread in medieval Italian commercial life.


Dobbiamo festeggiare , bacione stellina …auguri.

at silvestris

Ligurian or Genoese remained in use in maritime trade alongside the Mediterranean, but the increasing political and cultural relevance of Florence during the periods of the rise of the Medici’s financial power, the currents of Humanism and the Renaissance made the Florentine dialect, or rather a refined version of it, a standard in the arts.


Ne avevo pure un’altra ma non ricordo dove.


From the Renaissance on, Italian became the language used in the courts of every state in the peninsula.


Le tre ave maria !


The rediscovery of Dante’s De vulgari eloquentia and a renewed interest in linguistics in the sixteenth century, sparked a debate that raged throughout Italy concerning the criteria that should govern the establishment of a modern Italian literary and spoken language.


Posso rubare questa foto?

Scena intensa....

Scholars divided into three factions:

  • The purists, headed by Venetian Pietro Bembo (who, in his Gli Asolani, claimed the language might be based only on the great literary classics, such as Petrarca and some part of Boccaccio). The purists thought the Divine Comedy not dignified enough, because it used elements from non-lyric registers of the language.
  • Niccolò Machiavelli and other Florentines preferred the version spoken by ordinary people in their own times.
  • The courtiers, like Baldassare Castiglione and Gian Giorgio Trissino, insisted that each local vernacular contribute to the new standard.
  • A fourth faction claimed that the best Italian was the one that the papal court adopted, which was a mix of Florentine and the dialect of Rome.
  • dio presto
  • Eventually, Bembo’s ideas prevailed, and the foundation of the Accademia della Crusca in Florence (1582–1583), the official legislative body of the Italian language, led to publication of Agnolo Monosini’s Latin work Floris italicae linguae libri novem in 1604 followed by the first Italian dictionary in 1612.


An important event that helped the diffusion of Italian was the conquest and occupation of Italy by Napoleone in the early nineteenth century (who was himself of Italian-Corsican descent).


This Napoleonic conquest propelled the unification of Italy some decades after, and turned Tuscan Italian into a lingua franca used not only by clerks, nobility and functionaries in the Italian courts but also by the bourgeoisie.


In Italian literature’s first modern novel, I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed), Alessandro Manzoni further defined the standard language by “rinsing” his Milanese dialect “in the waters of the Arno” (Florence’s river), as he stated in the Preface to his 1840 edition.


After unification a huge number of civil servants and soldiers recruited from all over the country introduced many more words and idioms from their home languages.


“Ciao,” for example, is derived from a Venetian word “s-cia[v]o” (slave), meaning ‘I am your slave,” a phrase of affection. Click the link to learn more Greetings in Italian.

karikatur für tribüne-liebespaar

“Panettone” (a kind of Christmas cake) comes from the Lombard word “panatton.”


Una foto da non perdere.

caterina russo Caterina Russo

Only 2.5% of Italy’s population could speak the Italian standardized language properly when the nation unified in 1861. Eighteen sixty-one. The USA, always touted as a ‘new’ nation, was almost a hundred years old by this time.


Italian is part of the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family, and is related most closely to the other two Italo-Dalmatian languages, Sicilian and the extinct Dalmatian.

belli tutti, ma l'acchiappasogni..

Belli tutti, ma l’acchiappasogni…


Italian lexical similarity to Latin is 90%.

FabritiusHappyChildC1645-50ToledoA web

French is 88%. Catalan 85%, with Sardinian 82%, with Spanish and Portuguese 78%, with Rhaeto-Romance and Romanian 77%.


A gnocca!

Knowledge of Italian according to EU statistics


Sei un bel fiore. Ti chiami il Fibonacci.

tisembrounachese ledevefarspiegarele cose?

Ti sembro una che se le deve far spiegare le cose?


Italian is spoken by a minority in Monaco and France (especially in the southeast of the country and Corsica).


Small Italian-speaking minorities can also be found in Albania and Montenegro.


Ti ho taggato perchè Ezio mi aveva accennato della tua passione per le gocce!


Due to heavy Italian influence during the Italian colonial period, Italian is still widely understood in the countries of Libya and Eritrea.


Although it was the primary language of Libya under colonial rule, Italian greatly declined under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi, who expelled the Italian Libyan population and made Arabic the sole official language of the country.


Ragazzi è stato un piacere e un onore conoscervi.. addioooooooooooo!


Italian remains an important language in the education and economic sectors in Libya.


In Eritrea, Italian is a principal language in commerce and the capital city Asmara still has an Italian-language school.


Italian was also introduced in Somalia through colonialism and was the sole official language of administration and education during the colonial period but declined after government, educational and economic infrastructure was destroyed in the Somali Civil War.



Italian was also used in administration in Ethiopia when the country was briefly occupied by Italy from 1936 to 1941.

gli sguardi

Although over 17 million Americans are of Italian descent, only a little over one million people in the United States speak Italian at home, but an Italian language media market does exist in the US.

Antonio Donghi's Woman at the Cafe (1932)

In Canada, Italian is the second most spoken non-official language when Chinese dialects are not combined, with over 660,000 speakers (or about 2.1% of the population) according to the 2006 Census.


Si qualunque contatto reale è pù importante di altri virtuali, ciao Anthea, grazie e buona serata !


In Australia, Italian is the second most spoken foreign language after the Chinese languages, with 1.4% of the population speaking it as their home language.


Italian immigrants to South America have also brought a presence of the language to the continent.


Italian is the second most spoken language in Argentina after the official language of Spanish, with 1.5 million speaking it natively, and Italian has also heavily influenced the dialect of Spanish spoken in Argentina and Uruguay,which is called Rioplatense Spanish (from Rio Plata).

siamo i migliori.

Siamo i migliori.


Small Italian-speaking minorities on the continent are also found in Uruguay, Venezuela and Brazil.


Italian is widely taught in many schools around the world, but rarely as the first foreign language. Italian is considered the fourth- or fifth-most frequently taught foreign language in the world.


According to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, every year there are more than 200,000 foreign students that are learning Italian language, distributed in the 90 Institutes of Italian Culture in the world, in the 179 Italian schools abroad and in the 111 Italian sections that are open into foreign schools.


In the United States, Italian is the fourth most taught foreign language after Spanish, French and German, in that order (or the fifth if American Sign Language is considered).


In central-eastern Europe Italian is first in Albania and Montenegro, second in Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, and Ukraine after English, and third in Hungary, Romania and Russia after English and German.


Throughout the world, Italian is the fifth most taught foreign language, after English, French, German, and Spanish.

kurt justin

Italian is spoken as a native language by 13% of the European Union population, or 65 million people, mainly in Italy.


In the European Union, Italian is spoken as a second language by 3% of the EU population, or 14 million people.


In addition, among EU states, the Italian language is most likely to be learned as a second language in Malta by 61% of the population,


as well as in Slovenia by 15% of the population,

le tre

in Croatia by 14% of the population,


in Austria by 11% of the population,

lo sguardo

Romania by 8% of the population, and in France and Greece by 6% of the population.


Italian is also one of the national languages of Switzerland, which is not a part of the European Union.


The Italian language is well-known and studied in Albania, another non-EU member, due to its historical ties and geographical proximity to Italy.

mai fatto

During the Renaissance, Italy held artistic sway over the rest of Europe. All educated European gentlemen were expected to make the Grand Tour, visiting Italy to see its great historical monuments and works of art. It thus became expected that educated Europeans should learn at least some Italian.


During the Elizabethan period, especially, there was a strong Italian influence on English cultural life. Think of all the Italian plots in Shakespeare.


Vedi che non si sta poi così male a Malta!


In Florence, which I have always admired above all others because of the elegance, not just of its tongue, but also of its wit, I lingered for about two months. There I at once became the friend of many gentlemen eminent in rank and learning, whose private academies I frequented — a Florentine institution which deserves great praise not only for promoting humane studies but also for encouraging friendly intercourse. John Milton Defensio Secunda


In England, Italian became the second most common modern language to be learned, after French (though the classical languages, Latin and Greek, came first).


In the Catholic Church, of course, Italian is known by a large part of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and is used in substitution for Latin in some official documents.


I was raised as a Catholic from birth, so these languages, Italian and Latin were second languages for me, because I served mass (which was in Latin then) from a very early age.

un capolavoro Un capolavoro

I liked Latin and Italian, because they are musical and sonorous.


Part of the beauty of these languages is that they follow every consonant with a vowel, so that the language sings.


There are other consonant vowel languages, though (Japanese comes to mind), and they don’t quite sing the way Italian does.


The presence of Italian as the primary language in the Vatican indicates use, not only within the Holy See, but also throughout the world where an episcopal seat is present.

meno tasse

Italian is the principal language, of course, in music and opera.


Throughout Italy, regional variations of Standard Italian, called Regional Italian are spoken.


In Italy, almost all Romance languages spoken as the vernacular, other than standard Italian and distantly-related, non-Romance languages spoken in border regions or among immigrant communities, are often imprecisely called “Italian dialects,” even though they are quite different, with some belonging to different branches of the Romance language family.

non ci posso credere

The only exceptions to this are Sardinian, Ladin and Friulan, which the law recognizes as official regional languages.


The Corsican language is also related to Italian.


La nonnina…carina.


Regional differences can be recognized by various factors: the openness of vowels, the length of the consonants, and influence of the local language (for example, in informal situations the contraction annà replaces andare in the area of Rome for the infinitive “to go”; and nare is what Venetians say for the infinitive “to go”).


In Italian, as in most Romance languages and even English, cases exist for pronouns (nominative, oblique, accusative and dative) but not for nouns.


There are two genders (masculine and feminine).


Nouns, adjectives, and articles inflect for gender and number (singular and plural).


Adjectives are sometimes placed before their noun and sometimes after. For an English speaking person, this is a very confusing area in Italian, French, Spanish, Portugues and the rest.


Adjectives usually come after the noun in Italian. Adjectives can be feminine or masculine, singular or plural, depending on the gender and number of the noun to which they refer. La folla felice The happy crowd


In English, we almost always put the adjective before the noun (she’s a good woman), but in Italian, eh?, there are some guidelines but practice and hearing a native, as always, are best. Generally speaking, if the adjective is short and very common, it can go before the noun, but these have to be learned on a case by case basis.


Subject nouns generally come before the verb. Subjective pronouns are usually dropped, their presence implied by verbal inflections.

Siete comunque belle e giovane!

Siete belle e giovane!


Noun objects come after the verb, as do pronoun objects after imperative verbs and infinitives, but otherwise pronoun objects come before the verb.

piccola folla

There are numerous contractions of prepositions with subsequent articles, maybe more than in any other daughter of Latin. Della, della, nello, nella, colla, collo and on and on.


