Tagged: translation

Mario Untersteiner PRE/TEXT Call For Papers/Participants

Mario Untersteiner was a prolific Italian classicist (arguably philosopher) who focused on the ancient Greeks, and primarily on the origins of tragedy, the sophistic tradition, and the works of Plato and Aristotle. Even though influential within continental European circles during the mid-20th Century, Untersteiner’s works remain relatively unknown to English-speaking rhetoricians. With the notable exception of his most important and widely cited book, The Sophists (translated by Kathleen Freeman,1954), the bulk of Untersteiner’s essays have yet to be translated into English.

This Call for Papers announces a forthcoming double volume of PRE/TEXT: A Journal of Rhetorical Theory (Victor J. Vitanza, Editor and Publisher) that will focus on the work of Mario Untersteiner. The first volume will consist of a series of translations of previously untranslated works by Untersteiner, and the second volume will consist of critical essays that make use of the new translations.

In addition to the goal of making more of Untersteiner’s work available to a broader English-speaking audience, the first volume will also serve as a collaborative experiment in the process of translation and in the rhetorical act of translation. The work will consist of three major phases. Once contributors to the translation volume have been assembled, the translation team will, through a collaborative process, decide which of Untersteiner’s works should be prioritized for translation and inclusion in the volume. Once works have been selected, translation strategies will be devised and executed, and finally, the translations will be reviewed for accuracy both internally and externally.

The subsequent volume of PRE/TEXT will be comprised of critical essays that make use of the translations to contextualize, comment upon, critique, and explore Untersteiner’s place within and contributions to Western rhetorical theory, inquiry, and specifically his contributions to interpretations of the sophistic tradition. Contributors to this second of our two-part Untersteiner series will have access to the set of new translations prior to their publication.

To participate in the compilation, translation, and publication of the first volume in this two-part series, e-mail Nate Kreuter, P/T, Guest Editor (nathankreuter [at] gmail [dot] com) with a brief statement of your interest in Untersteiner and a frank assessment of your own preparedness to translate from Italian to English. We seek the participation of Italian-speaking rhetoricians and rhetoricians with a theoretical interest in the act of translation, as well as the participation of Italian language experts with an interest in the rhetoric of translation, or specific interest in the ancient Greek rhetorical tradition and/or Untersteiner and his work. Suggestions for which Untersteiner essays to include in the translation volume are also welcome at any time, even from those who may not wish to or be able to participate in the actual translation work.

A formal CFP for the second volume of critical essays will be issued at a later date.


During a recent trip to Italy I took a particular interest in swearing. I’m pretty good at swearing in English, I like to think, and wanted to branch out. Most Italian swears, it turns out, rely on the whore, the pig, or the asshole to make their meaning. Many combine two of the three categories, but sadly I know of none that combine all three. I’ll refrain from any analysis of Italian culture than might extrapolate from those three bases, but such work might be appropriate, and I can assure you that Italian feminists and philologists have already pointed out these problems. I’ve also omitted here a whole host of even more explicitly homophobic terms, which my native informants were unwilling to share for the record.

While the guide below explains meanings, it isn’t a very helpful guide to usage, so user beware. More than is the case with typical speech, swearing is all about context, tone, and idiom. To mess up any condition is to sound like a child, an idiot, or to provoke a sudden fight. As in English, swearing can be done casually or playfully, but only in the right company. Again, reader beware.

Padulo  –  (noun) padulo itself does not actually mean anything, and instead simply rhymes with a longer phrase which it invokes. The word is uttered, signaling the meaning of the whole phrase, which typically remains unspoken. The phrase that padulo rhymes with and stands-in for in common speech is “un uccello che vola all’altezza del culo.” Literally, this phrase translates as “a birds that flies at asshole height,” or, a “a bird that flies at the height of an asshole.” Imagine, for a moment, the, uh, inconvenience of having a bird fly up your asshole and you quickly understand the sentiment of the phrase and the all that the single, rhyming word “padulo” invokes. An inconvenience or “pain in the ass” would be referred to as a padulo in some circles, like my cousin’s law office.

Il Stronzo – (noun) asshole. Plural is gli stronzi. Femmine is la stronza (s) or le stronze (p). This is stronger in sentiment than when one calls another an asshole in English.

Che Cazzo – What the Fuck! Strong, but used fairly casually.

Cazzo – (noun, m) dick, but never used to call a person a dick. (Minchia is a Calabrian equivalent.)

Testa di Cazzo – dickhead. Here’s how you call a person a dick, essentially.

Il Coglione – (noun, m) ball. Plural, i coglioni, for balls.

