Italian with an O

My parents have been here for almost three months. So you would think that they would have picked up some basic Italian. You would think that my father, especially, might have learned a few crucial words and phrases. My father, who headed the National Italian American Foundation for over 20 years and who traveled often to Italy for work. My father, whose father was an immigrant from Calabria. My father, who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in a town where Italian culture thrived. But no. The Italian isn't sinking in. My brother, who speaks Italian fairly well having spent a semester here a few years ago, informed me that my father has been making some seriously funny errors. Ordering "doubtful espresso" for instance, instead of a double.

Even worse, my dad has taken to adding O's to the end of English words, and speaking his own little warped dialect. For instance, he'll tell us that he's "made the coffee-o." What?! I've got to be kidding, right? I'm not.

He does this so much and so insistently that Vinnie and I finally confronted him, explaining that it was one thing if he said those things to us, the family, but he certainly couldn't go around saying words-with-an-o to Italians. It was insulting. Hadn't he fought against Italian American stereotypes for years? What the hell did he think he was doing?

Our plea didn't do much good, however. I think it's too ingrained in his mind now, he's gone too far and I'm a little afraid that there's no turning back. On our way to Naples the other day, he was muttering in the train station.

"What, Dad? What did you say?"

"Nothing. Suitcase."

"No you didn't say suitcase."

"Yes I did. Suitcase."

"SUITCASE-O. I heard you!"

At a nice shop that sold reproductions of antique figures, I overheard him informing the owner, who spoke little to no English, that they would need their items shipped. "Shippo," he said, loudly, right to her face. "Shippo?" she replied, trying desperately to understand. I hid outside, shaking my head.

So I guess we're going to have to deal, although I sincerely hope this new habit dies down when he's back in the states. At least there are some memorable moments. Upon arriving back in Rome after our overnight trip, my father walked through the door of the apartment and announced - gleefully, in a booming voice - that he was home-o.