Sunday, 24 June 2012

Euroswearing 2012 QF4

First, though, a little smugness. Last night’s 2-0 victory for Spain gave another uptick for my completely scientific swearing algorithm. So far, that’s three out of three. And so to tonight’s contest . . .

4. England vs Italy

I have, of course, washed away all personal considerations. For the moment, at least, I will focus on the Irish part of my self. (See recent postings for an explanation of that previous sentence.)

I have decided to follow a similar format to the one used for the previous quarter final. Two rounds, with each country given the opportunity to put forward its best swear, followed, if necessary, be a final decider — ideally, an independent view of some sort.

I’ll start with the basic as yesterday: each country’s archetypal swear. In English, obviously, it’s fuck!. In Italian, it’s probably stronzo! Shit, that is.

Verdict: As in the previous quarter final, it’s effectively decided by the stress. Fuck! is a stressed phoneme. Stronzo! has the stress on the first phoneme and, therefore, a feminine ending. Again, try yesterday’s test — a variant, anyway. Peer into the future and receive the information that — whether you are an English or Italian supporter — your team has lost. First shout stronzo! Now shout fuck! There really is no contest, is there? England pulls ahead.

Again as yesterday, I’ll consider oral sex. Given that cocksucker is essentially American, the English standard here is blow job. An Italian favourite? L’arte bolognese — a speciality of the women of Bologna.

Verdict: Well, the English is not just unevocative and unimaginative but displays such ignorance of the mechanisms of the actual process that it seems more than likely that the coiner of the word had no personal knowledge of the activity. The Italian phrase, meanwhile, not only elevates the matter to the realms of art but throws in an intranational slur. Given, as is often said, that the Italian football is primarily a continuation by other means of the wars between Renaissance city states, it is hard to exaggerate the import of intranational slurs in Italian civic society. Also, it throws a whole new light on how to cook an authentic ragu bolognese. Italy draw level.

And so to the tie-breaker. External judges. England first. Well, Italian students in London are, I’m told by their tutors, staggered by the level and intensity of swearing in London. Impressed, too. And so to the Italians. Or rather one Italian, in particular. Filthy English, page 25, details the first printed appearance of the word fuck . . .

. . . in A Worlde of Wordes or more copious and exact dictionarie in Italian and English (1598), compiled by John Florio - Anglo-Italian writer, translator, royal language tutor, possibly the model for Holofernes in Love's Labours Lost, probably a friend of Shakespeare's, most likely the man from whom the playwright acquired the rich knowledge of Italian life and manners that's on show in Romeo and Juliet. Some even think Florio was Shakespeare.
In this precursor of modern dictionaries, Florio offered fuck as one of five alternative translations of fottere, the Italian cousin of the French foutre — the word that, in Henry IV, Shakespeare has Pistol shout out, 'A foutra for the world.'

Verdict. It’s clear, isn’t it, that while modern Italians are — suitably — impressed by the filth of London streets, it was them who got there first. It was an Italian (well, an Anglo-Italian) who introduced us (in print, anyway) to fuck. No Italians, no fuck. So my scientific algorithm predicts: Italy wins and England gets fuck-all. Or should that be fuck-nothing?

PS More confirmation of my algorithms predictive power. Accounts of Nasri's post-match statement to the press indicate that he told them to go fuck themselves. That is, he had to use English not French to get his point across.

Next Back for the first semi on Wednesday (Portugal vs Spain) but before that I might post something about Apple, Derrida and the beautiful game.

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