There are numerous productive suffixes for diminutive, augmentative, pejorative, attenuating and the like, which are also used to create nelogisms. Maybe Italian is richer in these, too, than any of her sisters.


Many names in Italian began as the endings of longer, more ‘proper’ names.


The artist Masaccio? He was born Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone 1421-1428 CE. Then his name Tommasso was shortened to Maso, and then a big, ugly augmentive ending was appended, so he became Masaccio, the only name we know him by. Big old Tom.


His principal collaborator was another Tom, another Maso, but this man was called Masolino, the opposite of Masaccio. Little, delicate, sprightly Tom. Big, ugly Tom did all of the paintings. That was his revenge.

più alta forma

In Italian, there are three regular sets of verbal conjugations, and various verbs are irregularly conjugated.


The most ancient text in a ‘langue romane’ is a veronese riddle. It reads like this

Se pareba boves (they rounded up their cattle)

alba pralia araba (they were plowing on a white field)

albo versorio tenebra (they had a white plow)

negro semen seminaba (they sowed black seed)


The solution: This is about the hand that is writing, because… the boves (oxen) are the fingers, the white field is the parchment, the fingers had a white plow (the goose quill) and the black seed is the ink going on to the parchment.


OK, this riddle is not deathless humor, but it is the first thing written in the vernacular in Italian (as opposed to Vulgar Latin).

Tu e tua figlia

Tu e tua figlia


A dialect isn’t somehow inferior to a language. A dialect is a language. Italian, Spanish and French are languages because they have acquired a prestige in becoming literary languages and they are official languages of state, but Sicilian, Neapolitan, Picard, Tuscan, Friulian, these dialects are all languages too.


Articolo determinativo (definite article)
lo: for masculine singular nouns beginning with z or s+consonant Lo schiavo.
The plural is gli. Lo specchietto retrovisore rear view mirror


Il: for masculine singular nouns beginning with all other consonants
plural=i Ma sei sempre in giro per il mondo? Are you still touring the world?


l’: for masculine singular nouns beginning with any vowel
plural=gli l’anatroccolo brutto the ugly duckling

Photo of Billie Holiday La classe , la raffinatezza..Superlativa Billie Holiday.

la: for feminine singular nouns beginning with any consonant

sara p

l’: for feminine singular, beginning with any vowel
plural=le L’amica del cuore


articolo indeterminativo (indefinite article; singular only)
una: for feminine nouns beginning with any consonant una donna

un’: for feminine nouns beginning with any vowel un’antologia

uno: for masculine nouns beginning with z or s+consonant Uno scherzo A joke

sempre George
un: for all other masculine nouns Giorgio è sempre Giorgio. È un musicista.


Adjectives that end in “a” are usually feminine and form the plural with “e.” La coppia capricciosa The capricious couple


Adjectives that end in “o” are masculine and form the plural with “i.” Come mi disse una volta mia madre, Pa stai impazzendo!


Adjectives that end in “e” can be masculine or feminine and in either case form the plural with “i.” Janis in questa foto è davvero dolce, è dolcissima.


Adjectives that end in “ista” can be masculine or feminine, and they form the plural in the regular way–with “i” if masculine, with “e” if feminine: L’artista è un uomo.


The adjectives of color beige, blu, rosa, and viola are invariable. They stay the same wherever they are.


Certain common short adjectives normally precede the noun: bello, brutto, buono, cattivo, giovane, grande, nuovo, piccolo, vecchio.


The adjective “buono” follows the pattern of the indefininite articles un artista>>un buon artista


uno zaino>>un buono zaino


uno specchio>>un buono specchio


una artista>>una buona artista


un’amica>>una buon’amica


The adjectives “quello” and “bello” follow the pattern of the definite articles l’uomo>>un bell’uomo/quell’uomo


lo scherzo>>un bello scherzo/quello scherzo


l’amante>>un bell’amante/quell’amante

un vero amico

gli animali>>dei begli animali/quegli animali


gli studenti>>dei begli studenti/quegli studenti

vedi di fare questo

  • Dillo a lei di lasciarmi in pace!

gli amici>>dei begli amici/quegli amici

la Veronica>>la bella Veronica/quella Veronica


l’amica>>la bell’amica/quell’amica


le donne>>le belle donne/quelle donne


le ampolle>>le belle ampolle/quelle ampolle (cruets)


There are three classes, or conjugations, of verbs in Italian, according to the last three letters of their infinitive: ”-are,” “-ere,” and “-ire


A few infinitives end in –rre, such as trarre, porre, and derivatives.


Dovresti essere fiero dei colori della mia maglia! You should be proud of the colors on my jersey!


Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They do not agree with the word which they modify.


Many adverbs are formed by adding the suffix “-mente” to the feminine singular form of the adjective. Ciao Veronica finalmente vedo il tuo visino!

Smettila di sfottere!

Smettila di sfottere!


steve zia elise sam victoria


veloce>>velocemente; lento>>lentamente


bene=well male=badly molto=very poco=little troppo=too, too much


Lei è una donna molto brava: studia sempre!

L’Espagna è troppo lontana, vorrei andarci più spesso.


IL COMPARATIVO: There are three comparatives: di maggioranza (more than), di minoranza (less than), di uguaglianza (the same)


comparativo di maggioranza più…di più…che I supermercati americani sono più grandi che belli.


comparativo di minoranza meno…di meno…che Gli italiani bevono meno degli americani.


Use “DI“: 1.when two terms are compared with respect to one quality/action 2.in front of numbers


you use “CHE” Gli americani bevono meno cappuccino che caffé.
3.when there is one term and two qualities/actions refer to this one term
4.in front of a preposition
5.in front of an infinitive


comparativo di uguaglianza the same as Coca-Cola is as popular as it is deficient in nutritive value.

a. (così)…come or (tanto)…quanto La Coca-Cola è (tanto) popolare quanto priva di valore nutritivo.
(for adjective and adverbs: “così…come” and “tanto…quanto” are adverbs and there is no agreement)
b. (tanto)…quanto
(for nouns: here “tanto…quanto” are adjectives and there is agreement) Gli americani mangiano tanti popcorn quante patatine.
c. (tanto) quanto
(for verbs: “(tanto)…quanto” are adverbs and there is no agreement) Gli americani bevono (tanto) quanto gli italiani.

così and tanto are optional and usually avoided


II. IL SUPERLATIVO RELATIVO The relative superlative is formed by:

the definite article (il, la, i , le) + (noun) + più/meno + adjective + di + the term in relation to which we are comparing
Le confezioni itliane sono le più grandi del mondo.


III. SUPERLATIVO ASSOLUTO is the equivalent of the English “very+adjective” and “adjective+est” or “most+adjective.” In Italian this can be expressed in several ways:

1. by adding -issimo/a/i/e at the end of an adjective I supermercati americani sono grandissimi.
2. by placing molto, tanto, parecchio, assai in front of the adjective C’è stato parecchio disagio. It was very uncomfortable.
3. by using the prefix arci-, stra-, super-, ultra- L’espresso è arcipopolare. Il cappuccino è superchic.
4. by using stock phrases such as ricco sfondato (filthy rich); ubriaco fradicio (very drunk); stanco morto (dead tired); bagnato fradicio (soaking wet); innamorato cotto (madly in love)…
5. by repeating the adjective or the adverb
6. some adjectives have irregular superlatives: acre/acerrimo; celebre/celeberrimo; integro/integerrimo; celebre/celeberrimo; misero/miserrimo; salubre/saluberrimo; in spoken language, however, people just avoid “-issimo” with these and use “molto, tanto, parecchio, assai.”


III. COMPARATIVI E SUPERLATIVI IRREGOLARI the comparative of “bene” is always “meglio

the comparative of “buono” can be “migliore” (“più buono” can also be used)

the comparative of “male” is always “peggio

the comparative of “cattivo” can be “peggiore” (“più cattivo” can also be used)

maggiore” is an alternative to “più grande” (più grande=bigger maggiore=greater)

minore” is an alternative to “più piccolo” (più piccolo=smaller minore=lesser)


Conjunctions join words and sentences together. Some conjunctions, longer ones, require the use of the subjunctive. They are:

benché, sebbene, malgrado, nonostante, quantunque (all mean: although, in spite of, even though)

purché, a patto che, a condizione che (all mean: provided that)

nel caso che (in case)

Some others require the use of the subjunctive only if the subject of the main verb and the subject of the subjunctive are different; if the subjects are the same, the infinitive is required. They are:

affinché, perché, cosicché, in modo che (in order to, so that)
senza che (without)
prima che (before)


Personal pronouns
First Person Second Person Third Person
Singular Plural Singular Plural Reflexive Masculine Feminine
Singular Plural Singular Plural
Subject io noi tu voi egli, esso (lui) essi (loro) ella, essa (lei) esse (loro)
Stressed Object me noi te voi lui loro lei loro
Clitic accusative mi ci ti vi si lo li la le
Clitic dative mi ci ti vi si gli gli,loro le gli,loro
Clitic dat. before acc. me ce te ve se glie- glie- glie- glie-


Second person nominative pronoun is tu for informal. For formal use, the 3rd person form Lei has been used since the Renaissance. Lei is used like “Sie” in German, “Usted” in Spanish and “você” in Portuguese.


Previously, and in some Italian regions today (Campania), voi is used as a formal singular, as in the French “vous”. The pronouns lei (third-person singular) and Lei (second-person singular formal) are pronounced the same but written as shown. Formal Lei and Loro take third-person conjugations. Lei was originally an object form of ella, which in turn referred to an honorific of the feminine gender such as la magnificenza tua / vostra (“Your Magnificence”) or Vossignoria (“Your Lordship”).

20 These are hard times for someone who opens her heart and not her legs.

Accusative lo and la elide to l’ before a vowel or before h: l’avevo detto (“I had said it”), l’ho detto (“I have said it”).


When accusative pronouns are used in a compound tense, the final vowel of the past participle must agree in gender and number with the accusative pronoun. For example, hai comprato i cocomeri e le mele? (“Did you buy the watermelons and the apples?”) –Li [i cocomeri] ho comprati ma non le [le mele] ho comprate (“I bought them [the former] but I did not buy them [the latter]“). This also happens when the underlying pronoun is made opaque by elision: l’ho svegliato (“I woke him up”), versus L’ho svegliata (“I woke her up”).


In modern Italian, dative gli (to him) is used commonly even as plural (to them) instead of classical loro. So: “Conosci Luca: gli ho sempre detto di stare lontano dalle cattive compagnie” (You know Luca: I have always told him to stay away from bad company.”). And: “Conosci Luca e Gino: gli ho sempre detto…” (…I have always told them…) instead of “… ho sempre detto loro di stare…”.


