Fun with Italian
What you need to know: The Italian derogatory word for homosexual is finocchio. It’s pronounced like Pinocchio, but with an F. The plural is finocchi (pronounced fee-NOH-kee). Strangely, finocchio actually means fennel. In case you don’t know what fennel is, it’s “a Eurasian plant (Foeniculum vulgare) having pinnate leaves, clusters of small yellow flowers grouped in umbels, and aromatic seeds used as flavoring.” These are the little seeds you can find in Italian sausage. The stalks can be eaten like celery except that they taste a little like black licorice. What fennel has to do with homosexuality I don’t know, but it is a fact that fennel, in Italian, is equivalent to faggot.
On to the story: Today I went to the library and saw my last mission companion, studying Italian at one of the tables. She was sharing the table with a guy who was also studying Italian. I sat down with them and pulled out my French homework, studying carefully the difference between dorsum and radix. (See next story.) Suddenly, as is known to happen at tables where all persons speak Italian, a conversation started up. The guy was talking about different places in Italy and asking if there were missionaries in these areas. He asked about Capri, and when he was told that there weren’t, he said (with derision), “Good thing! That place is full of finocchi.”
My mission companion exclaimed, “Oh! I love finocchi! I could just eat them all up!”
Now, I understand that finocchio isn’t a word that they teach you in the MTC. It’s not a bit of vocab you pick up from studying the discussions (though it tended to pop up now and then during a discussion on the plan of salvation). But I can’t understand how she went through sixteen months in Italy without ever picking up on the fact that finocchio had a double meaning.
She finally learned today when the guy and I burst out laughing at the table. “I bet you could just eat them all up, you naughty girl!”
Fun with French
As I mentioned, I was studying for my French phonetics test. Part of what I had to study was a diagram of the sound-manipulating parts of the head. You know---the nasal cavity, the parts of the tongue, the vocal chords, the teeth, and all that good stuff. I had the diagram in front of me at the library. I traced over the diagram and labeled everything on a separate sheet of paper. It was all easy. The lips are the superior lip and the inferior lip. The teeth are the superior teeth and the inferior teeth. The tongue has three parts: the apex, the dorsum, and the radix. All easy.
So I went to the testing center. When it was time to label the parts of the mouth, I wrote down dorsum for the top of the tongue and rectum for the back of the tongue. But something just didn’t look right.
“Rectum,” I thought. “That just can’t be right! Dorsum . . . rectum. Dorsum . . . rectum.” At this point, I started giggling. You know, uncontrollable laughter when you’re with someone else is one thing, but uncontrollable laughter when you’re alone in the Testing Center is quite another. I sat, convulsing in my seat, imagining my teacher opening my test, grading the diagram, and seeing the back of the tongue labeled as “RECTUM.” The more I thought of it, the more I laughed. I erased RECTUM (and did a very thorough job, since I didn’t want him to even know that I had once written it there) and finally remembered radix. I labeled the radix, turned the page, and kept on convulsing.