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Dottoré!

A Christmas Invitation Lost In Translation

Trasite!

Photo of lit candle with its reflection in a window pane

Come in!

Mariateresa Fichele

La signora Ernestina is a lovely old lady who lives in a basso near my house. Just outside that tiny street-level studio, she keeps a small altar with the photos of her deceased loved ones, and of those of almost all the neighborhood. When Christmas comes, she adorns it with a thousand lights, baubles and ornaments — enough to compete with any Chinese wholesaler.

The effect is quite picturesque, and in fact yesterday a couple of tourists were standing outside her house to admire the lights.

When Ernestina noticed them, she immediately walked out of her house.

"Good morning! Would you like some coffee? Trasite!"

"Thank you, madam, you are very kind!"

"Trasite!"

"Thank you, with pleasure!

"Ok. Trasite!"

But the couple just stood there. At that point, I knew I had to intervene.

"Good morning," I tell the couple. "Mrs. Ernestina is offering you coffee. Would you like some?"

"Yes, thank you!"

"Go in then!"

"But the lady is saying something else. She’s saying ‘trasite’. What does that mean? We don't understand!"

And thus was the mystery revealed …

"Signora Ernestina. These people are not from here. They don't understand Neapolitan. That's why they’re not coming in!"

"Ah! I thought they were stupid! I'll explain it to them in Italian now.”

“Good morning. If you would like some coffee, you can't just stand there on the door, all stiff like that. I have to put it in the cups, because I can't exactly pour it into your hands. So, I'm telling you in Italian because otherwise I'm going to lose it: Would you like to come in, o no?!"


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