Though objects come after the verb as a rule, this is not the case with a class of unstressed, clitic pro-forms.


Dative and accusative pronouns come before the verb. If an auxiliary verb is used, the pronouns come before the auxiliary. If both dative and accusative pronouns are used, the dative comes first. Pronominal particles ce/ci (to it) and ne (of it) are treated like accusative pronouns for word-order purposes.


Note that the clitic ci acts both as a first person plural accusative pronoun and a pro-form with a different meaning.


Davide lascia la sua penna in ufficio. David leaves his pen at the office.


Davide la lascia in ufficio. David leaves it at the office.


Davide ce la lascia. David leaves it with us.

29 Daniela Rettore cpyright copyright Daniela Rettore

Davide ce ne lascia una. David leaves us one of them.

mi pareva brutto il cd mi pareva brutto nemmeno un vinile da farsi autografare

Certo, la faccia sconsolata di Sam dice tutto.


Davide potrebbe lasciarcene una. David might leave us one of them. Or, could leave us one of them.


In the imperative and subjunctive moods, the objective pronouns come once again after the verb, but this time as a suffix.


Davide lascia la sua penna in ufficio. David leaves his pen in the office.


“Lasciala in ufficio.” ”Leave it at the office.”


“Lasciacela.” ”Leave it to us.”


Davide potrebbe lasciarla in ufficio. David could leave it at the office.


Non lasciarcela. Don’t leave it to us. Don’t leave it with us.


Davide dovrebbe lasciarcela. David should leave it with us.


Dative mi, ti, ci, and vi become me, te, ce, and ve when preceding another pronoun (“dammelo” (give it to me) or develop as a me, a te, a noi and a voi when emphasized (“dallo a me” (give it TO ME).


Accusative mi, ti, lo, la, ci, and vi become me, te, lui, lei, noi, and voi when emphasized (“uccidimi” (kill me) against “uccidi me, non lui” (kill me, not him).


Dative gli, le, loro (commonly gli) can be developed into a lui, a lei, a loro, when emphasized (“lo sai solo tu: a loro non l’ho detto” (only you know it: I have not told them))


Dative gli combines with accusative lo, la, li, le and ne (partitive, meaning “of it” or “of them”) to form glielo, gliela, glieli, gliele and gliene. These combinations are used for feminine and plural too (“Maria lo sa? Gliel’hai detto?” (Does Maria know it? Have you said it to her?)).


She’s too polite to say, “Gli italiani lo fanno meglio.” (Italians do it better.)


As I mentioned before, the Italian infinito presente may end by one of these three endings, either -are, -ere, or -ire. Exceptions are also possible fare ”to do/make” (from Latin facere), and verbs ending in -urre or -arre, most notably tradurre (Latin traducere) “to translate”.


Italian grammar does not have distinct forms to indicate specifically verbal aspect, though different verbal inflections and periphrases do render different aspects in particular the perfective and imperfective aspects and the perfect tense–aspect combination.


While the various inflected verbal forms convey a combinaton of tense (location in time), aspect, and mood, language-specific discussions generally refer to these inflectional forms as “tempi.” Thus it is impossible to make comparisons between the tenses of English verbs and the tempi of Italian verbs as there is no correspondence at all.


Tense Italian name Example English equivalent
Indicative Mood
Present indicativo presente faccio I do
I am doing[verbs 1]
Imperfect indicativo imperfetto facevo I did/used to do
I was doing[verbs 2]
Future futuro semplice farò I will do
Preterite passato remoto feci I did (historic)[verbs 3]
Conditional mood
Present condizionale presente farei I would do
Subjunctive mood
Present congiuntivo presente (che) io faccia (that) I do
Imperfect congiuntivo imperfetto (che) io facessi (that) I did/do
Imperative mood
Present imperativo fa’/fai! do! (sing. informal)

These are simple verb tenses.

Smettilaaaaaaaaaaaaa ti prego

Smettilaaaaaaaaa, ti prego.


Below are the compound tenses:


Tense Italian name Example English equivalent
Indicative Mood
Recent past passato prossimo ho fatto I have done
I did[verbs 4]
Recent pluperfect trapassato prossimo avevo fatto I had done[verbs 5]
Future perfect futuro anteriore avrò fatto I will have done
Remote pluperfect trapassato remoto ebbi fatto I had done[verbs 5]
Conditional mood
Preterite condizionale passato avrei fatto I would have done
Subjunctive mood
Preterite congiuntivo passato (che) io abbia fatto (that) I did
Pluperfect congiuntivo trapassato (che) io avessi fatto (that) I had done


Impersonal verb forms:

Tense Italian name Example English equivalent
Present infinito presente fare to do
Past infinito passato aver fatto to have done
Present gerundio presente facendo doing
Past gerundio passato avendo fatto having done
Present participio presente facente doing
Past participio passato fatto done


Present tense, indicative mood, progressive aspect: io sto facendo ( I’m doing)


Present tense, indicative mood, inchoative aspect: io sto per fare (I’m about to do)

OOOH che belliniiii

Oooohhh, che belliniiiii.


The simple preterite is becoming obsolete in spoken Italian (as in French and High German).


In ordinary conversation, one uses instead, the present perfect. Ho fatto not feci. I have done not I did.


The preterite (in some languages called the simple past) is still used in Southern Italy but is becoming less common there, too.


The preterite is, however, very common in literature, even modern literature. This is the same in French.


If there is no reference to the present, as when speaking of the dead, the simple preterite must be used.

Che gnoccaaaaaaa

Che gnocca.


In Italian, compound tenses are formed with an auxiliary verb (either essere ”to be” or avere ”to have”).


Transitive verbs use avere as their auxiliary verb. Verbs in the passive voice use essere or venire, with a different meaning. la porta è stata aperta, the door has been opened. La porta viene aperta, the door is being opened.


For intransitive verbs a useful rule of thumb is that if a verb’s past participle have adjectival value, essere is used, otherwise use avere.


Also, reflexive verbs and unaccusative verbs use essere (typically non-agentive verbs of motion and change of state, such as, involuntary actions like cadere (to fall) or morire (to die)). This is the same in French. We learned it as verbs of motion use essere (être) in compound tenses.

on January 14, 2012 in Milan, Italy.

In French and Italian, the distinction between the two auxiliary verbs is important for the correct formation of the compound tenses and is essential to the agreement of the past participle. Some verbs use both avere and essere (such as vivere to live). In recent past tense you can say io ho vissuto or io sono vissuto (I have lived).

Magnifica come sempre

Magnifica come sempre.


It is probably necessary to repeat here, an eternal truth of language learning: The best, absolutely best way to learn Italian is to come out of an Italian mother’s womb and live with her for seven years or so.


The next best way to learn Italian is to live in Italy for ten years and learn, learn, learn.


Any other way to learn Italian, besides total immersion, will never get you quite there. Every linguist knows this, BUT we can’t all have la mamma and we can’t all live there for ten years, so this is how we amuse ourselves in the meantime.


Italian has inherited the consecutio temporum, a grammar rule from Latin that disciplines the relationship between the tenses in subordinate sentences.


Consecutio temporum has rules that govern the subjunctive tense in order to express contemporaneity, posteriority and anteriority in relation to the principal sentence. French and Spanish follow these same rules, which are often titled agreement of the tenses, or some such similar phrase.


  • to express contemporaneity when the principal clause is in a simple tense (future, present, or simple past,) the subordinate clause uses the present subjunctive, to express contemporaneity in the present.
    • Penso che Davide Galassi sia intelligente. I think David Galassi is smart.
    • 69
  • when the principal clause has a past imperfect or perfect, the subordinate clause uses the imperfect subjunctive, expressing contemporaneity in the past.
    • Pensavo che Davide fosse intelligente. I thought David was smart.
    • 70
  • to express anteriority when the principal clause is in a simple tense (Future, or present or passato prossimo) the subordinate clause uses the past subjunctive.
    • Penso che Davide sia stato intelligente. I think David has been smart.
    • 71
  • to express anteriority when the principal clause has a past imperfect or perfect, the subjunctive has to be pluperfect.
    • Pensavo che Davide fosse stato intelligente. I thought David had been smart.
    • 72
  • to express posteriority the subordinate clause uses not subjunctive but indicative mood, because the subjunctive has no future tense.
    • Penso che Davide sarà intelligente. I think David will be smart.
    • 73
  • to express posteriority with respect to a past event, the subordinate clause uses the past conditional, whereas in other European languages (such as French, English, and Spanish) the present conditional is used.
    • Pensavo che Davide sarebbe stato intelligente. I thought that David would have been smart.
    • 74
  • Some third conjugation verbs such as capire insert -isc- between the stem and the endings in the present. Capisco, capisci, capisce It is impossible to tell from the infinitive form which verbs exhibit this phenomenon, which often originated in Latin verbs denoting the “inchoative” aspect of an action, that is, verbs describing the beginning of an action.
  • 75
  • There are some 500 verbs like this, the first ones in alphabetic order being abbellire, abolire, agire, alleggerire, ammattire and on through the alphabet.
  • 76
  • In some grammatical systems, “isco” verbs are considered a fourth conjugation, often labelled 3b.
  • 77
  • There are also certain verbs that end in -rre, namely trarre, porre, (con)durre and derived verbs with different prefixes (such as attrarre, comporre, dedurre, and so forth). They are derived from earlier trahere, ponere, ducere and are conjugated as such.


The Italian subjunctive mood is used, as in other languages, to indicate cases of desire, express doubt, make impersonal emotional statements, and to talk about impeding events.


Present Imperfect
1st Conj. 2nd Conj. 3rd Conj. 1st Conj. 2nd Conj. 3rd Conj.
io parli tema parta parlassi temessi partissi
tu parli tema parta parlassi temessi partissi
egli parli tema parta parlasse temesse partisse
noi parliamo temiamo partiamo parlassimo temessimo partissimo
voi parliate temiate partiate parlaste temeste partiste
essi parlino temano partano parlassero temessero partissero
Past = present of avere / essere + past participle Past perfect = imperfect of avere / essere + past participle


The subjunctive in many European languages is formed in the ‘opposite’ way from the indicative. So, if you have an -are verb like cantare, she sings is canta, but in the subjunctive, may she sing, or it is good that she sing, or may she sing forever, is cante. The -are verbs appear like -ere verbs in the subjunctive. So it was in Latin so it is in all of Latin’s daughters.


When we say Viva México, we are using a subjunctive. The indicative mood for to live in Spanish is vivir. México lives is México vive. But to make a wish Long Live Mexico, we use the subjunctive Viva México.


