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A.Word.A.Day--risorgimento

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Risorgimento (ri-sor-juh-MEN-toh, ree-zor-jee-) noun

1. The period of or the movement for the liberation and unification of Italy (1750-1870).

2. risorgimento. Any period or instance of rebirth or renewed activity; resurgence.

[Italian, from risorgere, to rise again, from Latin resurgere.]

"Interestingly, Saba believed that his poetry would be understood only when a new Risorgimento took place, that is when `Petrarchan values (which are related to death) ... once again give way to Dantean values (which are those of life).'" John Taylor, Songbook: Selected Poems, Poetry, Jun 1999.

Apart from its massively dominant importance in the world of music, where directions for form and expression are customarily written in Italian (concerto, allegro, andante, rubato, etc.) and, more recently, the shallower domains of popular movies, TV and best-selling novels, which have given us a host of Mafia-derived terms, the contribution of the language of Dante to English is far more useful and subtle than many of us may realize. Whether the subject is philosophy, politics, diplomacy, religion, sport, or even chess, we may thank the Italians for having coined the just-right words we lacked in English until they came along to help us out. Like their wonderful food -- there's another word-subject for you -- we have merrily gobbled these words up and incorporated them as our own, as English always does. This week's theme thanks the Italians for helping up express ourselves more colorfully and precisely. Maybe we should put that in italics. -Rudolph Chelminski

(This week's Guest Wordsmith, Rudy, is an American freelance writer who lives in France. He is the author of many books and regularly contributes to Reader's Digest, Smithsonian and other publications. -Anu)

X-Bonus

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)


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