Rincoglionito – (adjective) stupid without reason or motive, out of one’s head without a cause, literally “head like balls.” One might say “Sto rincoglionito,” to mean essentially, I’m out of my fucking mind and I don’t know why. The word though is pretty rude in Italian.

Vaffanculo! – Fuck you!Literally, “go put something in your asshole,” but translates most directly to the English “fuck you.”

La Puttana – (noun, f) whore. The gender of Italian swears is quite important, and this, as well as the subsequent two terms for whore, would only be used against a woman, and would be quite rude. To use it, or either of the next two terms, against a man would be silly or nonsensical.

La Migniotta – (noun, f) whore. This version of “whore” has an interesting etymology. When the Catholic Church registered orphans who had been abandoned in their records (ecclesiastic or provincial) they would register the child as “figlio/a di madre ignota,” or, “son/daughter of unknown mother.” In time “madre ignota” collapsed into “migniotta” (in an intermediary step it actually was abbreviated as m. ignota) which now means “whore” or “easy woman.”

La Troia – (noun, f) whore.

La Porcaputtana, La Porcamigniotta, La Porcatroia – (nouns, f) Pig whore. Slightly stronger than calling a woman simply a whore is to, apparently, call her a pig whore.

Il Puttanane – (noun, m). Literally, big whore, but made even ruder because it uses a masculine rather than a feminine ending.

La Fica – (noun, f) pussy. (La fissa is a southern/Calabrian variant).

A fiss’i mammita – Calabrian, literally “your mother’s cunt.” Very rude.

Bastardo – (noun, m) bastard.

Il Cornuto – (noun, m) cuckold. This is a stronger much stronger condemnation in Italian than it is in English. It’s used against men exclusively.

Figlio di puttana – son of a whore.

Rotto in Culo – broken off in the asshole. Very, very rude.

Rodimento di Culo – very angry, burned in the ass. Very rude.

Ma che ti rode il culo? – Does your asshole burn? What’s burning your asshole? Very rude.

Come un ditto nel culo – Like a finger in the ass, like a finger in the asshole. Very rude. For example, if your friend asked you if you want to go to hear his band play you might say, “Si, come voglio un ditto nel culo,” sarcastically saying, “Yeah, like I want a finger up my asshole.” (Notice, this phrase does not acknowledge that there are actually people in the world who enjoy having fingers up their assholes, so don’t think too literally here.) Pretty rude.

Come un ditto nel culo con la sabbia – like a finger in the ass with sand, or like a sandy finger in the asshole. An even ruder variation by a friend of a friend.

Cacacazzo – a person who pisses you off, literally “one who shits on my dick.” Very rude.

Rompere le palle – to break balls

Merda – (noun, f) shit

Porco il claro – the invention of a friend of mine, literally “damn the clergy”

Pezzo di merda – piece of shit

Chiavare – (verb) to fuck (conjugate compound tenses with avere). Of the “to fuck” verbs in Italian, this is the rudest.

Trombare – (verb) to fuck (conjugate compound tenses with avere). Of the “to fuck” verbs in Italian, this is secondary in rudeness to chiavere and equivalent to scopare and fottere in rudeness.

Scopare – (verb) to fuck (conjugate compound tenses with avere). Of the “to fuck” verbs in Italian, this is secondary in rudeness to chiavere and equivalent to scopare and trombare in rudeness.

Fottere – (verb) to fuck (conjugate compound tenses with avere). Of the “to fuck” verbs in Italian, this is secondary in rudeness to chiavere and equivalent to scopare and trombare in rudeness.

Battere – (verb) to hook, to sell one’s body, doing the work of selling one’s body (conjugate compound tenses with avere).

La Sega – (noun, f) literally, a handjob. One might say “Non mi importa una sega,” and the phrase would translate most closely to “I don’t give a fuck.”

Italians say things that are the equivalent of “goddamn” so frequently that it doesn’t even qualify as profanity, so I haven’t even included those phrases. This is a reasonable introductory guide to swearing in Italian. Use it carefully. I’ve listed some additional resources below.

Additional Resources:

When an Italian Says a Parolaccia (a reflection on Italian swearing by an American Comp Lit PhD candidate written in 2008)

Ma Che Cazzo

Another Dictionary


 Vaffanculo Day

This July I’ll be attending the Penn State Rhetoric and Composition Conference (held every other year, on RSA’s off years).  I hadn’t planned on attending until I saw the CFP, which got me very excited.  This will be my first time attending the PSU conference, but I’ve heard good things about it.  If you’re also attending, and particularly if you’re someone I haven’t seen in a while, please drop me a line and let me know:  nathankreuter [at] gmail [dot] com

I’m also excited because I have family in State College and there is great fly fishing there!