It’s the same in English. You just don’t realize it because it is your native language. We say Mexico lives alongside the United States, but when we want to make a wish for a long life for our sisters and brothers over the border, we say Long live Mexico. Lives is the normal indicative verb and live is the subjunctive which is expressing, as it often does, a wish, a desire, a hope, a conjecture.


Maybe we should just look at some sentences in Italian that use the subjuctive. Here’s one: Credevo che avessero ragione. I believed that they were right.


The subjunctive is used because the speaker believes, thinks that they were right. If the speaker said, I knew they were right, she would use the indicative.


There is always a hesitancy, a doubt, an unsureness about the subjunctive. I have been spiritually in the subjunctive all my life. I’ve never been sure of anything. I see both sides to any given question. That is why I wrote Combination of the Two.


Non era probabile che prendessimo una decisione. (It wasn’t likely we would make a decision.)


Non c’era nessuno che ci capisse. (There was no one who understood us.)


Il razzismo era il peggior problema che ci fosse. (Racism was the worst problem there was.)

ciao piccolina,sempre carina

Ciao piccolina, sempre carina.


The subjunctive is so called because there is a main clause, often in the indicative, and then another clause is subjoined to the main clause. In Italian, the subjunctive is called congiuntivo (conjunctive). Same thing. There is a main clause and then the next clause is conjoined to it.


I wish (main clause) that you WOULDN’T BE so hasty (subjoined clause with subjunctive verb mood).


Penso che sia un bel film = I think it is a beautiful film. We use the indicative in both clauses in English, but in Italian they use the subjunctive in the second clause because a personal opinion is being expressed.


È sicuramente un bel film = It is surely a beautiful film. Here there is a sureness, so the indicative is used. My bass player Peter Albin lives in the indicative. Everything with him is certain and there is very little doubt or hesitation. This kind of certainty is just what you want in a bass player. I am the opposite. Everything with me is in doubt. I live in the subjunctive mood.


Spero che lui/lei mi telefoni. = I hope he/she will phone me (personal wish)


Vorrei che tu fossi qui. = I wish you were here.


Affinché la nostra storia continui, dobbiamo parlare = In order for our relationship to continue, we need to talk (purpose)

Mmm chi ha fatto questa bella foto?

Mmmm, chi ha fatto questa bella foto?

40th ital chitarra

Voglio che tu venga qui = I want you to come here. (wish, command) Note that in English we use the infinitive instead of the subjunctive.


È bello che Paolo venga qui = It is wonderful that Paul come here (impersonal). We don’t use the subjunctive nearly as much in English as they do in Italian.


The “congiuntivo” is also required with particular expressions such as:

  • Impersonal forms » è necessario che, bisogna che, è importante che… tu venga al cinema – it’s necessary that, it’s important that… you come to the movie
  • Comparative clauses » è il film più interessante che abbia visto – it is the most interesting movie that I saw
  • Sentences introduced by » affinché – perché (so that), tranne che (a part that), a meno che (unless), sebbene – malgrado – nonostante (altough), purché – a patto che(provided that), come se (as if)
  • Sentences introduced by the adjectives or pronouns » qualsiasi – qualunque (any),chiunque (whoever), dovunque (anywhere)
  • Sentences introduced by the adjectives or pronouns » niente che – nulla che(nothing that), nessuno che (nobody that), l’unico/a che – il solo/a che (the only one that)


The conditional mood refers to an action that is possible or likely, but is dependent upon a condition.

1st Conj. 2nd Conj. 3rd Conj.
io parlerei temerei partirei
tu parleresti temeresti partiresti
egli parlerebbe temerebbe partirebbe
noi parleremmo temeremmo partiremmo
voi parlereste temereste partireste
essi parlerebbero temerebbero partirebbero
Past = present of avere / essere + past participle


Io andrei in spiaggia, ma fa troppo freddo. I would go to the beach, but it is too cold.


Mangerei un sacco adesso, se non stessi di fare colpo su queste ragazze. I would eat a lot now if I weren’t trying to impress these girls.


Many Italian speakers often use the imperfect instead of the conditional and subjunctive. While incorrect, this is somewhat tolerated in spoken Italian (rarely in written Italian, even if it used to be a correct form in past times).


Se lo sapeveo, andavo al mare. If I had known it, I’d have gone to the beach. (If I was knowing it, I was going to the beach.)

Sempre in giro, eh!

Sempre in giro, eh!

2010 nov 1 bergamo druso circus

The Imperative mood, or, the command form:

1st Conj. 2nd Conj. 3rd Conj.
(tu) parla! temi! parti!
(Lei) parli! tema! parta!
(noi) parliamo! temiamo! partiamo!
(voi) parlate! temete! partite!
(essi) parlino! temano! partano!


The verb ‘to be’ is irregular in many languages (even English!) and Italian is no exception: essere

Indicative Subjunctive Conditional
Present Preterite Imperfect Future Present Imperfect
io sono fui ero sarò sia fossi sarei
tu sei fosti eri sarai sia fossi saresti
egli è fu era sarà sia fosse sarebbe
noi siamo fummo eravamo saremo siamo fossimo saremmo
voi siete foste eravate sarete siate foste sareste
essi sono furono erano saranno siano fossero sarebbero

2010 27 oct limo

This is to give you an idea of how very different the dialects in Italy can be. To designate what the French would call ‘un jeune garçon,’ the usual word in Italian is ragazzo or bambino.


This is what the ‘jeune garçon’ is called in different places on the peninsula: in the Piedmont region, up north at the foot of the Alps, the ‘jeune garçon’ is called a cit.

Sam Andrew, Arianna Antinori, Ben Nieves, Davide Galassi

In Lombardia, the ‘jeune garçon’ is a bagai.


In Venice, the word for a young boy is toso or putelo.

Arianna Antinori, Antea Salmaso, toscana

In Friulia, up north at the top of the Adriatic Sea, where a lovely town called Udine is, the local word for ‘young boy’ is frut.


‘Jeune garçon’ in the dialect of Emilia-Romagna is burdel.

2010 oct 27 Arianna

In Tuscany, land of Dante, Petrarca, Bocaccio, and so many other immortals, that same ‘jeune garçon’ (young boy) is called a bimbo. There is a famous club in San Francisco, where we have all played a few times, called Bimbo’s.

sam ben perarolo italy

It is crazy, insensitive and grammatically wrong to call a woman a bimbo, which is a very masculine word, both in form and meaning.

BBHC Vicenza 4 Oct 2010

Quatraro is the word for a young boy in the Abruzzese dialect. This is only one word we are tracing here. See how different it is in each dialect? Almost all of the other words vary this much also, so you can see why people found each other incomprehensible once Italy was unified. Now, television, radio, cinema, Facebook, Twitter, newspapers… all of these contribute to the formation of a national language, and the old ways are disappearing.

statuary Vicenza

In Naples a young boy is often called a guaglione. Do you know where the word Wop came from? The Spanish ruled Naples for a long time, a couple of centuries at least. They looked at the children in Naples and saw that they were very handsome, so they called them that. ’Handsome’ in Spanish is guapo. The word became so general a designation for the Italians that it was taken over at Ellis Island. Wop became a perjorative term for an Italian.

Teatro San Marco Vicenza

A ‘jeune garçon’ in Sicily is called a picciotto or a caruso. These are just a few of the regions of Italy.

Il confine tra passione e romanticismo può essere molto labile

Il confine tra passione e romanticismo può essere molto labile.

Noi stiamo bene. dai speriamo di incontrarci presto

Noi stiamo bene. Dai speriamo di incontrarci.

2010 april 17 mississippi

I used to have a book of Italian proverbs from every region, in the language of that region, and then ‘translated’ into Standard Italian. That book was a joy and very informative. Somehow I let it slip through my fingers, and I have been trying to find it ever since.

Le 10 pizze più mangiate in Italia

The top ten pizzas of Italy. I am a vegetarian, so I like the Margherita. Italians always laugh at Californians because we have things like tofu and pineapple on pizzas, but I notice that there at the number ten spot they have a pizza with fruit, cream and Nutella on it, so…

    • z-final-300x122

Ora più che mai…

sam Castelleto Cervo 2012

Sam Andrew Castelleto Cervo Italia foto: Laura Albergante Visconti La Laura è sconvolgente. Una vera bellezza.


Toiling and Moiling


“Why not come and sing with me,” said the Grasshopper “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”

Janis 1967

You’ll be toiling and moiling just to get through this.  If things become tedious, just scroll down to the jokes at the end.

samuel johnson

Samuel Johnson defined moil as “to labour in the mire.”

janis 68

Moiling in the mire, toiling in the muck.

bread moil


Singing for your supper.


In the art of glassmaking, a moil is a superfluous piece of glass which is formed during blowing and removed in the finishing operation.


Cut that moil, Jack, and put it in your pocket till I get back.

moil point tool

A moil to a miner is a short hand tool with a polygonal point, used for breaking or prying out rock.


Especially in the beginning of its life, the word moil had connotations of wetness.  Her tears moiled the letter.

ae 57

In Spanish, as in English, moil can be a noun or a verb:   trabajo duro or esforzarse.

Janis Joplin, Sam Andrew

A moil is definitely not a mohel, although the words are homophones, at least in the US.  In the UK, mohel and mole have the same sound.

Al primo posto

Toiling and Moiling is a pleonasm, really.


Greek πλεονασμός pleonasmos from πλέον pleon ”more, too much”  is the use of more words or word parts than is necessary for clear expression.  You know, like black darkness, or burning fire.  ”Tuna fish” is a pleonasm.    So is “safe haven.”


A pleonasm is a tautology.  A tautology or a pleonasm can be used to reinforce an idea, an observation, a statement by making  writing clearer and easier to understand.  Legal documents are studded with pleonasms in order to make absolutely clear the intent of the wording.


Here is how a lawyer would phrase a poem that we all know:  Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”) a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to, a mouse.


Pleonastic devices were so often used by the epic poets, Homer, Virgil, Luís Vaz de Camões , Milton.  Epic poets once sang all of their lines, and pleonasms helped with the memorizing.


How many times is the phrase ‘rosy fingered dawn’ (rododactylos) used in the Iliad?  There are many of these set epithets in the poem. And each of them helps in the memorization of the whole work.

Sam Andrew Janis Joplin Leoni Samantha Leoni

In French, you can say Il est possible que.  Or  Il peut arriver que.  Or Il peut se passer que. They all mean roughly the same thing, they are often said in sequence and they are all more or less pleonastic.  Not really necessary to the sense of what follows.

bergen and caine

Toiling and moiling mean more or less the same thing and are only joined in this old cliché because they rhyme.

birk beat

She needed a respite from the moil of the modern world.


calot is that kepi you see on a gendarme’s head in Paris.


