The cappuccino: Italy’s favorite breakfast beverage. One part espresso, one part steamed milk, one part foam. Though the simplicity of its ingredients should not to be taken lightly; it’s all too easy to burn the espresso or overheat the milk. In this country of food-snobs, a great cappuccino is an acceptable reason to be late to work while a bad cappuccino is an acceptable reason to boycott a certain bar. Considered to be a delicate form of art, the cappuccino is most enjoyable when your favorite English student demonstrates his confidence in using the Present Simple and Object Pronouns:
But what does the word “Cappuccino” actually mean?
We know that the suffix -ino is a diminutive which communicates the smallness of an object. And the word Cappuccio means “hood” in Italian, as in Little Red Riding Cappuccio. So what does a little hood have in common with a coffee drink? A 16th century Order of Catholic Friars, obviously.
The Cappuccin Order was a group of friars who broke off from the Franciscan Order. St. Francis of Assisi renounced all material things and in dedicating his life to serving God, he lived in extreme poverty. The Cappuccini took these ideas to the next level: the monasteries were not allowed to possess anything, the friars practiced regular fasting and were only permitted to store food sufficient for 2-3 days. Everything was acquired by begging and the friars were not allowed to touch money.
Still, how does this all relate to coffee? Their dress code. The Cappuccini were so named because of their unique tunic from which hung a large pointed hood – a cappuccio. The tunic was a rich, warm brown color and accompanied only by a wool cord wrapped around the waist.
The combination of colors, the brown tunic and the cream-colored cord, was the inspiration for the name of our favorite frothy cappuccino.
And now onto the fun suffixes that have proven to be crucial for the expansion of my Italian vocabulary:
Parola del Giorno #4: the little “-ino” or “-etto”
Think about the English use of “-y” or “-ie” to make something small, young or cute…as in “it was an itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie yellow polka dot bikini.” But imagine a situation where you could add that “-y” suffix to any word and not sound like a mother blubbering over her child in that affectionate, yet somewhat gag-worthy, “wuvey-dovey” way.
Enter the Italian -ino or -etto. Two diminutive suffixes that serve as perfectly rational, grammatically correct ways to make an object smaller in size or age. And best of all, you don’t sound like a fool when you use them!
- My roommates pay much more for their rooms as I have the cameretta – the small room – in our apartment.
- Despite the fact that my mammina – little mamma – is 5’1″ on a good day, I am 5’9″ and tower over most Romans (the height comes from my father’s side).
- When going to my boyfriend’s house, I take the trenino – the little train – which is used by commuters to get from the city center to the surrounding suburbs. (and yes, it’s official. Despite my best efforts, I’ve fallen victim to the classic story of an Italian stealing my heart)