The abstract for my paper follows:

Translation Savvy: Beyond Rhetorical Literacies and Across Languages

The call for papers invites us to think about rhetorics and languages in contact, and across medial forms.  Expanding upon one of Collin Gifford Brooke’s arguments in Lingua Fracta, this paper argues that literacy does not adequately encompass the competencies required to rhetorically navigate new media interfaces, nor to cross language boundaries.  Literacies are singular in languages (literate in English, or in French, or Mandarin), and in technologies or interfaces (literate in Windows, or CSS, or in WordPress).  But we cannot anticipate, with the new contacts between languages, and the proliferation of new media technologies, all of the languages/interfaces that student rhetors will one day need to master, nor in what combinations.  This paper argues that we need to go beyond rhetorical literacies, to a concept that I call rhetorical savvy.  If literacy is the ability to navigate a (as in singular) language or media and its rhetorical contingencies with competency, then savvy is the ability to recognize new, and to teach oneself new, literacies for new rhetorical interfaces, as they develop.   The question is, can we teach this more elusive, more encompassing, but less defined quality of rhetorical savvy?  I believe we can, and in the paper I propose a radical new rhetoric curriculum that seeks to teach rhetorical savvy through a combination of analytical, non-English, and technological instruction.  At the core of such instruction would be a new trivium of rhetoric, new media, and language translation.

Brown Trout

As a senior at the University of Iowa in the fall semester of 2001, I became involved with Iowa’s International Writing Program as a translator.  The International Writing Program is, as far as I know, an entirely unique program, bringing fiction writers and poets from around the world together to form a writing community on Iowa’s campus each fall.  As a component of the IWP, Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program typically teaches a Translation Workshop class, in which graduate students, typically from the Writer’s Workshop and the Nonfiction Writing Program, translate the works of the international writers into English.  During the fall 2001 semester, Italian novelist Rocco Carbone traveled to Iowa City to participate in the International Writing Program (you can view a list of the 2001 IWP participating authors here).  Because none of the MFA students that semester spoke or read Italian, I was recruited into the Translation Workshop to translate some of Rocco’s work.

While participating in the IWP, Rocco developed a reputation as a bit of a Bartleby, answering, literally, “I would rather not,” when asked about, for example, the attacks of 9/11 in a public forum shortly after they occurred that same semester.  He also was infamous for missing classes, frequently claiming, correctly I suppose, “I’ve already been to school.”  Rocco was a soccer enthusiast, and supported Reggina, the team of his home town of Reggio-Calabria in far southern Italy.  Soccer games near the Iowa Memorial Union were a frequent part of the IWP writers’ lives, and one was guaranteed to be cursed in at least six languages by the end of a game (or at least I was).

Rocco earned his PhD in literature in France, and in addition to his career as a prolific novelist who published with Italy’s most prestigious literary houses, he taught literature at Rebibbia, in the women’s section of the Roman prison (one of Rome’s seven districts is also named Rebibbia).  Teaching was his day job, and writing sustained him.

While in the IWP Rocco put the finishing touches on his novel The Apparition (L’apparizione), and after Lawrence Venuti offered some very, very mild praise for one of my translations while visiting the IWP, Rocco asked me to engage in a larger project, on speculation, and translate his new novel in its entirety.  He was very keen on finding an American publisher, especially considering the small size of the Italian literary market.

When The Apparition was published by Mondadori in Italy in 2002 it became one of three finalists for NYU’s Zerilli-Marimò/City of Rome Prize, which is awarded every two years to an outstanding piece of fiction written in the Italian language.  I completed my translation of the novel in the summer of 2002, at which point Rocco and I began querying American literary agents.  The translation has yet to published, but I still hold out hopes of getting my ass in gear and getting it published for Rocco.  To my knowledge, his parents hold the rights to his literary estate, including the international rights for The Apparition.

Rocco died in the summer of 2008 in a motorcyle accident in Rome.  His passing was widely noted and mourned in Italian literary and cultural circles.  Rocco and I had not been communicating very frequently at that time, and I learned of the his death through Facebook, when his girlfriend, who I had never met (but hope to meet this summer), reached out to me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rocco lately.  This is in no small part because I have been thinking about the wonderful issues raised in the CFP for the upcoming Penn State Rhetoric Conference, which will provide space for a long overdue discussion of, among other things, rhetorics of translation.  In the coming weeks I intend to compile a bibliography of Rocco’s works and some other relevant information about Rocco’s life and career, which I will link to through this page and site.

Rocco Carbone