A calotte is that skullcap you see on the rabbi’s head in Villejuif.


Does the Pope wear a yarmulke?  Calotte can also mean the vault of heaven, or, the clergy.


This is an example of metonymy, substituting the part (a priest’s cap) for the whole, the clergy.

booker 76

Men who moil for gold.

Sam Janis 68

The audience moiled around the stage.

charlotte rampling 66

Middle English mollen from French mouillir, Old French moillier, Vulgar Latin *molliare, Latin mollia, the soft part of the bread, Indo European *mel-

sam janis airport

The angry mob moiled around the ticket counter.

christa päffgen

From this same word mollia comes mojado, Spanish for ‘wet’ and slang for ‘wetback.’

christie avedon

Extreme manual labor:  the kind of moiling work that was done by farmers before the age of mechanization.

Cosa c'è in un nome?

Some words that mean more or less the same as moiling are:  arduous, Augean, backbreaking, demanding, difficult, formidable, grueling, heavy, herculean, hard, murderous, severe, strenuous, toilsome, tough.


Mental moiling can be occupied with matters that are abstruse, complex, complicated, elusive, insoluble, intricate, involved, knotty, opaque, recondite, spiny, thorny, stubborn, onerous, taxing, irksome, vexatious, stringent.


I’m beginning to think that there is something to this -oiled sound.

Sam Janis outside 67

Let’s see, oiled, annoyed, boiled, boisterous, broiled, coiled, foiled, moiled, roiled, soiled, spoiled, toiled, there’s a kind of common meaning that emerges here from the mere sound -oiled.

due volte

A kind of confusion and turmoil.


During the counterculture period, there was a certain roiling instability in our town.

janis park

She was calm and happy as the equipment managers toiled and moiled at their tasks.

emmanuelle beart

The roiling surf excited her and stirred her hopes.

femmina di prima clase

Moil:     Alarums and excursions, ballyhoo, blather, bobbery, foofaraw, helter-skelter, hurry-scurry. kerfuffle, pother, ruction, welter, williwaw.

françoise hardy

Fracas, mêlée, lather, tizzy.


There are strange things done in the midnight sun   By the men who moil for gold;  The Arctic Trails have their secret tales That would make your blood run cold;  The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,   But the queerest they ever did see   Was that night on the marge of Lake LeBarge    I cremated Sam McGee.


Her maiden name is Moil.

gatto e cane

Mollify: 14th century CE  ”to soften (a substance),” from Old French mollifier or directly from Late Latin mollificare ”make soft, mollify” from mollificus ”softening,” from Latin mollis ”soft” (see melt (v.)) + root of facere ”to make.”  Transferred sense of “soften in temper, appease, pacify” is recorded from early 15th century.

Gena and John 54

Proto Indo European root *mel


In Latin a tudicula was a machine for crushing olives.  Tudiculare meant ‘stir around.’  In Norman French this word had become toiler.



The Romans called a hammer a tudes and tundere meant ‘to beat.’  Both of these words are related to that olive bruising machine, the tudicula.

joey deborah

The happily named Thomas Crapper was one of the early makers of toilets in England.


His name is, amazingly enough, sheer coincidence, and not related to ‘crap’ or ‘crapper.’


Diseases, including cholera which still affects some three million people each year, can be largely prevented when effective sanitation and water treatment prevents fecal matter from contaminating waterways, groundwater and drinking water supplies.

margaret a

Infected water supplies can be treated to make the water safe for consumption and use.

marianne 65

There have been five main cholera outbreaks and pandemics since 1825, during one of which 10,000 people died in 1849 in London alone.

Macon Georgia Telegraph microfilm Feb 1839-Apr 1842 to 1 Oct 1839  We give below, the names of the persons who died in Augusta, of the prevailing epidemic, from its commencement up to the 26th ult:  John Abbott, Frederick Selleck, James U. Jackson, Wm. Thompson,  Henry E. Parmelee, Thomas Allen, Welcome Allen, Wiley Hargroves, Allen Andrew.

Sam Andrew, calling card 1860

My ancestor Allen Andrew, a physician, died in an Atlanta, Georgia, cholera epidemic about 1839.  I like to think that he died helping people, but I don’t really know that.


Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.” 

natalie 61

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee. 


And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.” 


Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold, till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ’tain’t being dead — it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.” 


A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee. 


There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you, to cremate those last remains.” 

Washakie Badlands

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows — Oh God! how I loathed the thing. 

z roiling

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin. 

nico 61

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.” 


Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared — such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee. 

nina 60

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky. 


I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide. 


And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear, you’ll let in the cold and storm —
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.” 

Non c'è niente da fare

   There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.


Now, isn’t that a heartwarming tale?


Robert Service, the Bard of the Yukon wrote that.

ocin 62

I love the meter and the rhyme scheme.


Service wrote other such immortal odes. One was The Shooting of Dan McGrew.


Service wrote his first poem when he was six.

Ora che cosa?

God bless the cakes and bless the jam;  Bless the cheese and the cold boiled ham:  Bless the scones Aunt Jeannie makes,   And save us all from bellyaches.   Amen


OK, back to moiling.   Hey, these men aren’t moiling.


These men did with the hermits toil, With their hands in daily moil.

pamela tiffin

Moil first meant to moisten.  Later, the meaning became to work hard in unpleasantly wet conditions, from Old French moillier, ultimately from Latin mollis soft.


Fun dein moil tsu gots oyerin,”  is Yiddish for, “From your mouth to god’s ears,”  which means something like “Let’s hope god hears you say that and that she will grant your request.  This “moil” comes from German Maul, mouth, and has nothing to do with our word moil.


… and moylynge in their gaye manoures and mansions    (1548  Latimer)

patti d'arbanville

And moyleth for no more than their hyre.       (1559  Mirror for Magistrates)


To toyle and moyle for worldly dross.     (1580   Gillflowers Poems)


Here was labour, drudge and moyle.       1593

paul jones

… molestation or moyle, miserie   1612



But moile not too much under Ground.        1625   Bacon

päffgen 65

Vega hath spent 20 chapters wherein he moyles in sweate and dust.     1629   Burton



The Masters say not what excesse of toile and moile servants undergoe.     1642


Their life for that space was hard travail or moyle.      1659


This night his weekly moil is at end.     1785


Enduring moil and toil in the trenches before Troy.         1856


It is for love of me that he comes on foot and with all that moil.          1881

piaf reinhardt

Edith Piaf                        Django Reinhardt

quale disco scegliere

That with the madding moil the waves themselves Inflamed.        1855


It is laughable after I have got out of the moil to think how miserably it affected me for the moment.         1864     Hawthorne


Deaf are his ears with the moil of the mill.          1885    Stevenson


The moil of death upon them.            1856    Elizabeth Barrett Browning


Mwile, mire.   ‘A’s a-gettin’ vurder in the mwile, i.e.,  he’s going from bad to worse      1888   Berkshire Glossary


1582     Thee seas, thee skies so sprightfulye moyling


1600         Much moiled they were all and sore toiled in this untoward.

s  68

1604       Who is moyled with heavinesse…


1640      This while Alcidamant and Griolanis were no less moiled, for the great knight of the Sun so stoutly withstood them.


1653      We had been miserably moiled and our hurts that were great but ill looked unto.


1823       He seemed sadly moiled with matrimonial miseries.

Linda Huey studio Boston, MA

1560      We moiled and turmoiled ourselues in studying and deuising howe we maye come by giftes of glassy fortune.


1881    They moile themselues sore with the manners and condition of the nurse.

scarpette dorate

1600 Hakluyt    To moyle themselves with abject and base works.

sd 66

1611   Chapman  Iliad      No more tug one another thus, nor moyle yourselves.


1673   Marvell   He moyles himself with tumbling and tossing it that he is in danger of melting his Sperma Ceti.


1869   Tennyson   But ‘e tued an’ moil’d ‘issen deäd.


1567   Golding   They moyled why others myght not geve like gift as wele as shee.


1889    He’s tewin’ an’ moilin’ aboot for iver.


If I died and went straight to hell, it would take me a week to realize I wasn’t at work anymore.


To All Employees:        New Incentive Plan      Work — or get fired.


Men At Work         Women work all the time.     Men have to put up signs when they work.


Why is Monday so far from Friday but Friday so close to Monday?


Why aren’t you working?               I didn’t see you coming.

sonja kristina 75

Por fin es VIERNES.              Finally it’s FRIDAY.



When the coffee stops working it is probably the right time to get drunk.


Three drunks get in a cab. The driver thinks he’ll play a trick on them, so he starts his engine, then turns it off. “We’re there,” he announces. The first drunk pays him. The second says “Thank you,” and the third hits him. “Hey, what was that for?”  ”Next time go a little slower. You almost killed us.”


If you’re going to wish for impossible things, here’s a starting list.    1. earn money without working,  2. be smart without studying, 3. love without getting hurt, and 4. eat without getting fat.


I would be more inclined to grow up if I saw that it worked out for anyone else.

twiggy newton

A lot of sleep can not only lengthen your life, it can make work hours shorter.


I could be the world’s laziest man if I applied myself.

uschi obermaier

You’re tired because you’re overworked. The population of this country is 237 million. 104 million are retired. That leaves 133 million to do the work. There are 85 million in school, which leaves 48 million to do the work. Of this there are 29 million employed by the federal government, leaving 19 million to do the work. 2.8 million are in the Armed Forces, which leaves 16.2 million to do the work. Take from the total the 14,800,000 people who work for State and City Governments and that leaves 1.4 million to do the work. At any given time there are 188,000 people in hospitals, leaving 1,212,000 to do the work. Now, there are 1,211,998 people in prisons. That leaves just two people to do the work. You and me. And I’m sitting here writing work jokes.


VACATION DAYS:   All employees will take their vacation at the same time every year. The vacation days are as follows: Jan. 1, July 4 & Dec. 25

veruschka penn

One way to keep a healthy level of insanity in the workplace:   In the memo field of all your checks, write “for sexual favors.”


The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.


OK, all right, I’m going to have a positive attitude about my self destructive habits.


“I have an idea, boss,” Einstein’s chauffeur said. “I’ve heard you give this speech so many times. I’ll bet I could give it for you.” Einstein donned the chauffeur’s cap and jacket. The chauffeur gave a beautiful rendition of Einstein’s speech and even answered a few questions expertly. Then a professor asked an extremely esoteric question. Without missing a beat, the chauffeur fixed the professor with a steely stare and said, “Sir, the answer to that question is so simple that I will let my chauffeur, who is sitting in the back, answer it for me.”


