In recent months I’ve been immersed in all things Venetian, from art to architecture, cuisine to customs, music to elements of language, as I prepared my book The Echoes of Love for publication on 6th December.
Did you know that the Venetians have their own language? Venetian is a Romance language (literally) spoken by more than two million people. It’s commonly seen as an Italian dialect, but in fact it is a separate language, and Venice has its own variant, called venexiàn/venesiàn or veneziano. Recently, the Regional Council of Vèneto officially recognized the language with the Law on the Protection and Valorisation of the Venetian Language and Culture.
I was fascinated to discover how many words in modern parlance originated in Venice. Today, I’m sharing with you some of the most interesting:
- arsenal: from arsenàl, house of work/skills, factory.
- ciao: from ciao (‘hello, goodbye; your (humble) servant’), from Venetian s-ciao (servant, slave) or s-ciavo (servant, slave).
- gazette (meaning newspaper): from the Venetian word gazeta (newspaper), and the name of a small copper coin, gazza; a monthly newspaper (gazeta de la novità) was published in Venice by the government, and gazette may come from its price.
- ghetto: from Geto, a small area of Venice where the city’s Jews once lived.
- gondola: may be related to dondolare, meaning to rock.
- lagoon: from laguna, meaning lake.
- lido: from Lido, a long, sandy island in the Venice lagoon.
- quarantine: from quarantina giorni (forty days), the period for which Venetians kept ships from plague-ridden countries waiting outside the port.
- regatta: from regata, meaning contention for mastery.
- sequin: from zechin, meaning Venetian gold ducat.
- zany: from Zanni, a character in Commedia dell’arte.
Of course, we also have the Venetians to thank for:
- Venetian window blinds, invented way back in 1791.
- Venetian red, a gloroiously rouge artist’s pigment.
- Venetian style shoe, a plain kind of loafer.
- Venetian masks, traditionally worn in the Venetian carnival (I will write more on this another day – such a fascinating subject!).
The very word Venetian or Venetia stirs up such feelings – of history, of culture, of intelligence, of drama, of romance, of grandeur. Little wonder, then, that I chose to name my heroine in The Echoes of LoveVenetia!