Someday, we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously, and change the subject.

wanda jackson 60

CASUAL WORK ATMOSPHERE in a help wanted ad means: We don’t pay enough to expect that you’ll dress up. A couple of the real daring guys wear earrings.

woolworth 1926

A vaudeville joke:      Boss:     You should have been here at 9.30 a.m.             Employee: Why what happened?


The boss says, “do you believe in life after death and the supernatural?”    ”Not really,” I replied.    ”I was wondering” he said. “Because yesterday after you left to go to your grandmother’s funeral, she came by to see you.”


I quit my job at the post office.  They handed me a letter to deliver and I thought, “This isn’t for me.”


The trouble with being punctual is that there’s never anybody there to appreciate it.


A musical director stands in front of the band and says, ”When a musician just can’t handle his instrument and doesn’t improve when given help, they take away the instrument, and give him two sticks, and make him a drummer.”   So the drummer says, ”And if he can’t handle even that, they take away one of his sticks and make him a conductor.”

Timothy O'Sullivan

You sound reasonable.   God, I probably should be taking more drugs.


Why can’t you play hide-and-seek with mountains?     Because they peak.

zPam Bob

The devil visited a lawyer’s office and made him an offer. “I can arrange some things for you, ” the devil said. “I’ll increase your income five-fold. Your partners will love you; your clients will respect you; you’ll have four months of vacation each year and live to be a hundred. All I require in return is that your wife’s soul, your children’s souls, and their children’s souls rot in hell for eternity.”        The lawyer thought for a moment. “What’s the catch?” he asked.


Charles Dickens:   He wrote continuously.  In the middle of parties, crowded rooms, there would be twenty people in the room all talking and he talked the most, and kept on writing through it all. He would take a twenty mile walk in the afternoon and come home and write while all around him were chattering and carrying on.  Moil and toil?  He didn’t know what those words meant.  He wrote as he breathed, always and constantly. Driving his pen as a madman would.  He was a happy man despite one of the worst childhoods that anyone could have, a childhood which he expertly chronicled, writing ceaselessly in the middle of the party.  His energy and humor never flagged.  If you love it, it’s not work.


Q: Have you lived in this town all your life?               A: Not yet.


See you next week?

z Sam-Ben-Tucson final

Ben Nieves             Sam Andrew         It might look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level I’m really quite busy.







SANDERSON: My friend has been elected mayor.
BOWMAN: Honestly?
SANDERSON: What does that matter?


Acting drama was seriously curtailed with the onset of the Revolutionary War when the Continental Congress convened and passed a recommendation that the colonists “discountenance and discourage all horse racing and all kinds of gaming, cock fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays and other expensive diversions and entertainments.”   The staging of plays all but ceased in the colonies.


DUMMY: My father killed a hundred men in the war.
VENTRILOQUIST: What was he? A Gunner?
DUMMY: Nope, a cook.


With the coming of peace, the feeling against plays began to lessen, but it wasn’t until 1787 that the American theatre began to flourish. Philadelphia and New York City became the twin hubs of the theatre, vying for supremacy up through the period of the Civil War when other forms of entertainment began to emerge on the American dramatic landscape.


YOUNG MAN: I want to ask for the hand of your daughter in marriage.
OLD MAN: You’re an idiot!
YOUNG MAN: I know it. But I didn’t suppose you’d object to another one in the family.


The Cherry Sisters  were considered the worst vaudeville act of all time. Ranging in number from five to two, their songs and recitations were so awful that audiences threw vegetables to show their disgust.


Managers saw the possibilities and encouraged audiences to hurl produce.  The ladies drew huge cackling crowds, performed behind a net curtain to avoid injury, and they unsuccessfully sued complaining critics.


All evidence suggests that the sisters believed their act was really good. Commanding a hefty $1,000 a week, they toured for decades.


I just got back from a pleasure trip.  I took my mother-in-law to the train station.


Vaudeville was variety. All the variety shows on television and onstage are descended from vaudeville  which was popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s.


Each vaudeville show was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts.

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Vaudeville included such acts as popular and classical musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels and films.


A vaudeville performer is often referred to as a vaudevillian.


Yiddish vaudeville joke:   In Jewish tradition, the fetus is not considered viable until it graduates from medical school.


Vaudeville evolved out of the concert saloon, minstrel shows, freaks and geeks, dime museums and literary burlesque.


Vaudeville was “the heart of American show business,” for several decades.


The newest Jewish-American-Princess horror movie?         It’s called, “Debbie Does Dishes.”

cool vaud

Many show business terms originated in vaudeville. When a performer’s name appeared on the top of the billboard listing each week’s acts, they were at the “top of the bill.”


Headliners got the best dressing rooms and the highest salaries, up to $4000 a week in the big time.


Imagine being ‘on’ for two to five shows a day!  That’s difficult, I can tell you.


The performers didn’t necessarily have to have a lot of talent, but they made up for that with personality and extraordinary stamina.


Since many of these longtime audience favorites predated the age of talking film, their names are now forgotten, but a few are still with us.


They tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat.


Keith and Albee were self elected censors of vaudeville and the standards they imposed on all vaudeville acts were hard on comedians.


Working clean was difficult but people like Bert Williams pulled it off.


Any good clean joke was a diamond and was likely to be stolen.


Many a comic found that other performers had done his material in various towns.


Early radio and television would rely on the same jokes.


Indeed, you still hear some of those jokes today.


I know how you sleep . . . like a baby. You cry a little, then wet the bed a little.


The Duncan Sisters did a musical act as “Topsy and Eva,” characters from Uncle Tom’s Cabin. They sang and played various instruments with limited skill but tremendous charm, pleasing fans for decades.


He hands out color photographs of two bottles of well-known household products, asking, “Have you seen my Pride and Joy?”


Elsie Janis sang and clowned her way to stardom in vaudeville and musical comedy before winding up a successful Hollywood screenwriter and lyricist.

eddie foy's dancing shoes

That’s the last time I steal a joke from Berle.


Nora Bayes was the well dressed soprano who made “Shine On Harvest Moon” a hit.


Her fans followed her scandalous marriages, most memorably to songwriter Jack Norworth (composer of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”)

Bayes stage

Nora Bayes was one of America’s first singers to attain national popularity.

effie moore

I saw a man lying in the street. I said, “Can I help you?” He said, “No, I found this parking place and I sent my wife out to buy a car.

bith and dale

Smith and Dale were one of vaudeville’s most popular comedy teams.


They were together for seventy-five years and they supposedly hated each other the whole time.  This is not that difficult to believe.


Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys was based on Smith and Dale’s relationship.

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Their routines were corny but funny, relying on slapstick gags and carefully timed dialogue.


I don’t want to say that business was bad at the last place I played, but when a fellow called up and asked what time is the next show, I said, “When can you make it?”

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Julian Eltinge was vaudeville’s most famous female impersonator.

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Eltinge’s lavish gowns and deft mimicry of feminine behavior made him a longtime favorite.


His fame faded with vaudeville, and he found few engagements in his later years.

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Julian Eltinge was in The Fascinating Widow (1911).

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He was the only drag performer to have a Broadway theatre named after him.  The Eltinge later became the Empire, and its old façade and lobby are now part of the AMC Multiplex on 42nd Street.

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Other female impersonators with outstanding vaudeville careers include the campy Bert Savoy.

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There was also Karyl Norman.

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My brother-in-law saw a sign that said ‘Drink Canada Dry,’ so he did.

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Bert Williams was the first black performer to gain national stardom in the US, with comic gems like the song “Nobody.”

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After partnering with George Walker in vaudeville and musical comedy, Williams went on to solo success in vaudeville and starred in several editions of the Ziegfeld Follies.

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Despite his tremendous popularity, Williams was often subjected to blind bigotry. When a bartender in a first class Chicago hotel told him that drinks for “coloreds” were $50 each, Williams pulled out a wad of fifties and ordered the man to pour a round for everyone at the bar.

Bert Williams in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1910

Doc, it hurts when I go like that.    Doc:  Don’t go like that.


Leslie Townes Hope (May 29, 1903 – July 27, 2003), was an English-born American comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, author, and athlete who appeared on Broadway, in vaudeville.

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What do you get when you cross a rooster and a duck?

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A bird who gets up at the quack of dawn.

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Hope’s English father, William Henry Hope, was a stonemason from Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, and his Welsh mother, Avis Townes, was a light-opera singer from Barry who later worked as a cleaning woman. She married William Hope in April 1891 and the couple lived at 12 Greenwood Street in the town, then moved to Whitehall and St George in Bristol.

01 bob

In 1908 the Hope family emigrated to the United States aboard the SS Philadelphia, and passed inspection at Ellis Island on March 30, 1908, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio.


From the age of 12, Bob Hope earned pocket money by busking (frequently on the streetcar to Luna Park), singing, dancing, and performing comedy patter.


He entered many dancing and amateur talent contests (as Lester Hope), and won a prize in 1915 for his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin.


Hope worked as a butcher’s assistant and a lineman in his teens and early twenties.


He and his girlfriend, Millie Rosequist, signed up for dance lessons.


Encouraged after they performed in a three-day engagement at a club, Hope then formed a partnership with Lloyd Durbin, a fellow pupil from the dance school.


Silent film comedian Fatty Arbuckle saw them perform in 1925 and obtained them steady work with a touring troupe called Hurley’s Jolly Follies.


Within a year, Hope had formed an act called the Dancemedians with George Byrne and the Hilton Sisters, conjoined twins who performed a tap dancing routine on the vaudeville circuit.


Hope and Byrne had an act as a pair of Siamese twins as well, and danced and sang while wearing blackface, before friends advised Hope that he was funnier as himself.


In 1929, he changed his first name to “Bob”. In one version of the story, he named himself after racecar driver Bob Burman. In another, he said he chose Bob because he wanted a name with a friendly “Hiya, fellas!” sound to it.


After five years doing vaudeville, Hope was very surprised when he failed a 1930 screen test for the French film production company Pathé at Culver City, California.


Bob Hope began performing on the radio in 1934 and switched to television when that medium became popular in the 1950s. He began doing regular TV specials in 1954, and hosted the Academy Awards fourteen times in the period from 1941 to 1978.


Bob’s first film was the comedy, Going Spanish (1934). He was not happy with the film, and told Walter Winchell, “When they catch John Dillinger, they’re going to make him sit through it twice.”


Hope moved to Hollywood when Paramount Pictures signed him for the 1938 film The Big Broadcast of 1938, also starring W.C. Fields. The song Thanks For The Memory, which later became his trademark, was introduced in this film as a duet with Shirley Ross and accompanied by Shep Fields and his orchestra.


Bob Hope was best known for comedies like My Favorite Brunette and the highly successful Road movies in which he starred with Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour. The series consists of seven films made between 1940 and 1962.


Hope had seen Lamour as a nightclub singer in New York, and invited her to work on his United Service Organizations (USO) tours.


Dorothy Lamour sometimes arrived for filming prepared with her lines, only to be baffled by completely re-written scripts or ad-lib dialogue between Hope and Crosby.


One is reminded here of Margaret Dumont in the Marx Brothers films.  She never quite understood their routines.

Actors (L-R) Clark Gable Cary Grant Bob Hope and David

Hope and Lamour were lifelong friends, and she remains the actress most associated with his film career.


On July 27, 2003, two months after his 100th birthday, Bob Hope died at his home in Toluca Lake, Los Angeles. His grandson, Zach Hope, told Soledad O’Brien that when asked on his deathbed where he wanted to be buried, Hope replied, “Surprise me.”


WOMAN: Someone is fooling with my knee.      MAN: It’s me, and I’m not fooling!


Vaudeville’s audiences, as well as many of its stars, were drawn from the newly immigrated working classes.


Just as goods in the late 19th century could be manufactured in a central location and shipped throughout the country, successful vaudeville routines and tours were first established in New York and other large cities and would then be booked on a tour lasting for months.


The act would change little as it was performed throughout the United States, so vaudeville was a precursor of mass media — a means of creating and sharing a national culture.


Vaudeville’s influence on most popular entertainment forms of the 20th century — musical comedy, motion pictures, music, radio, television — was pervasive.


WOMAN: I’m not married.
MAN: Any children?
WOMAN: I told you, I’m not married.
MAN: Answer my question!


The word “vaudeville” may come from the expression voix de ville which means “voice of the city” or “songs of the town.”


Or, the term may come from a collection of fifteenth-century satirical songs by Olivier Basselin, “Vaux de Vire.” 


Then again, the word vaudeville may derive from the Vau de Vire, a valley in Normandy noted for its style of satirical songs with topical themes.


 Vaudeville, referring specifically to North American variety entertainment, came into common usage after 1871, with the formation of Sargent’s Great Vaudeville Company of Louisville, Kentucky.


CISSIE: She never married, did she?     MARIE: No, her children wouldn’t let her.


Though the word “vaudeville” had been used in the US as early as the 1830s, most variety theatres adopted the term in the late 1880s and early 1890s for two reasons. First, they wished to distance themselves from the earlier rowdy, working-class variety halls.


Second, the supposedly French term vaudeville lent an air of sophistication.


Many people preferred the earlier term “variety” to what manager Tony Pastor called vaudeville’s “sissy and Frenchified” successor.

Pearl Bailey and Cast

Thus, vaudeville was marketed as “variety” well into the 20th century.


Injured Man crosses stage in assorted bandages and casts.
What happened to you?
Injured Man: 
I was living the life of Riley.
Comic: And?
Injured Man: 
Riley came home!


A descendant of variety, (c. 1860s–1881), vaudeville was distinguished from the earlier form by its mixed-gender audience, usually alcohol-free halls, and often slavish devotion to respectability among members of the middle class.


The form gradually evolved from the concert saloon and variety hall into its mature form throughout the 1870s and 1880s.


This more genteel form was known as “Polite Vaudeville.”


Man at Desk: (picks up phone) Hello, Cohen, Cohen, Cohen and Cohen.
 Let me speak to Mr. Cohen.
Man at Desk: 
He’s dead these six years. We keep his name on the door out of respect.
 Then let me speak to Mr. Cohen.
He’s on vacation.
Caller: (Exasperated
Well then, let me speak to Mr. Cohen.
He’s out to lunch.
Caller: (Yells
Then let me speak to Mr. Cohen!


In the years before the American Civil War, entertainment existed on a different scale.


Variety theatre existed before 1860 in Europe and elsewhere.


In the US, as early as the first decades of the 19th century, theatregoers could enjoy a performance consisting of Shakespeare plays, acrobatics, singing, dancing, and comedy.


There were even Chataquas where people could enjoy a slide presentation and lectures by eminent authorities on various subjects.


Indeed, Mark Twain was a part of this circuit.

infinity hall

When Big Brother and the Holding Company played the Infinity Hall in Connecticut, Ben Nieves and I visited the little room where Twain waited to go on.


Vaudeville was characterized by traveling companies touring through cities and towns.

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Jerk – audience member
Yock – a belly laugh
Skull – make a funny face
Talking woman – delivers lines in comedy skits
Cover – perform someone’s scenes for them
The asbestos is down – the audience is ignoring the jokes
From hunger – a lousy performer
Mountaineer – a new comic, fresh from the Catskill resort circuit
Boston version – a cleaned-up routine
Blisters – a stripper’s breasts
Cheeks – a stripper’s backside
Gadget – a G-string
Trailer – the strut taken before a strip
Quiver – shake the bust
Shimmy – Shake the posterior
Bump – swing the hips forward
Grind – full circle swing of the pelvis
Milk it – get an audience to demand encores
Brush your teeth! – comedian’s response to a Bronx cheer


Circuses regularly toured the country, dime museums appealed to the curious, amusement parks, riverboats, and town halls often featured “cleaner” presentations of variety entertainment, and saloons, music halls and burlesque houses catered to those with a taste for the risqué.


In the 1840s, the minstrel show, another type of variety performance, and “the first emanation of a pervasive and purely American mass culture,” grew to enormous popularity and formed what Nick Tosches called “the heart of 19th-century show business.”


Blaze tripped to the microphone. Looking down at her exposed breast, she said, “What are you doing out there, you gorgeous thing?” Then she covered herself. “You got to tell them they’re pretty,” she said; “it makes them grow” . . . Then she flung herself on the couch and quickly stripped down to a transparent bra and black garter pants. She produced a power puff and asked rhetorically, “Who’s going to powder my butt?”


A significant influence also came from Dutch ministrels and comedians.


Medicine shows traveled the countryside offering programs of comedy, music, jugglers and other novelties along with displays of tonics, salves, and miracle elixirs.


“Wild West” shows provided romantic vistas of the disappearing frontier, complete with trick riding, music and drama. Vaudeville incorporated these various itinerant amusements into a stable, institutionalized form centered in America’s growing urban hubs.


WEBER: I am delightfulness to meet you!            FIELDS: Der disgust is all mine!


In the early 1880s, impresario Tony Pastor, a circus ringmaster turned theatre manager, capitalized on middle class sensibilities and spending power when he began to feature “polite” variety programs in several of his Gotham City theatres.


The usual date given for the “birth” of vaudeville is October 24, 1881 at New York’s Fourteenth Street Theater, when Pastor famously staged the first bill of self-proclaimed “clean” vaudeville in New York City.


Hoping to draw a potential audience from female and family-based shopping traffic uptown, Pastor barred the sale of liquor in his theatres, eliminated bawdy material from his shows, and offered gifts of coal and hams to attendees.


Yes, folks, Fourteenth Street was uptown in the 1880s.


Pastor’s experiment proved successful, and other managers soon followed suit.


B. F. Keith took the next step, starting in Boston, where he built an empire of theatres and brought vaudeville to the US and Canada.

vaudeville mom 001

Later, E.F. Albee, adoptive grandfather of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee, managed the chain to its greatest success.

Vaudeville Ventriloquist Dummy Portraits (3)

Circuits such as those managed by Keith-Albee provided vaudeville’s greatest economic innovation and the principal source of its industrial strength.


They enabled a chain of allied vaudeville houses that remedied the chaos of the single-theatre booking system by contracting acts for regional and national tours. These could easily be lengthened from a few weeks to two years.


Albee also gave national prominence to vaudeville’s trumpeting “polite” entertainment, a commitment to entertainment equally inoffensive to men, women and children.


Acts that violated this ethos (ones which used words such as “hell”) were admonished and threatened with expulsion from the week’s remaining performances or were canceled altogether.


In spite of such threats, performers routinely flouted this censorship, often, of course, to the delight of the very audience members whose sensibilities were supposedly endangered.


E.F. Albee eventually instituted a set of guidelines for audience members at his show, and these were reinforced by the ushers working in the theater.


Thus “polite entertainment” also extended to B.F. Keith’s company members.


Albee went to extreme measures to maintain this level of modesty.


Keith even went as far as posting warnings backstage such as this: “Don’t say ‘slob’ or ‘son of a gun’ or ‘hully gee’ on the stage unless you want to be canceled peremptorily…if you are guilty of uttering anything sacrilegious or even suggestive you will be immediately closed and will never again be allowed in a theater where Mr. Keith is in authority.”


Along these same lines of discipline, Keith’s theater managers would occasionally send out blue envelopes with orders to omit certain suggestive lines of songs and possible substitutions for those words. This is the origin of the word ‘blue’ to describe off color material.


If actors chose to ignore these orders or quit, they would get “a black mark” on their name and would never again be allowed to work on the Keith Circuit.


Thus, actors learned to follow the instructions given them by B.F. Keith for fear of losing their careers forever.


By the late 1890s, vaudeville had large circuits, houses (small and large) in almost every sizable location, standardized booking, broad pools of skilled acts, and a loyal national following.


One of the biggest circuits was Martin Beck’s Orpheum Circuit. It incorporated in 1919 and brought together 45 vaudeville theaters in 36 cities throughout the US and Canada and a large interest in two vaudeville circuits.


Another major circuit was that of Alexander Pantages. At its hey-day Pantages owned more than 30 vaudeville theaters and controlled, through management contracts, perhaps 60 more in both the US and Canada.

It Didnt Play Peoria

Vaudeville was truly democratic. It played across multiple strata of economic class and auditorium size. On the vaudeville circuit, it was said that if an act would succeed in Peoria, Illinois, it would work anywhere. The question “Will it play in Peoria?” has now become a metaphor for whether something appeals to the American mainstream public.


The three most common levels were the “small time” (lower-paying contracts for more frequent performances in rougher, often converted theatres), the “medium time” (moderate wages for two performances each day in purpose-built theatres), and the “big time” (possible remuneration of several thousand dollars per week in large, urban theatres largely patronized by the middle and upper-middle classes).


As performers rose in renown and established regional and national followings, they worked their way into the less arduous working conditions and better pay of the big time.


The capitol of the big time was New York City’s Palace Theatre (or just “The Palace” in vaudevillian slang), built by Martin Beck in 1913 and operated by B.F. Keith.


The Palace had many inventive novelty acts, national celebrities, and acknowledged masters of vaudeville performance, such as writer, comedian and trick roper Will Rogers.


The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.  Mr. Hoover didn’t know that the money trickled up.  Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow.  But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.


Andrew Erdman’s book Blue Vaudeville notes that the Vaudeville stage was marked with descriptions like, “a highly sexualized space…where unclad bodies, provocative dancers, and singers of ‘blue’ lyrics all vied for attention.”


I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.


The Palace was the career apex f0r many a vaudevillian.


When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: “I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I dident (sic) like.”   I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.


A vaudeville show at the Palace would begin with a sketch, follow with a single – an individual male or female performer, next would be an alley oop – an acrobatic act, then another single, followed by yet another sketch such as a blackface comedy.


The taxpayers are sending congressmen on expensive trips abroad.  It might be worth it except they keep coming back.


What followed for the rest of the show would vary from musicals to jugglers to song and dance singles and end with a final extravaganza – either musical or drama – with the full company.


Lord, the money we spend on Government! And it’s not one bit better than the government we got for one-third the money twenty years ago.

Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake at Piano

These shows would feature such stars as Eubie Blake – the piano player, the famous and magical Harry Houdini and child star, Baby Rose Marie.


Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they’re Democrats.  If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.


It is said that at any given time, Vaudeville was employing over twelve thousand different people throughout its entire industry. Each entertainer would be on the road 42 weeks at a time while working a particular “Circuit” – or an individual theatre chain of a major company.

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

Vaudeville showed an increasing interest in the female figure.


Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.


Vaudeville highlighted and objectified the female body as a “sexual delight,” a phenomenon that historians believe emerged in the mid-19th century.


I can remember way back when a liberal was generous with his own money.


Vaudeville marked a time in which the female body became its own “sexual spectacle” more than it ever had before.


You can’t tell what a man is like or what he is thinking when you’re looking at him.  You must get around behind him and see what he’s been looking at.


Even acts that were as innocent as a sister act were higher sellers than a good brother act.


It isn’t what we know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.


Vaudeville performers such as Julie Mackey and Gibson’s Bathing Girls began to focus less on talent and more on physical appeal through their figure, tight gowns, and other revealing attire.


This would be a great world to dance in if we didn’t have to pay the fiddler.


It eventually came as a surprise to audience members when such beautiful women actually possessed talent in addition to their appealing looks. This element of surprise colored much of the reaction to the female entertainment of this time.


A remeark generally hurts in proportion to its truth.


The continued growth of the lower-priced cinema in the early 1910s dealt the heaviest blow to vaudeville.


A difference of opinion is what makes horse races and missionaries.


The same thing happened to cinema when television came along.


Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.


Cinema was first regularly commercially presented in the US in vaudeville halls. The first public showing of movies projected on a screen took place at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in 1896.

Will Rogers_Steamboat

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.


Al Jolson, W.C. Fields, Mae West, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers, Jimmy Durante, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Edgar Bergen, Fanny Brice, Burns and Allen and Eddie Cantor, to name a few, used their vaudeville status  to vault into the new medium of cinema.


I have a scheme for stopping war. It’s this– no nation is allowed to enter a war till they have paid for the last one.


These former vaudeville performers often exhausted in a few moments of screen time the novelty of an act that might have kept them on tour for several years.


If you find the right job, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.


Jack Benny, Abbot and Costelle, Kate Smith, Cary Grant, Milton Berle, Judy Garland, Rose Marie, Sammy Davis, Jr. Red Skelton and The Three Stooges used vaudeville only as a launching pad for later careers. They left live performance before achieving the national celebrity of earlier vaudeville stars, and found fame in new venues.


Why go out on a limb?  That’s where the fruit is.


The line between live and filmed performances was blurred by the number of vaudeville entrepreneurs who made more or less successful forays into the movie business.


I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him father.


Alexander Pantages quickly realized the importance of motion pictures as a form of entertainment. He incorporated them in his shows as early as 1902. Later, he entered into partnership with the Famous Players-Lasky, a major Hollywood production company and an affiliate of Paramount Pictures.


If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?

The Cook Sisters

By the late 1920s, almost no vaudeville bill failed to include a healthy selection of cinema.


Top vaudeville stars filmed their acts for one-time pay-offs, inadvertently helping to speed the death of vaudeville.


After all, when “small time” theatres could offer “big time” performers on screen at a nickel a seat, who could ask audiences to pay higher amounts for less impressive live talent?


The newly-formed RKO studios took over the famed Orpheum vaudeville circuit and swiftly turned it into a chain of full-time movie theaters.


The half-century tradition of vaudeville was effectively wiped out within less than four years.

duncan sisters 1

Managers further trimmed costs by eliminating the last of the live performances.


Following the greater availability of inexpensive receiver sets later in the decade, radio contributed to vaudeville’s swift decline.


Even the most optimistic people in vaudeville could see the writing, or rather the motion picture, on the wall. The perceptive knew that the death rattle was terminal.


Standardized film distribution and talking pictures of the 1930s were the end of vaudeville.


Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.


By 1930, the vast majority of formerly live theatres had been wired for sound, and none of the major studios was producing silent pictures.


For a time, the most luxurious theatres continued to offer live entertainment, but most theatres were forced by the hard times in the 1930s to economize.

Belen Rodriguez at Pinup Stars Parade 2011-02

There was no abrupt end to vaudeville, though the form was clearly sagging by the late 1920s.


The Palace Theatre in New York changed to an exclusively cinematic format on November 16, 1932. No other single event was more of a death knell for vaudeville.


Though talk of vaudeville’s resurrection was heard during the 1930s and later, the demise of the supporting apparatus of the circuits and the higher cost of live performance made any large-scale renewal of vaudeville unrealistic.


The most striking examples of Gilded Age theatre architecture were commissioned by the big time vaudeville magnates and stood as monuments of their wealth and ambition. Examples of such architecture are the theaters built by impresario Alexander Pantages, who often used architect B. Marcus Priteca (1881–1971), who in turn regularly worked with muralist Anthony Heinsbergen. Priteca devised an exotic, neo-classical style that his employer called “Pantages Greek”.


Though classic vaudeville reached a zenith of capitalization and sophistication in urban areas dominated by national chains and commodious theatres, small-time vaudeville included countless more intimate and locally controlled houses. Small-time houses were often converted saloons, rough-hewn theatres or multi-purpose halls, together catering to a wide range of clientele. Many small towns had purpose-built theatres.


Vaudeville was not wiped out by silent films. Many managers featured “flickers” at the end of their bills, finding them cheaper than the live closing acts that audiences walked out on anyway.


Top screen stars made lucrative personal appearance tours on the big time circuits. So what killed vaudeville? The most truthful answer is that the public’s tastes changed and vaudeville’s managers (and most of its performers) failed to adjust to those changes.


In the mid-1920s, when everyone knew vaudeville was in danger, E.F. Albee set expensive new production requirements which strained performers and made it harder for most houses to turn a profit.


When well dressed comics entertained between numbers in place of an energetic slapstick act, vaudeville lost of a lot of its verve.


Cycloramas, drapery and gorgeous scenery added to the beauty of the show, but not to its comedy. 


According to Variety, by the end of 1926 only a dozen “big time” vaudeville houses remained – the rest had converted to film use.


In December 1927, no less a star than Julian Eltinge proclaimed in Variety that vaudeville was “shot to pieces,” and was no longer able to attract “big names.”


The success of talking films in the late 1920s sharpened the sense of crisis in vaudeville circles.


In 1929, Albee replaced the Orpheum circuit’s two performance-a-day format with a crushing five-a-day policy.


This only succeeded in exhausting performers and depleting the supply of fresh material.


At the same time, risqué or “blue” material was allowed in major acts, offending many in vaudeville’s family-oriented audience.


Albee hammered another nail into vaudeville’s coffin when he partnered with Joseph P. Kennedy’s Hollywood film company in 1928 to form Radio Keith Orpheum (RKO) Studios.


Kennedy wrangled control of the new organization from Albee, turning the glorious Orpheum circuit into a chain of movie houses. In October of 1929, Variety figured that there were only six full-time vaudeville houses still operating, with as many as three hundred theatres offering a bill of acts between feature films.


It was extraordinary how the public had changed. They had become very blasé about entertainment. Whereas American used to arrange to spend an evening in the theatre for a treat, now they seemed to go to the theater just  to kill time.

photo Emily Soto (13)

 The theaters were full of children, noted Sophie Tucker. At the first two shows in the afternoon the house would be full of boys and girls, slumped down in their seats, obviously bored with the acts and only waiting for the picture to come on. Kids and necking couples.


By the time of the last show, at 9:30 PM, when you had your best audience, you were dead tired. Too tired to care whether they liked you or not.

Judy Garland and Sophia Tucker

Sophie Tucker kept on performing. Sophie was a hero in more ways than one.

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She was headlining at New York’s Palace Theater in February 1932 when a fire broke out backstage. To prevent panic, Tucker remained onstage to coax the audience out of the theatre – despite the sparks that threatened to ignite her flammable sequined gown.


The Palace soon reopened, but by that November it became a full-time movie theatre.

Eddie Cantor, Barbara Weeks and Charlotte Greenwood Palmy Days (1931)

The Palace’s first feature film was The Kid From Spain – starring vaudeville veteran Eddie Cantor. Live acts appeared between screenings, but were dropped as of 1935.


Although many theatres still presented vaudeville acts between films, the number of available gigs kept shrinking.


A few vaudeville theaters managed to hold out.  I have mentioned before that I saw a vaudeville show on Market Street in San Francisco when I was six or seven.


New York City’s State Theatre at Broadway and 45th Street continued to present four-a-day bills until December 23, 1947.


The final bill included comedian Jack Carter and Yiddish theatre legend Molly Picon. At the closing performance, veteran vaudevillian George Jessel, who eulogized many show biz greats, came on stage and said  “I heard vaudeville is finished here tonight, so I thought I’d drop in and tell you folks that talent can never die.”


It’s true, talent will never die, but it can move somewhere else.


There have been numerous attempts to revive vaudeville – a hopeless task, given the changes in American popular culture.


The last live echo of vaudeville was Radio City Music Hall, which kept the presentation house format alive until economics forced it to become a concert venue in 1979.


Some lucky vaudeville singers and comics found a new home on radio, where “variety shows” offered something like audio vaudeville.


Even silent acts (jugglers, animal acts, etc.) found work on television, where variety shows remained popular for several decades.

Baby Rose Marie and Jimmy Durante

Ed Sullivan’s television show was pure vaudeville.  I was on that show with Big Brother and the Holding Company, so I can say I have done vaudeville.

Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway, Carol Burnett, and Harvey Korman app

Carol Burnett’s Broadway-style reviews had the family-friendly spirit of big time vaudeville.

janis sam cavett

The talk shows carried on the legacy of the Chatauqua side of vaudeville.  Janis and I were on Dick Cavett. He was very fond of her, let’s put it that way.


See you next week?

2009 10 oct vaudeville

Peter Albin and Sam Andrew still doing vaudeville.